Stars Daniel Brühl and Dakota Fanning Share 7 Things to Love About The Alienist

The first fingerprints, nasty crime scenes, and Teddy Roosevelt are some of the subjects of TNT's new period drama based on Caleb Carr's famous novel.

by | January 19, 2018 | Comments

If the success of the lucrative CSI franchise has proven anything, it’s the popularity of the fields of forensics and criminal profiling. By the time CSI premiered in 2000, some of these techniques were already over 100 years old. TNT’s new drama The Alienist, based on the 1994 best-selling novel by Caleb Carr, will tell you one tale of how crime scene investigation got its start.

In 1896, people with mental illness were considered “alienated” from their true selves. Those who studied them, therefore, were called alienists. Today, they might be called profilers.

Dr. Laszlo Kreizler (Daniel Brühl) is such an expert. Along with reporter John Moore (Luke Evans) and police secretary Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning), Kreizler applies the first ever forensic techniques to crime scenes while tracking a serial killer in New York.

Brühl and Fanning spoke with Rotten Tomatoes before the premiere of The Alienist. Here are seven things they told us about the new world of crime solving.


Daniel Brühl as Dr. Laszlo Kreizler (Kata Vermes/TNT)

(Photo by Kata Vermes/TNT)

Profiling serial killers has to weigh on anyone. Kreizler is the first, so there isn’t even anyone around with experience to help him.

“Every shrink needs his own shrink to cope with all the issues, the demons, and the pressure of their work,” Brühl said. “That didn’t exist, so he is pretty brilliant in analyzing everyone around him, but when he has to face his own demons, the dark chapters in his own life, he gets very nervous.”

In real life, Brühl is married Felicitas Rombold Brühl, a renowned psychotherapist. When he landed The Alienist, Brühl asked her for help.

“She gave me a lot of very important information and supported me all the way through, put me in touch with a criminal psychologist, gave me stuff to read,” Brühl said. “It was a learning process. I found out about the beginning of that science, but I also learned so much about New York at that time.”


Dakota Fanning as Sara Howard in The Alienist (Kata Vermes/TNT)

(Photo by Kata Vermes/TNT)

As the first female employee of the NYPD, Sara Howard already broke the glass ceiling her first day on the job. Today she might not accept the term “secretary,” and she’s certainly more than that when she teams up with Kreizler and Moore.

“She has a very strong voice and isn’t afraid to use it,” Fanning said. “When we first meet her in the first episode, she kind of shoots up out of her chair and lunges at Luke’s character. You immediately get that she’s not a wallflower and is not afraid to speak her mind. That only grows throughout the season of the show.”

Women are still fighting for parity in the workplace today. Just look at the pay disparity in Hollywood, most recently demonstrated by Mark Wahlberg’s pay for All the Money in the World reshoots. Fanning hopes her character can inspire the women who watch The Alienist.

“I think this character is really surprisingly very relatable to somebody now even though it’s set so long ago,” Fanning said. “I think that’s one of the things that’s interesting about the show is the sort of parallels to today. She’s the first female to work at the New York Police Department. She is very much a pioneer. It’s set in 1896 so she’s not the norm, and she’s challenging society and what their expectations of a woman are.”


Daniel Brühl as Dr. Laszlo Kreizler in The Alienist (Kata Vermes/TNT)

(Photo by Kata Vermes/TNT)

These days, Theodore Roosevelt is best known as the 26th U.S. president — or Robin Williams’ character in Night At The Museum. Set four years before Roosevelt’s inauguration, The Alienist shows Roosevelt (Brian Geraghty) as NYC Police Commissioner.

“I learned so much about Teddy Roosevelt because in Europe, we know him as the president of the United States,” Brühl said. “I didn’t know he was running the police department before and was so eager in fighting corruption.”


Daniel Brühl as Dr. Laszlo Kreizler in The Alienist (Kata Vermes/TNT)

(Photo by Kata Vermes/TNT)

On any cop show, you take it for granted they’re going to dust for fingerprints at a crime scene. That was revolutionary forensic technology in 1896. The Alienist gives a fictionalized take on the first time it was employed.

“I realized forensics was so behind, they were’t even totally aware that everyone had different fingerprints,” Fanning said. “That blew my mind. It’s just so crazy to see how new things and things that challenge the norm, people are immediately afraid of and people immediately dismiss because it scares them that they could’ve been so wrong about something for so long. That just is always the way.”

The Alienist will discover more new tools “for the first time,” Brühl said.

