In Conversation with Mindhunter’s Cameron Britton

Paula Courtney
November 3, 2018
Absolute Music Chat

Emmy-nominated actor Cameron Britton mesmerised us all with his portrayal of serial killer Ed Kemper, on hit Netflix show Mindhunter. In this interview we discussed everything from romance to his preparation for the role and working with director David Fincher, the real Ed Kemper and so much more.

[…]

PC: When you were sat in that room with Fincher, was it hard not to show your nervousness, what did you do to combat those feelings or were you not nervous?

CB: It was back and forth that I thought, ‘Oh I’m doing a terrible job, he’s going to fire me,’ and Jonathan would talk me down from the ledge. There were days when we had done 50 takes – let’s do 50 more, 70 more I don’t care, I’m having a blast, I’m just lost in the moment, because it’s not just the takes it’s how quickly we get back to the top of the scene. Often when someone says ‘Cut!’ you know you don’t actually get to start the scene again until 10 minutes later, with him it’s 15 seconds! We are back in it. I’d never done that in my life before and that in character, for that long for a whole day of, since you’ve been awake you’re in character. It just starts becoming this sort of spiritual experience where you kind of forget what you planned on doing, you’re surprising yourself, you’re going, ‘Oh oh God! I’ve never delivered it that way before! Where did that come from?’

PC: I was talking about that with Adam Zastrow and he said by the time you do the 50th take you feel like it’s going through the motions, you don’t have to think about it but by then you are delivering something that is more natural, or organic, and that is what Fincher is looking for: that very moment when you are not acting, you are being it, doing it, aren’t you?

CB: You are! And day one I thought, ‘Are they going to fire me? Am I going to get too tired to do this?’ And that is just not the case. I met a few people playing killers who were nervous – anyone who’s worked on Mindhunter and worked with Fincher – they all think, ‘Ah, they’re going to fire me!’ But when you are in there, man you just keep going. Being fired is the last thing you’re thinking about, you are just alive. It’s a hell of an experience and honestly is moving forward my career. I’ve been fortunate enough, because of my character, to get to do bigger projects now, like that’s sort of my standard. When I go to other projects now I go, ‘Okay, are they living up to what Mindhunter taught me and are they making good art?’ And if they are not then I sort of politely find a way to come off what’s going on.

PC: What about learning your lines: how easy is that for you? Obviously you had quite a bit of dialogue: how do you make it stick?

CB: There’s knowing all your lines, that’s fine and that comes really quickly, what really takes repetition is to do it enough so you don’t need to think about them. There just coming out and that is so necessary to me, if I’m just thinking about the line then I’m not living ‘in the moment’ and that’s just the kind of acting that I do. I need to have nothing happening to distract me. I just take every opportunity to be where I need to be ‘in the moment’ because I’m still working on it. If I don’t feel connected to the scene, or ‘the moment’, I can kind of panic and then you can sort of see me acting. Some actors, they are able to go, ‘Well I’m not connected right now but I can sort of fake my way through this,’ and that’s just part of life: if you have a job there’s some days you are just not feeling it even if it’s your favourite job in the world. I’m still working on that but no matter what, I have to know the lines backwards and forwards.

PC: With regards to David Fincher’s style of directing, is there any room for a bit of give? Do you feel you could suggest to him that perhaps you’d like to try something different or is it all very controlled by him or the other directors?

CB: With David there’s a line here, a line there, in this big, giant script where he says, ‘I want this to be arrogant,’ or, ‘I want this in a form of a question.’ And I think, when he says ‘arrogant’ there are many, many, many ways to do that so it’s up to you how you want that to be conveyed – the rest of the script is all yours. And maybe that’s just my experience. David puts you in: he guides you in the right direction. So if an actor strays too far this way or that way he’ll sort of put you back on track, but the point of all those is not to do anything you’ve prepped and just be truly alive ‘in the moment’. If you’re over-directing somebody then it won’t be that: then you’re just using all those takes to get this exact delivery or performance out of them, which is fine, but it’s not allowing… like he’s so trusting that inspiration will come; you know if he has too much vision for a moment he’s not allowing for a better vision to show up. If he’s saying it has to be this way then how do you know if something better wouldn’t have come along? He’s very trusting and it empowers you; you can tell [when] your director is letting you do your job. There’s been times he’s had to put me back on track: the hospital scene in the final episode when I stand up and turn around he let me go two or three takes where I just went ballistic. When we first started shooting that part I stood up like a maniac and then by the third he said, ‘I can’t think it up with the rest of that part of the scene. You can’t do that’. It needed Kemper to stay calm and collected but, in a way, I needed to go crazy for a second, I needed to really feel that wild, impulsive energy, that’s sort of Kemper though isn’t it: even when he’s calm you can feel his urge to hurt; he’s almost masking a lot of violence, no matter how mellow he looks.

