The first season of Netflix's TV series "Mindhunter" was a hit, and a few weeks ago the highly anticipated season two was released for streaming. The series is a fictional take on true events and centers on a real part of the FBI known as the Behavioral Science Unit, which was developed in the 1970s.
The Behavioral Science Unit (BSU) was tasked with studying, interviewing and assessing the methods of what we know today as serial killers, delving into their twisted minds to find motives and patterns to hopefully be able to profile murderers in real time in the real world.
Season two of "Mindhunter" is set in the early 1980s during the Atlanta child murders, which turned a major American city upside-down.
In these new episodes, Huntington-raised actor Michael Cerveris plays Ted Gunn, the new head of the BSU who oversees the series' two main characters: FBI agents Holden Ford, played by Jonathan Groff, and Bill Tench, played by Holt McCallany.
Based on the nonfiction book "Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit" written by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker, the BSU agents interview real-life serial murderers of that time period and then try and apply what they have learned on the street as they help to solve the Atlanta child murders.
What makes this crime drama chilling and frightening for the many fans who watch the show is the subject matter and the approach of acclaimed director David Fincher. Fincher is an Academy Award-nominated director known for the movies "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Fight Club," "Seven," "Panic Room," "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and one of Netflix's first hits in "House of Cards."
"On a David Fincher set, there isn't much downtime as he likes to do a lot of takes," Cerveris said. "He doesn't like to spend a lot of time waiting for scenes to be relit and stuff, so the crew works really fast, really hard and really precisely. When he gets into shooting the scenes, he will do 15 to 30 takes of one shot. I think the record was 50 takes. To me, it feels like the repetition that you do in rehearsal, doing it over and over again. I think he is trying to get every detail right, and part of it is he wants to get the actors beyond that point where you are kind of monitoring yourself, or you're editing yourself or listening to yourself as you are doing the scene. After a while, you end up in this sort of fog, and you really can't judge what you are doing anymore, so you start to respond naturally. I think that is what David is after - a real honest and direct response. To me, that feels a lot like the repetition you have in the theater, so it makes sense to me."
Cerveris was raised in Huntington after his parents moved here when he was a kid. His father was a Marshall University music professor, and his mother was a dancer. Cerveris pursued acting as a career, and he eventually made the big move to New York City, where he became a smash on Broadway, winning two Tony Awards for his roles in the plays "Assassins" and "Fun Home." He was also nominated for four other Tony Awards and received multiple Drama Desk Award nods, as well.
Cerveris has also appeared on TV shows such as "Fringe," "The Tick," "Treme," "The Good Wife," "Gotham" and more before joining the cast of "Mindhunter."
Because "Mindhunter" is a period piece set about 40 years ago, special care had to be used to make it authentic. That can be challenging for the actors, the director and the crew as well.
"It takes about a month to film each episode of 'Mindhunter,'" Cerveris said. "Because it is set in 1980 and 1981, there are a million things in the background that you could overlook. There are some TV shows and sets that will let you paraphrase things in the script and they don't care if it is word perfect concerning what they writers wrote. But on 'Mindhunter,' that is not the case at all as they are really specific. I have heard long conversations about, 'Well, would you say this phrase that way back then?' Sometimes they will refer back to movies or documentaries that were shot or written in the same time period just to research things like, 'Was this phrase used back then?'"
Cerveris has returned to Huntington several times in recent years, performing with the Huntington Symphony last year and performing with his alt country band Loose Cattle at last weekend's Huntington Music and Art Festival.
"I really wish I could have stayed the whole week of the Huntington Music and Arts Festival because they had so much cool stuff going on," Cerveris said. "On the main day that we performed there, people came out to support it, and it was pretty amazing. When I was growing up in Huntington, there really wasn't any kind of scene like that. Now, there is all kinds of good music coming out of this town, and people are supporting it. People are more socially aware, active and progressive, and they are trying to solve problems in our town. It feels like there is more optimism here and there is more interest in young people to want to stay here and make it a place they want to live in. Back in the day, you couldn't get out of here fast enough. But, it is turning around."
Season two of "Mindhunter" is now streaming on Netflix. As for the future, look for Cerveris to appear in the HBO mini-series "The Plot Against America," which will air in February and is based on the Philip Roth book. He will also appear in an upcoming episode of the Fox TV series "Prodigal Son," and he is looking for his next Broadway adventure.