Perhaps it won’t surprise you to learn that Holt McCallany, the brawny, silver-haired actor who plays special agent Bill Tench [based on FBI Agent Robert Ressler] in David Fincher’s Mindhunter, is mildly obsessed with serial killers. To prepare for the true-crime Netflix series’s second season, McCallany tried to reach out to the real Ed Kemper, a six-foot-nine killer who murdered 10 people—including his mother and grandparents. (He’s played in the show by Cameron Britton.) But Kemper never responded. So McCallany went to the California Medical Facility, where Kemper is housed. “When I got there, what I discovered is that Kemper has kind of given up on life,” the actor said. “He’s confined to a wheelchair. Do you know what I mean? He doesn’t really take visitors. He doesn’t bathe himself anymore. It’s very sad.”
With Season 2 of “Mindhunter” coming out on August 16, here are some props from Season 1, related to Ed Kemper’s character.
These items were obtained through a Netflix prop liquidation sale held at the studios where “Mindhunter” Seasons 1 & 2 were filmed in Warrendale, Pennsylvania. All items were sold “As is, Where is” and no certificates of authenticity were provided.
These items are part of my collection of true crime-related collectibles.
A custom-built hospital room set piece as seen in Season 1, Episode 10, when Holden pays Ed Kemper a visit after his suicide attempt.
A lot of four greetings cards sent to FBI agents Holden and Tench by serial killer Ed Kemper in Season 1, episode 10. He sent them various cards after their visit with him. Each card has a message from Kemper, most likely written by someone from the props department.
Netflix revealed new images today from season 2 of Mindhunter, which will start airing on August 16, 2019. And good news for Kemper “fans”: his character is back for the new season. These exclusive images show him in the prison chapel talking with FBI agents Holden and Bill. Is he talking about his religious conversion in prison? We’ll soon find out!
The show will also feature another serial killer case we are interested in, David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz who terrorized New York City in 1976-1977.
“My frustration. My inability to communicate socially, sexually. I wasn’t impotent, but emotionally I was impotent. I was scared to death of failing in male/female relationships. I knew absolutely nothing about that whole area, even of just sitting down and talking with a young lady.”
WHEN ASKED WHY HE KILLED WOMEN, ED KEMPER CITED HIS OWN INSECURITIES (from 1984 documentary “no apparent motive”)
Image: Promotional still from “Kemper on Kemper” (2018, documentary aired on Oxygen)
Actor Cameron Britton talks about the intense last scene from ‘Mindhunter’, from the last episode of Season 1, in this excerpt from his interview for the Hollywood Reporter:
Question: And then in the finale you actually get to strike. You get to move, you get to be physical. When you knew that you had that opportunity to actually embody the threat that this guy possesses, what did you want to make sure you conveyed above all else?
Britton: Once he’s up and cornered Holden, I wanted a level of clarity you hadn’t seen in that scene yet. He’s sort of semi out of it in that hospital scene, so when he jumps up I wanted you to see how clear his focus was. There was this really interesting line to sort of find of making the audience not sure if he’s making a point by intimidating Holden or if this is genuine. Is he actually considering taking this man’s life? That was really fun to play in the first few takes. Fincher would call “action” and I was just coming at him practically foaming at the mouth. And Fincher let me get a few takes out and then he came in and said, “Man, that’s too much. We can’t sync it with the rest of the performance that you’ve been doing. He’s too intense and animated.” But getting that out allowed me to then take it back and go back to the gathered calmness, but still the undertone that you can tell he’s excited, if you will. As long as you feel like, “Oh he’s in shall we call it, work-mode.” It’s the same guy, it’s the subtlest switch. He has the same sort of pace and demeanor but there’s just a little something extra that feels like, “Oh, this is him when he’s in hunt-mode.” And I love Mindhunter because as much as that’s terrifying, if you step back, you realize we just watched a ten-hour thriller that ends with a hug. And it’s still effective. That was sort of the hope for the show is that you can scare people without any gore, or any violence. I think all a serial killer needs is a camera and a chair and it’s gonna be unnerving.