Read the full interview

2018-11-03. Cameron Britton

Read the other Absolute Music Chat conversations with the Cast of Mindhunter (more to come):

In Conversation with Mindhunter’s Jonathan Groff
An Interview with Mindhunter’s Holt McCallany
In Conversation with Cotter Smith. Actor (MindhunterThe Americans)
Jack Erdie: Actor (MindhunterBanshee) & writer
In conversation with actor Adam Zastrow (Mindhunter, High & Mighty)
In Conversation With Alex Morf: Actor (MindhunterDaredevil)
In Conversation With Tobias Segal: Actor (MindhunterSneaky Pete)
Spotlight Interview. Chris Dettone: Actor (Mindhunter), Stuntman/Coordinator

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In Conversation with Actor Adam Zastrow

Paula Courtney
October 14, 2018
Absolute Music Chat

I had the pleasure – and a lot of fun – interviewing actor, Adam Zastrow, who recently excited us playing the role of Darrell Gene Devier on Netflix’s hit show Mindhunter. During our conversation we talked about Adam realising his dream of becoming an actor, the shows he was part of leading up to Mindhunter and what it means when David Fincher says, ‘Take 50!’

[…]

PC: Getting back to David Fincher. I was reading the other day someone saying the reason he shoots a scene 70 times is because he suffers from OCD but that isn’t the case at all is it. He wants to get the best possible scene, it’s not because he has perfectionist issues.

AZ: I hate when people use the word ‘perfectionist’ when they are talking about David and the amount of takes he does because I was told about that – I don’t want to say ‘warned’ but I was ‘told’. Before going out I was told be prepared for long days Fincher likes to do a lot of takes. After having done it – those 70 takes fly by, it does not feel like you are doing 70. Fincher himself addressed this in an interview – he really hit it right on the head – it’s not that he’s a perfectionist (that’s not the issue at all) it has more to do with your pre-production staff. The guys will build sets for months, the art guys, you have all these people spending the better portion of a year just to make sure a scene looks the way it’s supposed to or to just make sure the drinking fountain in the back works even if nobody is using it. All these people put all this time and effort into this production and how dare you rush through shooting! It’s almost like a slap in the face to all these people. It’s like, ‘Okay, you spent 6 months building this scene and we’re going to come in and just shoot three takes in 12 minutes, now we are going to walk away and ask you to tear the damn thing down.’ No. No. No. I think it’s as much trying to find the best performance as it is taking the time to finding the best performance. You owe it those people not to rush through anything. When I heard that I thought, ‘Oh my God! That makes so much sense.’

PC: It’s like when you spend hours making dinner and someone wolfs it down in like 5 minutes.

