TV Tango Search


|              FREE: Ask a TV Expert

Q&A Interview w/ TNT THE ALIENIST Cast Daniel Bruhl, Luke Evans, Dakota Fanning & Executive Producer

Maj Canton - February 12, 2018







Set in the underbelly of New York City's Gilded Age, THE ALIENIST, a limited series based on Caleb Carr's award‑winning bestseller of the same name, follows Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, a brilliant and obsessive “alienist,” who, at the turn of the century, is using his controversial new methods of treating mental illness to hunt down a never‑before‑seen ritualistic killer. Shot in Budapest, this series was three years in the making. From the stunning production values, to the rich storytelling and compelling characters played by Daniel Brühl, Luke Evans, and Dakota Fanning, THE ALIENIST is not to be missed. TNT premiered THE ALIENIST on January 22, 2018 at 9pm.






This past January at the Television Critics Association (TCA) Winter Press Tour, TNT presented a panel which included cast members Daniel Brühl, Luke Evans, Dakota Fanning and series Executive Producers Jakob Verbruggen and Roslied Swedlin. Here are a few highlights (edited for clarity and readability) from that panel.


Daniel Brühl, Dakota Fanning and Luke Evans (left to right) at Television Critics Association Winter 2018 Press Tour.


Question: This project has an historically long development, what kind of awareness do you have of anything that’s come before, or are you able to make a clean start from scratch?

Rosalie Swedlin: We started essentially from a blank page, because all the scripts that were previously written were for feature film. Part of the richness of the novel that Caleb wrote is not just this fantastic investigation of a serial killer when nobody believed that such a thing existed, but that it's how this investigation impacts on all of our characters, the journey that each of the individual characters who are sitting on this stage make in the series, and in being able to transport people back into the world of 1896 when so much of what we take for granted is all new and exciting. Doing it now, in this moment in time, I think, makes some of the themes and issues that the book depicts that much more accessible and relevant and exciting to an audience.

Jakob Verbruggen: I think it's creating a visual time machine and literally transporting the audience to the streets of Gilded Age New York. We also take the audience on a journey into the seedy underbelly of the city. We take them to places where nobody would come. We take them to brothels. We take them to Bellevue. I think it's opening doors that haven't been opened before. I think that will be very intriguing for the audience to watch.

Question: Was the author involved in the creation of the miniseries?

Rosalie Swedlin: Caleb's book is a brilliant inspiration. But in doing an adaptation of any book, you have to make some creative decisions. For instance, two lines about John Moore's character that his brother had died in somewhat uncertain circumstances that only John Moore is willing to tell truth to - we turn that into a whole story arc for Moore's character. Likewise, we knew Sarah wanted to be the first female police detective in New York Police Department, but that becomes a big story arc throughout the series. And Laszlo Kreizler's dark secrets also are built in, too. So we use the book as inspiration and source material, but when you dramatize anything, you have to then begin to branch out and take what you've been given and expand on it.


Daniel Brühl at Television Critics Association Winter 2018 Press Tour.

Question: Daniel, are you drawn to playing dark and brooding characters?

Daniel Brühl: I always love the darkness, I have to say. Even when I was a teenager, I read Edgar Allen Poe and Jekyll and Hyde and Sherlock Holmes and whatnot. I read this book almost with a torchlight under the blanket and I was so fascinated by it, about the richness of the material. But it's also a history lesson in New York at the time, probably the most fascinating city in the world, the exploding melting pot. A history lesson about corruption, about politics. An incredible interior journey which is going on among the key characters in that story, so that all made it a perfect combination. And I'm very happy that it was brought to television, that we have the possibility to have these ten hours to explore all these wonderful things in the book and that it wasn't thinned out and made into a feature film.

Question: Why are you picking American projects?

Daniel Brühl: It's about the talent, the passion, and I've never had that in my life. I got involved in a period film back in Germany or Europe where in the script it says 50 carriages, 200 extras, and then you arrive on the day and there's just one carriage and a donkey and two extras. You are supposed to recreate that and make it believable. And in this case, it's just a privilege for an actor to feel that time period, and my thanks go out to each department -- set design, costume, props, etc.

Rosalie Swedlin: I think just to that point, one of the things I've heard you all say is that being in these fantastic costumes, and for poor Dakota, every day a corset that was true to the corsets that women wore in that time made you feel like you were really there in 1896.

Dakota Fanning: Everyone coveted our clothing because it's so beautiful. And we all coveted it the first week, and then six months later we were like trying to find ways of being able to, like, hold our neck in a certain way without sort of bending the collars. It was a real challenge but so amazing. And as a woman to have to be dressed by someone, to have to be undressed by someone, to then face in your workplace abuses of power and harassment and you're constantly sort of fending someone off who's trying to make your life cushy as a woman in 1896. The corset is so restrictive. It's almost a metaphor for the time period, and it was really helpful for me, because it changes the way you even talk when you're sucked in that much. It was so incredibly helpful, it gives you a window into the different levels of difficulty in living in that time.

Luke Evans at Television Critics Association Winter 2018 Press Tour.

Question: Did you seek out the book to help inform your characters or did you rely on what the writers gave you?

Luke Evans: It's a good question. I've done a few adaptations, and it's always a difficult decision to make whether you leave the book and just focus solely on the script or you go back to the book and just use it as a reference. With this project, I felt that the book would help, because we didn't have the full ten episodes when we signed up for the project. So it was useful for me to see the changes in my character because he changes massively from the narrator to a really integral character in the story. There's a lot of backstory to John Moore's character that's added to his character within the ten episodes, which was very interesting for me because it gave me a much bigger arc. But the book was good to have, and it was there.