“Handwriting analysis, the analysis of bones and soft tissues, it was the beginning of psychology, which had born 20 years before that,” Brühl said. “It was the beginning of so many things in various fields. It was a technological revolution.”

Lucius (Matthew Shear) and Marcus Isaacson (Douglas Smith) introduce the trio to these new forensics.

“They’re detectives at the police department, and they’re also [investigators] who are kind of making these discoveries,” Fanning said. “They have a lot of the scenes of the discoveries or the explanations of forensics or autopsy or those kinds of things. My character is a very curious character, so she is always asking questions about it.”


Douglas Smith and Matthew Shear in The Alienist (Kata Vermes/TNT)

(Photo by Kata Vermes/TNT)

It takes a strong stomach to watch the crime scene moments on shows like the now-retired CSI or Bones week to week. The Alienist will deliver the goods with realistic cadavers.

“I love that sh–,” Brühl said. “It reminded me of Sherlock Holmes, of Jekyll and Hyde, of Jack the Ripper, of Edgar Allen Poe. That gloomy, dark atmosphere is something that I was always attracted to. I really enjoyed the gruesome moments.”

Episode 3 will feature the Castle Garden crime scene that fans remember vividly from the book.

“There was something about that location and we shot it at night,” Brühl said. “It really gave us shivers because the bodies were so well done, it was a shock to look at them. That’s I guess the first scene where the team comes together and looks at one of these mutilated corpses and is in a rush because we don’t have that much time. We know the police are approaching.”

Fanning wasn’t as much of a gorehound.

“It wasn’t like I was vomiting over the side, but there were definitely some that were like, Oh, God, I don’t want to look at that too much,” Fanning said. “They were very realistic, which is awesome, but on the day [it’s disturbing.] Then you become desensitized to it when you’re sort of ‘Let’s move the body.’ They’re pouring the fake blood down, and you become desensitized to it because it is so obviously make-believe when you’re there. Some stuff did look pretty real.”


Dakota Fanning (foreground) with Daniel Bruhl, Douglas Smith, and Matthew Shear in The Alienist (Kata Vermes/TNT)

(Photo by Kata Vermes/TNT)

A historical period piece comes with lots of elaborate costumes. What women wore in 1896 was especially restrictive, but Fanning had one piece she loved.

“There’s one that’s a deep red with this velvet trim and I always felt like the chicest in that one,” Fanning said. “It was the 1896 version of when I’m having my best day, when I was wearing that costume. It’s in a few episodes, but I think it first comes in episode 5. It has red velvet buttons all down the front.”


New York street scene (Kata Vermes/TNT)

(Photo by Kata Vermes/TNT)

New York City no longer looks like it did in 1896. So The Alienist he had to film in Budapest, Romania instead. Once he got there, Brühl was just as excited as if he’d taken a time machine back to 1896 New York.

“It would’ve been impossible to recreate [in New York], and I’d never been in Budapest, so I was curious to see why they chose Budapest,” Brühl said. “When I arrived there, I could clearly tell why. Not only the backlot that they recreated was overwhelming, but all the locations that we could find in that very well-preserved city were perfect for our purposes, especially for telling upper-class New York.”

The restaurant where Kreizler holds meetings is actually not a restaurant at all.

“We found an incredible library where we could recreate Delmonico’s and so on,” Brühl said. “There are so many grand, incredible buildings. The opera house is the nicest one in the world.”

The Alienist premieres Monday, January 22 at 9/8C on TNT.