AZ: Yeah exactly, exactly. I 100 per cent agree that you find stuff on take 70 that you did not even think about. As someone who’s never experienced that kind of dedication to the shoot, you get to take twenty or thirty and you’re like, ‘Okay. I rehearsed this for months. We rehearsed this together for a week. We’ve gone through this thirty times, there’s nothing else for me here to find. I’ve giving you everything that there is.’ Also from take 30-45 they are all the same, they are kind of all blah, because at that point you’re either over-thinking or under-thinking your character and you really feel like there is nothing else to give. And then, right around that point, there’s a weird moment that happens where you just stop thinking about it at all: you’re no longer under- or over-thinking it, you are just doing it because you are just going through the motions. And you’re like, ‘Okay, let’s just do this because I have to,’ and then this beautiful, beautiful thing happens where, all of a sudden, as soon as you stop thinking about it, all of this shit comes out of you that you never even knew was there! I think that’s what he’s going for. He does it enough times to where you are so used to it that you are not thinking about it, and that’s where the best stuff comes from. If you film a scene where you come home from work, you throw your keys on the table, you take your jacket off and you put it on the hook, you take your shoes off and you walk into the kitchen and you do whatever it is you do. If you were to film that scene, every single one of those moves is going to seem so cold and so calculated because it’s written in the script and you know what you are supposed to do and it’s fine, and most of the audience are not going to notice how calculated it looks – but a good audience will – and that’s what separates great shows from okay shows, and amazing shows from really decent shows, amazing directors from half-decent ones – it’s that kind of thing that half won’t notice but the ones that do are going to call you out.

PC: That’s a great explanation actually.

AZ: It’s one thing to say you shoot a scene 70 times and it looks more ‘natural’ but what does that mean? That exactly what ‘natural’ means. You are putting your keys on the hook because you’ve done it a million times, it’s like getting all of your emotion to that point where you forgot that you did it, like when you leave the house and get half-way down the road and have to turn back because you don’t remember if you have locked the door. It’s that exact thing. Fincher wants your emotions and everything on camera to be stone natural – that you are not even 100 percent sure that you did it.

That’s what I think makes all of his stuff so, so good. I’ve heard so many people talk about the 70 takes thing and how it’s unnecessary, but after doing it I’m almost wishing everyone would do it: because everything looks so much better, and so natural and yeah, you might not see it, but those that do, it makes that difference.

Read the full interview

2017-11-18. Adam Zastrow (Facebook) - Adam Zastrow, Cameron Britton, and Jack Erdie
Adam Zastrow, Cameron Britton, and Jack Erdie (Adam Zastrow / Facebook)

Read the other Absolute Music Chat conversations with the Cast of Mindhunter (more to come):

In Conversation with Mindhunter’s Jonathan Groff
An Interview with Mindhunter’s Holt McCallany
In Conversation with Cotter Smith. Actor (Mindhunter, The Americans)
Jack Erdie: Actor (MindhunterBanshee) & writer
In Conversation With Alex Morf: Actor (MindhunterDaredevil)
In Conversation With Tobias Segal: Actor (MindhunterSneaky Pete)
Spotlight Interview. Chris Dettone: Actor (Mindhunter), Stuntman/Coordinator

In Conversation with Mindhunter’s Jonathan Groff

Paula Courtney
July 29, 2018
Absolute Music Chat

Actor Jonathan Groff has already enjoyed a huge degree of respect and recognition for his previous roles in theatre (Hamilton and Spring Awakening), on TV (Looking and Glee) and also in film with the hugely successful Frozen. Lately however he has found a whole new audience, who are singing his praises for his outstanding performance as Holden Ford on Mindhunter. In my extended interview with Jonathan we talk about his early years, his first roles, working on Mindhunter, his thoughts on David Fincher’s directing technique and so much more.

[…]

PC: Tell me more about working with David Fincher. Obviously his name is on everyone’s lips nowadays and we know his style of directing – we all know he may shoot the same scene 70 times – but there’s much more to him than that. I always like to get information first hand, if I can. What kind of impression has he made on you?

JG: Well it’s just the whole idea, for me at least, [of] having complete faith and trust in someone and knowing that they are going to take you somewhere that is interesting, and working with him is different to working with anyone else. One of the reasons being that you go, ‘Okay, I will just do whatever you want,’ because I so believe in him and in his brain and in his vision, and his point of view, because he’s just proven time and time and time and time again – with all of his films and projects – that he’s one of the most interesting, creative people working today. So just to get the opportunity to be a part of his world is exciting and especially with this TV experience, particularly right now, in this very moment, it’s the first time he’s ever come back to a television show. He directed the first two episodes of House of Cards and he was Creative and Executive Producer on that show, but he never came back to direct it again. He very much had his hand in every episode on the first season of Mindhunter. We weren’t sure if he would come back and do the second season or not, because he has never done that before and now here he is, and we are working on the second season. Just to get that extended time with him and to see how… I guess the thing that is so inspirational about him is that he doesn’t sit back and go, ‘Okay, we know what we are doing. We know who these characters are. Let’s just continue comfortably down the road we were going down before.’

