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

boxing Fox Searchlight discovery Anna Paquin Tumblr mockumentary Hear Us Out political drama Trophy Talk cats animated game of thrones zombie hispanic indie Cartoon Network Logo LGBTQ biography finale dogs dc blockbusters disaster Crackle Holiday Summer witnail RT21 72 Emmy Awards Pop green book blaxploitation First Reviews YA Watching Series films sequels venice popular Comedy Central Extras children's TV Alien godzilla Masterpiece Netflix Emmys pirates of the caribbean thriller ratings laika theme song Sundance Now Superheroes Women's History Month zombies Rock DC Universe universal monsters Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt war Fox News asian-american ABC Pixar directors all-time Trailer Freeform Esquire rom-coms Shondaland Comic Book Country Academy Awards Holidays Apple TV Plus toy story french halloween tv Bravo 24 frames Comedy Amazon Studios miniseries MCU foreign cinemax Disney streaming service dceu scary movies USA Nat Geo TLC festivals zero dark thirty ID prank ITV Nickelodeon Ghostbusters facebook docuseries OWN Infographic Syfy Stephen King 007 die hard Epix MSNBC historical drama superman transformers cults police drama TCA 2017 FX on Hulu nbcuniversal BET Awards strong female leads Turner Classic Movies video on demand FXX romantic comedy child's play tv talk CBS All Access harry potter reviews Sneak Peek cartoon aliens indiana jones Election criterion A&E History BBC America PaleyFest Walt Disney Pictures italian Marathons YouTube Red south america CW Seed twilight cancelled television Polls and Games TNT Lifetime Amazon Prime Pet Sematary DGA comics Drama OneApp 2019 45 golden globe awards true crime black ESPN GLAAD 71st Emmy Awards worst slashers james bond Baby Yoda 99% kids Starz football Countdown television Spring TV serial killer TCA Winter 2020 E! First Look stand-up comedy TBS king kong Marvel Studios archives spider-man ABC Signature nature TV DC streaming service BET IFC Films El Rey AMC classics psycho Disney+ Disney Plus Paramount Plus Oscars halloween batman YouTube Premium Box Office The CW elevated horror video telelvision Rom-Com comic nfl cooking game show TCA Legendary kaiju 20th Century Fox The Walking Dead CBS concert Comics on TV golden globes Britbox worst movies RT History spanish TCA Awards chucky Paramount Dark Horse Comics Film Star Trek doctor who travel streaming American Society of Cinematographers screen actors guild Opinion 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Valentine's Day Amazon Hallmark anime spy thriller DirecTV Apple TV+ name the review Sundance National Geographic E3 Toys spain fast and furious award winner emmy awards Schedule politics singing competition San Diego Comic-Con Spectrum Originals hidden camera dragons Sony Pictures Acorn TV Super Bowl Fantasy space Reality Competition rotten Sci-Fi robots Peacock kong BBC Reality stop motion Chernobyl TIFF comic books unscripted remakes rt archives composers based on movie Awards Chilling Adventures of Sabrina hollywood quibi IFC Hallmark Christmas movies LGBT SXSW Video Games richard e. Grant Kids & Family SundanceTV Podcast Ellie Kemper deadpool scorecard New York Comic Con Certified Fresh TCM Exclusive Video ghosts Lucasfilm Disney Channel Musicals TruTV Mary Tyler Moore 2015 2017 Marvel Television Universal NYCC free movies comedies Year in Review trailers jamie lee curtis Amazon Prime Video dark science fiction revenge crime drama toronto Biopics Apple werewolf monster movies what to watch Creative Arts Emmys 4/20 DC Comics YouTube festival Animation Character Guide Lionsgate 2020 Spike Horror Set visit GoT teaser Brie Larson book MTV FX Television Academy news X-Men GIFs movie BAFTA Binge Guide Tomatazos breaking bad VH1 technology natural history Film Festival talk show Endgame BBC One The Witch Nominations Photos Lifetime Christmas movies TV Land Music series sequel PlayStation Disney Pirates Song of Ice and Fire sag awards cancelled TV series 2021 canceled TV shows Disney Plus 2016 Avengers vampires Mudbound Television Critics Association rotten movies we love Star Wars documentaries Awards Tour ABC Family crime casting Columbia Pictures Ovation Cannes Turner superhero Christmas Tarantino CMT documentary spanish language dramedy Calendar Writers Guild of America justice league CNN canceled The Walt Disney Company Martial Arts Superheroe parents critics Cosplay Interview Hulu cops Teen crime thriller Sundance TV 2018 Action medical drama Emmy Nominations PBS sitcom cars HBO Go diversity Food Network franchise The Purge HBO Captain marvel Mary poppins mutant sports Thanksgiving WGN See It Skip It Quiz Best and Worst Rocky A24 Trivia psychological thriller joker Marvel renewed TV shows Warner Bros. Red Carpet reboot Tubi Family TV renewals Grammys adaptation latino spinoff Mindy Kaling japanese APB HBO Max adventure boxoffice The Academy 21st Century Fox australia blockbuster binge Funimation Pop TV versus NBC Broadway cancelled jurassic park comiccon Pride Month hist Paramount Network VICE period drama Mystery Travel Channel VOD mission: impossible cancelled TV shows romance anthology The Arrangement WarnerMedia Discovery Channel Netflix Christmas movies Vudu a nightmare on elm street Heroines christmas movies Mary Poppins Returns Elton John razzies ViacomCBS supernatural Crunchyroll Winners Rocketman satire Winter TV docudrama Showtime obituary social media Fall TV Shudder SDCC FOX best independent Black Mirror Western Classic Film Musical screenings Arrowverse Black History Month Premiere Dates Adult Swim fresh stoner President movies USA Network TV One women crossover