David Fincher has made a career of delving into abnormal minds, with Seven, Fight Club, Zodiac, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl. But he says his newest project, Mindhunter, isn’t about psychopaths. It’s about the people who figured out how to hunt psychopaths — and that’s an important distinction.
Fincher produced and directed four episodes of the addictive new Netflix show, which starts streaming Oct. 13. The series is about the agents who interviewed the likes of Charles Manson and the Son of Sam in order to better understand the psychology of mass murderers. By doing so, they created a psychological profile for these killers that would allow the FBI to catch similar psychopaths more quickly in the future.
The show is based on the real life events chronicled in the book Mindhunter by the FBI agents who coined the term “serial killer.” But Fincher says he struggled with how deeply the show should dive into the details of these grisly murders. “I said many times as we were in the process of making the show, ‘Wait a minute, we’re making this show about serial killers. We’re not making this show for serial killers,'” the director says.
Fincher spoke to TIME about why he hates the idea of becoming the “serial killer director,” casting the cheery Glee star Jonathan Groff in a dreary role and why we’re all so obsessed with true crime stories.