We came back to the second season and obviously some of the sets are the same, and we actually basically know who the characters are, where before we didn’t know what the show was yet – we were still making it. So there’s that element, which is great. But it’s still the same process as it was the first time around: it’s not laid back and comfortable; it’s not pressing the same notes; he’s really trying to move things forward and make things different, evolve it and grow it and change it as it goes along – that’s just an artist that is always searching, always changing and always asking the questions. He’s just always trying to get to a better version of the truth: in the writing, then in the shooting and in the editing, he just never stops working and never stops asking questions, and it’s just so rare to find someone like that.

Read the full interview

Read the other Absolute Music Chat conversations with the Cast of Mindhunter (more to come):

An Interview with Mindhunter’s Holt McCallany
Jack Erdie: Actor (Mindhunter, Banshee) & Writer
In Conversation With Alex Morf: Actor (Mindhunter, Daredevil)
In Conversation With Tobias Segal: Actor (Mindhunter, Sneaky Pete)
Spotlight Interview. Chris Dettone: Actor (Mindhunter), Stuntman/Coordinator

Actors on Actors: Jonathan Groff & Maggie Gyllenhaal

Variety (YouTube)
June 8, 2018

Los Angeles Times (YouTube)
June 7, 2018

Before Jonathan Groff Could Nail Mindhunter, He Had to Stop Smiling

ANATOMY OF A CHARACTER

The stage and screen star discusses leading David Fincher’s pitch-black serial-killer series.

K. Austin Collins
June 14, 2018
Vanity Fair

THE CHARACTER: HOLDEN FORD, MINDHUNTER

If you’ve seen classic David Fincher films like Seven, Zodiac, or even The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, you know the infamously exacting director has a type: the obsessive who tries to solve a crime in the library or the archives, nimbly combing through databases and warehouses full of forgotten evidence. The Fincher obsessive starts their work unblemished—but by the end, it has upended their lives.

In the case of Fincher’s 10-episode Netflix series Mindhunter, that obsessive is Holden Ford, played by Tony-nominated actor Jonathan Groff. Holden starts as a textbook Groff character: neat, bookish, pretty, an F.B.I. choirboy who becomes a teacher and researcher after a hostage situation goes wrong. But soon, alongside behavioral scientist Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) and anthropologist Wendy Carr (Anna Torv), Holden falls down the rabbit hole of a new line of thinking about killers, one that brings him a little too close to the murderers themselves.

Read the full profile

How David Fincher Nailed ‘Mindhunter,’ from Charlize Theron to Jonathan Groff

Holt McCallany, Anna Torv, Erik Messerschmidt (Director of Photography), Laray Mayfield (Casting Director), Cameron Britton, Jonathan Groff, Jennifer Starzyk (Costume Designer), Steve Arnold (Production Designer), David Fincher (Director/Executive Producer). (Patrick Lewis/Starpix for Netflix/REX/Shutterstock/IndieWire)

Take some people obsessed with serial killers, and a detail freak like David Fincher, and the alchemy is undeniably compelling.

Anne Thompson
June 4, 2018
IndieWire, Thompson on Hollywood

There are manifold reasons why Netflix’s chilling series “Mindhunter” breaks the mold, from David Fincher to the bromantic chemistry between boyish FBI agent Holden Ford (“Hamilton” star Jonathan Groff) and gruff, chain-smoking G-man Bill Tench (Fincher veteran Holt McCallany). Here are a few factors that pushed this series to the top of the competitive drama Emmy contenders.

1. Charlize Theron

The series may never have existed if executive producer Charlize Theron hadn’t recognized a fellow serial killer buff in Fincher. When the actress was researching her Oscar-winning role as sociopath Aileen Wuornos in Patty Jenkins’ “Monster,” she read John Douglas’s “Mindhunter,” about the groundbreaking ’70s FBI unit that pioneered research into serial killers.