It’s a show-changing character and a career-changing performance for Britton, making his first major TV role and earning his first career Emmy nomination. The actor talked with The Hollywood Reporter about his approach to the real-life killer, director David Fincher’s notoriously exacting standards and more. Here are a few excerpts:
Ed Kemper is a remarkably well documented figure. There’s a lot of stuff you can either read about him or watch of him. And since a lot of what was in the script was taken from actual video of Ed Kemper, is that a boon for you as an actor? Or does it run the risk of becoming too much of a reference point?
At a certain point you have to let it go. I think you set a base, you find different aspects of him. So you see the narcissist in him, so you see the pride in his work. That’s something I recognized from his interviews that’s he’s incredibly proud of his, at the very least, his knowledge on the subject. You then take that and you implement it into the scene and character work, but it may evolve into your version of pride, your version of arrogance, your version of narcissism. It’s more important that the aspects of who he is are in the scene, and not the actual impersonation. I’d find a couple vocal inflections that I found unique and interesting to him, his overall sort of energy and vibe. I felt like I wanted to capture that. But then after that it was, “Bring your inner serial killer out.” Sort of. I think Anthony Hopkins mentioned in Silence of the Lambs how instinctual of a process it was, developing him. And I felt the same. You just sort of trusted where the dark thoughts and elements took you.
So from a certain distance one can look and point out how your Ed Kemper is different from the real guy, and how Joe Penhall’s adaptation of Ed Kemper is different from the real guy?
Ed is a bit faster of a talker than the way I portrayed him. We just liked slowing him down. It just felt right. I liked the weight for him. He’s a little heavier than the real Kemper. There were more layers to him. I don’t know if there was a perversion because of his weight or if there was even a likeability from his weight, but I think it had a really interesting impact to what you see on the film.
There was more that I took than I left out, I think. There was his level of eye contact, his way of being ahead of you in the conversation, his way of saying something and making you think you thought it up. He’d phrase things in a certain way that make you think it was your idea. His point came from your end.
This seems like such a stupid thing for me to say, but I’m sort of going to float it out there. I talk to actors who play real people fairly frequently, and a thing you often hear is, “Oh I wanna honor the real person and the experience,” or, “Oh I wanna make sure I get it right so that I’ll honor life.” When you’re playing a guy who’s a serial killer and probably not all that honorable a person, does that thought go through your mind? That you’re trying to honor a real person? Still?
No, if I was trying to honor anybody it would be the victims, to give an accurate account of what they went through with this guy. I didn’t have any interest in meeting him. I didn’t want to go on a personal level. I just don’t want to meet someone who’s murdered a bunch of women. You know, I just would never want to meet someone like that. Perhaps he would enjoy if I came to meet him? Perhaps he would find that as a feather in a cap? And if that were the case, then I most certainly don’t want to meet him. Even in the auditions we discussed not focusing on doing an impression of him, not paying homage, because that’s not what this is about. I found a lot of letters written to him from, I guess you’d call them fans? All of his stuff, and all of this baffles me. It almost feels like a lot of folks are encouraging this kind of behavior.
Now this is a character who has a lot of bits of “business,” as it were. The shackles, the uniform, the mustache, those thick glasses. As you were getting into the external preparation of the character, was there something that allowed you to lock on and go, “Oh, OK this really helps me. I really have this guy, ’cause I have his mustache or his glasses,” or whatever.
Once they put me fully into the look, it was hard to look in the mirror. I didn’t realize how much I looked like him. I would get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and startle myself looking in the mirror. I just didn’t know who was in my bathroom with me for a moment there. If anything got me into character, it was the glasses to just put them a half-an-inch down the nose, there was a kind of stateliness. if you take your glasses and you just put them down a little bit and look up you almost feel sort of like a grandparent. And it gave this calm, sage, learned aspect to him that was really necessary. The more he was knowledgeable about himself and his crimes, the more you believe his side of the story. Yeah, I would just drop those glasses down a bit and I could feel myself slipping into the role whenever I did that.