In The Alienist, Fanning—Elle’s older sister—stars as a police secretary in the late 1890s helping her male colleagues search for one of New York City’s first serial killers. The TNT series begins Jan. 22. Then Jan. 26, in the movie Please Stand By, Fanning, 23, will play Wendy, a young autistic woman who runs away to enter a writing contest with a Star Trek script she’s written.
What drew you to The Alienist?
Getting to see the birth of psychology and forensics. It wasn’t actually that long ago that people didn’t know about fingerprints and things.
Your character, Sara, is conflicted about how feminine she can be in a man’s world.
Sara is coming into her femininity and sexuality. She’s someone who’s trying to be taken seriously. She’s constantly trying to prove herself, but she is confident in herself and in her own intelligence.
For a scene in Please Stand By, you had to learn how to talk Klingon.
Yeah, it was so funny. I laughed really hard doing that scene with Patton Oswalt. We had a teacher that recorded all the lines for us so that we could say them phonetically.
You are juggling college simultaneously with your acting career.
I’ve taken at least one class every semester since the beginning. I do a lot of independent studies. I’m just soldiering on and I should be done soon.