The Alienist: 9 secrets we learned from the cast of Netflix’s gory new thriller

There's a terrifying killer on the loose in New York City

Based on the 1994 novel of the same name by Caleb Carr, The Alienist is Netflix’s brand new crime thriller with a period drama twist. Set in late-19th Century New York, it’s a blood-soaked murder mystery filled with creepy villains and disgusting diseases. If you like your gore graphic and in-your-face then you’re in for a treat.

We met the all star cast — Daniel Brühl, Dakota Fanning, Luke Evans — to find out a few secrets.

Dakota Fanning fainted in her first costume fitting

Victorian clothing was notoriously uncomfortable and Fanning’s character Sarah Howard often wears a corset. “I actually fainted in my first fitting,” she recalls. “It [the corset] changes how you sit, walk, move, breathe, how much you can eat, how much you can’t because it’s tight. You even need someone to help you put the thing on and take it off.”   

Dead children gave Luke Evans a fright

I’ve done some dark stuff in my time but this is quite close to the top,” says Evans. But even he wasn’t prepared for the intricately detailed props on The Alienist. “When we first saw the murdered kids laid out on set, it was like ‘holy shit!’” he reveals. “It was like we were in the presence of a real dead child.”

Daniel Brühl loves gore (a bit too much)

The German actor plays criminal psychologist Dr. Laszlo Kreizler who investigates some horrifying murders. “I love the gore and the dark elements,” says Brühl. “I find it fascinating.” He’s not alone in liking bloodshed, but why do we enjoy watching people do bad things on screen? “Because it’s in us, I suppose. At least in me,” says Brühl. “We are afraid of it and yet fascinated by it. Sometimes we don’t allow ourselves to express that we like darkness — that we have horrible, evil thoughts. But it is very human.”

The location was confusing

Most of the footage was shot on location in Budapest during summer, but a lot of the on-screen action takes place in winter. This caused problems for the actors… “The biggest acting challenge of the whole job was trying to stay cool when you’re actually boiling hot,” reveals Evans. “The director was like, ‘it is really cold!’ and we had to remember, ‘oh yeah, brrrrrr!’”

Evans did a ton of research

The Welsh-born actor plays newspaper illustrator John Moore, who teams up with Kreizler to hunt a serial killer. For Evans, it was all about “understanding” the period. “The reading I did really helped inform everything else,” he says. “There was no health care. There were no child labour laws. There was extreme corruption. The sex industry was rampant in many different forms. There was a lot to read up on.

Fanning didn’t do any

“Well I don’t really usually do a lot of research!” laughs Fanning. “I just used the story that we’re trying to tell in the script. The incredible sets, costumes, and extras obviously helped too.” Fair enough!

It’s intricately detailed but you can still binge it

Need a reason to watch? Luke Evans gave us this deal clincher: “Every episode is like a small movie because the production values are so high. You can’t watch one straight after the other, you have to absorb what you’ve seen because it is so beautifully done. But I’m sure many people will still binge it.”

It took years to make

The Alienist is based on the novel of the same name by Caleb Carr. Published in 1994 it was soon earmarked for a film adaptation by big Hollywood producers, but things didn‘t work out. “They tried to make it into a feature film for 10 years and it failed because it’s just too dense of a story,” explains Evans. “I think we’ve finally found the right format for it.”

Season 2 is a real possibility

So you’ve raced through all ten episodes in Season 1, but what about Season 2? Well, Daniel Brühl is up for it: “It was always a limited series, that was the plan. So I didn’t think any further than that. But we all agree that we wouldn’t mind going back because we love each other so much and we love our characters.”

Stream The Alienist now on Netflix