Tag Cloud

nbcuniversal 2016 biography LGBTQ rotten Teen harry potter The Academy sequels zombie diversity spanish Sundance stoner Television Critics Association transformers aliens Dark Horse Comics YA Animation stand-up comedy History CBS All Access 2019 Star Trek A24 documentary Music scorecard Hallmark dc emmy awards Black History Month sequel Columbia Pictures Biopics Action Country Discovery Channel science fiction Tumblr WarnerMedia Winners Thanksgiving Emmys Musicals theme song boxing Disney streaming service die hard Best and Worst Disney Television Academy TCM Amazon Prime Premiere Dates romantic comedy Alien foreign comic Summer Apple TV Plus cinemax Black Mirror unscripted Food Network sag awards Horror Binge Guide a nightmare on elm street australia dceu reboot YouTube Premium Pixar independent political drama Chernobyl Fox News The Arrangement TLC quibi Kids & Family justice league Syfy Epix travel technology 45 Fall TV Trailer Rocky Captain marvel MSNBC werewolf anthology Freeform Countdown Shudder Turner Classic Movies Mary Poppins Returns LGBT TV renewals Toys ID TBS Disney Channel police drama cancelled TV shows Oscars The CW vampires batman mutant Rock toy story Shondaland Academy Awards WGN BET Awards Holidays mission: impossible Avengers 2020 christmas movies blockbuster Film Festival space discovery Rocketman concert strong female leads BAFTA Pop adaptation crossover cops BBC One revenge Family news 21st Century Fox worst movies Set visit twilight game of thrones GIFs Lionsgate stop motion Mindy Kaling best french spider-man New York Comic Con venice blaxploitation Travel Channel Quiz X-Men Writers Guild of America Tubi Anna Paquin video on demand APB Nat Geo Opinion BBC America Pirates dragons Fantasy President sports movies composers Box Office criterion Mudbound VICE Logo Disney+ Disney Plus Ovation Paramount ITV Year in Review Nominations Red Carpet Polls and Games FX on Hulu IFC VOD Esquire japanese hist doctor who 20th Century Fox disaster Extras Photos RT History serial killer Amazon Sundance TV Holiday The Walking Dead comiccon Marathons romance GoT fresh Ellie Kemper breaking bad Endgame Chilling Adventures of Sabrina PlayStation Baby Yoda toronto Emmy Nominations TCA Winter 2020 Hear Us Out canceled latino A&E critics Song of Ice and Fire remakes ESPN franchise spy thriller Superheroes tv talk Trophy Talk golden globes kids Winter TV indiana jones indie PaleyFest archives rt archives 99% television Amazon Studios supernatural Comedy TIFF scary movies Fox Searchlight Nickelodeon TCA Awards BBC Podcast screenings TV Land boxoffice The Purge fast and furious name the review cartoon Sony Pictures hollywood Crackle Creative Arts Emmys The Witch directors GLAAD documentaries witnail Musical MCU ABC Stephen King Women's History Month talk show animated Character Guide richard e. Grant cancelled Marvel Studios Superheroe SundanceTV award winner Heroines TCA 2017 social media First Look Hulu asian-american Lifetime Christmas movies Vudu DC Universe free movies Rom-Com Reality Competition universal monsters Western rotten movies we love dark Showtime IFC Films Apple TV+ FX crime drama Starz PBS ABC Family dogs Valentine's Day chucky BET Funimation sitcom james bond halloween tv Hallmark Christmas movies slashers Netflix Christmas movies zombies superhero dramedy Video Games canceled TV shows Turner Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Tarantino TV First Reviews Classic Film halloween FOX National Geographic Disney Plus Infographic mockumentary comic books 71st Emmy Awards Grammys children's TV YouTube San Diego Comic-Con 2017 ratings cults Spike cooking DGA CW Seed cars streaming YouTube Red crime thriller Cosplay singing competition Spring TV HBO joker anime true crime obituary green book cats Interview Brie Larson FXX CNN NBC Universal Schedule Mystery American Society of Cinematographers Sneak Peek USA Network Certified Fresh Comic Book Mary Tyler Moore films 72 Emmy Awards laika book elevated horror Sci-Fi USA TruTV cancelled TV series screen actors guild Pride Month cancelled television E! comics medical drama Tomatazos psycho politics versus See It Skip It Warner Bros. hispanic facebook El Rey Adult Swim crime Election NYCC italian Pop TV 4/20 Cannes binge teaser Walt Disney Pictures child's play Comedy Central movie TCA game show classics Netflix Elton John DirecTV parents 007 DC streaming service Peacock HBO Max SXSW reviews Star Wars Martial Arts Sundance Now Calendar Arrowverse south america 2015 Ghostbusters video VH1 festivals series what to watch war finale festival OWN renewed TV shows Lifetime Mary poppins Comics on TV comedies Marvel all-time thriller CBS Crunchyroll 2018 Drama miniseries OneApp football black MTV DC Comics E3 RT21 Awards Tour worst TNT docudrama satire Lucasfilm nature Christmas 24 frames spanish language robots Super Bowl CMT jamie lee curtis Film Paramount Network Spectrum Originals historical drama ghosts AMC period drama based on movie Masterpiece Trivia Awards Britbox Amazon Prime Video Bravo Pet Sematary casting spinoff Watching Series nfl Acorn TV adventure psychological thriller HBO Go Cartoon Network deadpool Apple zero dark thirty Marvel Television SDCC Reality natural history spain