Dakota Fanning: I've seen a lot of actors on films that I've done that have been adapted from books -- I've seen them crippled by their love for the book and their constant going back to the book. And at some point, you sort of have to accept that what you're doing is based on or inspired by a piece of material, but what you should be focusing on are these scripts that the writers are writing. I always focus on that. I think that I want to I don't want to have some line from the book in the back of my mind and I'm playing that but that's not actually what's trying to be told in the script, so it sometimes is a fine line to walk. I think that in this particular case, couldn't go wrong because the book is so layered and there's so much to draw from.

Dakota Fanning at Television Critics Association Winter 2018 Press Tour.

Question: Who do you think will be the show’s expected audience?

Dakota Fanning: You never want to say who it's made for, you know? I'm constantly surprised by people who come up to me who are fans of something that I never would have expected. I never want to limit it to any one kind of person or group of people. I think there's a lot in this series for a lot of different age groups. I think the younger generation now takes a lot for granted and takes a lot of rights and a lot of things for granted. I think now we're starting so many more conversations about inequalities and injustices and women's movement that's happening at the moment. And so I think that there's a really huge storyline that really speaks to that that I think people my age could really benefit from of seeing how if you don't speak up and you don't make moves to change things, they continue happening. I think there's a lot of people that can find something to learn from.

Question: This show's being billed as a limited series. Have you thought about Season 2? There is another book in the series, but is this a renewable franchise?

Dakota Fanning: I think what's so great about having limited series, now we're able to tell the story of THE ALIENIST start to finish, this book, in ten hours. And that's what this is. It's a beginning and a satisfying end. I think that there could be the potential to do it again, and I think I can safely speak for everyone in saying that we would love to. We had the best time and love our characters so much and love this world and would certainly be open to it. But I think we're happy to have completed the story of THE ALIENIST for now.


If you want to know nothing about the episodes at all, skip this section. Provided by TNT, this episode guide includes general episode descriptions and specific plot details.

Episode 101 - "The Boy on the Bridge"
Monday, Jan. 22, 2018 at 9pm ET/PT
New York City. 1896. The heart of America's Gilded Age. When a young boy prostitute is found butchered on the unfinished Williamsburg Bridge, an alienist named Laszlo Kreizler (Daniel Brühl), a newspaper illustrator by the name of John Moore, (Luke Evans), a secretary, Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning) and a police commissioner named Theodore Roosevelt (Brian Geraghty) begin an investigation outside the law to find the serial killer.

Episode 102 - "A Fruitful Partnership"
Monday, Jan. 29, 2018 at 9pm ET/PT
The investigation heats up as Sara (Dakota Fanning) gets her hands on a clue and Kreizler (Daniel Brühl) tries to connect the evidence left behind by the serial killer. Tensions rise within the police department. Kreizler takes Moore (Luke Evans), Sara, Marcus (Douglas Smith) and Lucius (Matthew Shear) to Delmonico's in New York and informs them they are going to be working together as a team to catch the killer.

Episode 103 - "Silver Smile"
Monday, Feb. 5, 2018 at 9pm ET/PT
Innovative evidence leads the team to discover a crucial element in the case has gone missing. Kreizler (Daniel Brühl) and Moore (Luke Evans) interview a witness to find out what happened to Moore at the Brothel. Sara (Dakota Fanning) attempts to live in a world outside the investigation. Kreizler challenges them to look within themselves.

Episode 104 - "These Bloody Thoughts"
Monday, Feb. 12, 2018 at 9pm ET/PT
Kreizler (Daniel Brühl) and Sara (Dakota Fanning) discuss the capacity to kill. Moore (Luke Evans) goes on a date. Byrnes (Ted Levine) and Captain Connor (David Wilmot) keep an eye on a potential suspect. Roosevelt (Brian Geraghty) finds himself under public scrutiny.

Episode 105 - "Hildebrandt's Starling"
Monday, Feb. 19, 2018 at 9pm ET/PT
The team learns more about the killer. Moore (Luke Evans) and Sara (Dakota Fanning) share an intimate moment. Kreizler (Daniel Brühl) seeks advice from an old mentor. Roosevelt (Brian Geraghty) takes action.

Episode 106 - "The Pilgrimage of Chaines"
Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 at 9pm ET/PT
The team hatches a plan to catch the killer. Moore (Luke Evans) checks in on a friend. Kreizler (Daniel Brühl) faces his own self-doubt about the investigation. Roosevelt (Brian Geraghty) attends an event with the city's elite. Sara (Dakota Fanning) looks into Kreizler's past. Connor (David Wilmot) acts on impulse.

Episode 107 - "Many Sainted Men"
Monday, March 5, 2018 at 9pm ET/PT
Kreizler and Moore follow a lead; Sara visits a hospital and is forced to confront her past; Cyrus, Kreizler's carriage driver, recovers from his injuries; Byrnes and Connor plot against the team; Detectives Marcus and Lucius Isaacson work on a clue.

Episode 108 - "Psychopathia Sexualis"
Monday, March 12, 2018 at 9pm ET/PT
Kreizler (Daniel Brühl) and Moore (Luke Evans) travel to Washington D.C. Sara (Dakota Fanning) goes rogue in pursuit of the truth. Lucius (Matthew Shear) tells Marcus (Douglas Smith) a secret. Byrnes (Ted Levine) and Connor (David Wilmot) tighten their grip on the investigation.