To meet Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany, stars of the Netflix series “Mindhunter,” you’d never suspect they recently spent 10 long months consumed with the darkest reaches of the human psyche.
Groff, a charmer known for playing the lead in HBO’s “Looking” and King George in the original Broadway version of “Hamilton,” laughs generously as McCallany, a seasoned character actor and gabby raconteur with a booming voice, shares a story about training to throw out the first pitch at a Mets game.
Yet given their obvious rapport, it’s easy to see why they were cast as the leads in “Mindhunter,” which debuts Friday. The psychological drama, executive produced by David Fincher and Charlize Theron, follows a pair of trailblazing FBI agents as they interrogate notorious real-life murderers in an effort to understand — and maybe prevent — the senseless urge to kill.
Groff stars as Holden Ford, a clean-cut but open-minded young agent intent on shaking up the hidebound agency, while McCallany plays Bill Tench, a cynical veteran who asks what might be the series’ central question: “How do we get ahead of crazy if we don’t know how crazy thinks?”
The first season of Netflix’s filmed-in-Pittsburgh 1970s FBI psychological drama “Mindhunter” has been shrouded in secrecy from the start, but the show finally sees the light of day on the streaming service Friday.
“Mindhunter” is executive produced by David Fincher, who also directed four installments in the 10-episode first season. Mr. Fincher previously brought Netflix its early scripted hit drama “House of Cards.”
“Mindhunter” stars Jonathan Groff (“Looking”) as FBI agent Holden Ford, an upstanding young agent who gets partnered with a jaded veteran, Bill Tench (Holt McCallany, “Lights Out”). The pair are part of the FBI’s “road school,” traveling the country to meet local law enforcement and share details of the bureau’s latest techniques. Along the way, they are asked to consult on local cases.
But they also interview incarcerated serial killers in an attempt to understand what makes these damaged men tick as the FBI pair pioneers research into deviant minds for the bureau’s behavioral science division.
Just because there are intense interview scenes between wet-behind-the-ears Ford and these killers, don’t compare “Mindhunter” to 1991’s “Silence of the Lambs,” even though both were influenced by the work of real-life FBI profiler John Douglas. In “Silence” the Scott Glenn character, Jack Crawford, was supposedly inspired in part by Mr. Douglas; the “Mindhunter” producers bought the rights to Mr. Douglas’ 1995 book “Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit,” which inspired the Netflix series. Ford and Tench are fictional characters, but the serial killers they interview are based on real people.