“This guy had an incredible life,” she said. “What he does is so rare and mind-blowing. I’m fascinated by books on neurology and brain development and why people are sociopaths: They cut off all emotion in order to do horrible things. I bought the rights to his book. I thought about Fincher, who loved ‘Zodiac’ and ‘Seven’ [and thought] ‘He must be obsessed with this stuff too; he must know who John Douglas is.’ People said, ‘You have never produced television.’ I asked David to lunch and he knew about Douglas and was on board: ‘Let’s make it into a series.’ Dream big, motherfuckers!”

Read the full profile

Charlize Theron craves Sushi
Fincher and Theron, after their meeting in 2012 (Bauer-Griffin, AKM-GSI)

MINDHUNTER: ATAS/Netflix FYSEE panel highlights

Ted Sarandos (Netflix Chief Content Officer), David Fincher (Director/Executive Producer), Anna Torv, Jennifer Starzyk (Costume Designer), Steve Arnold (Production Designer), Erik Messerschmidt (Director of Photography), Cameron Britton, Laray Mayfield (Casting Director), Holt McCallany, Jonathan Groff. (Frazer Harrison / Getty Images)

‘Mindhunter’: David Fincher Shot a 9-Minute Take 75 Times and Didn’t Let Cameron Britton Talk to Anyone on Set

The notoriously fastidious director discussed his process for the Netflix original series during a panel discussion Friday night.

Ben Travers
June 2, 2018
IndieWire

Netflix FYSEE MINDHUNTER Panel, Los Angeles, CA, USA - 1 June 2018
“Why 75 takes? Cos I’m motherf***ing David Fincher, that’s why” (Eric Charbonneau, REX/Shutterstock/IndieWire)

Jonathan Groff And David Fincher Revisit ‘Mindhunter’ As Emmy Beckons

Gregory Ellwood
June 2, 2018
The Playlist

Netflix FYSEE MINDHUNTER Panel, Los Angeles, CA, USA - 1 June 2018
Fincher being “Rorschached” at the MINDHUNTER Netflix FYSee space (Eric Charbonneau, REX/Shutterstock/IndieWire)

MINDHUNTER at NetflixFYSEE

Panel tweets and photos from 6/1/18 event

Diane Gordon (Twitter)
June 2, 2018
Wakelet

Netflix FYSEE MINDHUNTER Panel, Los Angeles, CA, USA - 1 June 2018
Fincher surrenders to the cuddly, adorable, and “hot” bear Cameron Britton (Eric Charbonneau, REX/Shutterstock/IndieWire)

The Cast of Mindhunter in Conversation

Vulture (YouTube)
June 1, 2018

Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany, Anna Torv, and Cameron Britton sat down with Vulture‘s Abraham Riesman for a conversation about the critically acclaimed series’ first season, the series’ real-life inspirations, and exactly what level of creepiness fans can look forward to enjoying in season two.

Thanks to Andrew Moore

The Mindhunter Cast Knows How to Spot a Sociopath

2018-08-21. Vulture - The Mindhunter Cast Knows How to Spot a Sociopath

Abraham Riesman
August 21, 2018
Vulture

Despite being a 1970s period piece, Mindhunter feels eminently of the present moment. We’re living in the midst of a true-crime renaissance, and the David Fincher–helmed Netflix series stands out not only as a (heavily fictionalized) example of the genre, but as a critique of it. As FBI agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) and psychologist Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) delve into the brains and motivations of serial killers — especially real-life murderer Ed Kemper (Emmy nominee Cameron Britton) — we’re given a window into why humans have such a fascination with individuals who engage in death and destruction. But just as interesting as the tales on the screen are the tales of what it takes to tell them, as an audience learned during a panel discussion with Groff, McCallany, Torv, and Britton at this year’s Vulture Festival. Over the course of the conversation, the actors talked about Fincher’s notorious obsessiveness, whether Ford is a sociopath, and how Britton learned to play Kemper partially thanks to his own time as a schoolteacher.

Read the full conversation transcription