Ac­tor leaves cov­eted Hamil­ton role for spot in Net­flix mur­der drama

Calgary Herald - - MOVIES - JO­CE­LYN NOVECK The Associated Press

His TV fans know him as Pa­trick in HBO’s Look­ing, and as Jesse St. James in Glee. His movie fans know him as the voice of Kristoff in Frozen. And his theatre fans? They know him as the pouty, thor­oughly an­noyed King Ge­orge in Hamil­ton.

Now, fans will see Jonathan Groff in an en­tirely new sort of role — as an FBI agent, try­ing to get into the mind of se­rial killers, in the new Net­flix se­ries Mind­hunter.

The se­ries takes place in the 70s — think Son of Sam and Charles Man­son — and is pro­duced, and di­rected in part, by David Fincher, who knows his way around a gritty crime story, hav­ing di­rected Gone Girl and Zo­diac. It’s based on the book Mind­hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Se­rial Crime Unit by John Dou­glas, who spent many years de­vel­op­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­fil­ing to probe the minds of the coun­try’s worst killers.

Groff sat down re­cently to dis­cuss the part, and work­ing with Fincher.

Q This char­ac­ter’s a de­par­ture for you. Had you ever won­dered what it was like to be in law en­force­ment?

A No. Be­ing an ac­tor and artist feels like the op­po­site. We’re emo­tional, we’re ex­pres­sive, we’re em­pa­thetic, and play­ing some­one in law en­force­ment seems like the an­tithe­sis of that — which made it re­ally ex­cit­ing. Also the char­ac­ter of Holden is in­quis­i­tive, re­ally in­ter­ested in bring­ing psy­chol­ogy and so­ci­ol­ogy to law en­force­ment. He’s kind of the New Age FBI agent.

Q You come from theatre. What’s the dif­fer­ence in the two types of act­ing?

A It’s true that in theatre, you get adrenalin from the crowd, but I’ve found that on TV, par­tic­u­larly some­thing like Mind­hunter, there’s a level of adrenalin that hap­pens. When they say “ac­tion,” ev­ery­one’s re­ally quiet on the set ... There isn’t a live au­di­ence, but my heart beats a lit­tle faster, and I get in­spired in that space be­tween ‘ac­tion’ and ‘cut.’

Q In theatre, you can keep re­fin­ing your char­ac­ter. Can you do that in TV?

A Yes, in theatre, three months into it, I’ll think, ‘Oh no, THIS is what it’s about! If only I’d been think­ing about that dur­ing open­ing.’

And then three months later I’m think­ing, ‘Oh, ac­tu­ally it was the first thing!’ You’re al­ways re­fin­ing. With David, it’s much like theatre, you’re al­ways soft­en­ing or sharp­en­ing the edges and cre­at­ing some­thing re­ally spe­cific.

Q That first in­ter­view with a se­rial killer in prison is bonechilling.

A It’s sort of the moment every­thing comes into clar­i­fi­ca­tion. At one point, the killer asks me, “Why are you so tense?” For two days of shoot­ing, I’d been fid­get­ing and do­ing var­i­ous things, and sud­denly David came over and said, “what if you don’t do any­thing?” It was ge­nius.

Q There seems to be a Si­lence of the Lambs dy­namic here, with you as the Clarice fig­ure.

A To­tally. But it’s in­ter­est­ing, as amaz­ing as Si­lence of the Lambs is, David wanted to blow up that no­tion of the comic-book ver­sion of the se­rial killer, that bril­liant om­ni­scient ge­nius, and re­ally take a gen­uine hu­man look at who these peo­ple are. They had mostly av­er­age IQs, and they’re just sad, (messed)-up peo­ple with a dam­aged story.

Q The term se­rial killer didn’t even ex­ist then?

A No, and that’s the fun of the show. It’s all this vo­cab­u­lary that we’re now very com­fort­able with, but back then it didn’t ex­ist. Watch­ing these guys sort of

shoot­ing from the hip, go­ing on in­stinct, is re­ally in­ter­est­ing. Q So there’s no Han­ni­bal Lecter here?

A It’s al­most eas­ier to un­der­stand if it’s an An­thony Hop­kin­stype. ‘Oh, they’re an in­sane bril­liant crazy per­son.’ But when it’s, ‘no, this dude is my weird neigh­bour that I ig­nore,’ that’s re­ally scarier.

Q You had to leave Hamil­ton to be­gin shoot­ing this show in Pitts­burgh. Was that hard?

A This op­por­tu­nity was so ex­tra­or­di­nary, it was a no-brainer. But it was bit­ter­sweet to leave the show, be­cause I loved that group.

And there was ac­tu­ally a moment when we were per­form­ing at the White House, (Hamil­ton) direc­tor Tommy Kail was just re­mind­ing me of this, and (then) pres­i­dent Obama got up im­promptu and hugged ev­ery­one. And I was cry­ing so hard. Q Are you headed back to the theatre soon? A I’d love to. It’s my first love. I’m ad­dicted to it.


Jonathan Groff, right, best known for his roles on Look­ing and Glee, stars in Net­flix’s new 10-episode se­ries, Mind­hunter.

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