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Dakota Fanning: ‘I fainted when I tried on my costume for The Alienist!’

The Alienist Dakota Fanning
(Image credit: Kurt Iswarienko)

Dakota Fanning tells TV & Satellite Week about swapping the big screen for TV and her new Netflix period thriller The Alienist…

The fascinating early days of psychology are brought to life in Netflix’s dark crime thriller The Alienist. The 10-part series, set in late 19th century New York City, sees Hollywood star Dakota Fanning play spirited Sara Howard, a secretary who works in the city’s police department. Sara teams up with psychologist Laszlo Kreizler (Daniel Bruhl), known as an alienist, and newspaper illustrator John Moore (Luke Evans), to track down a twisted serial killer who is mutilating and murdering young male prostitutes.

TV & Satellite Week: You, Daniel and Luke are all better known for your film work. What appealed about doing a TV series?

Dakota Fanning: “Because we can really see these characters ebb and flow and grow, so we all felt lucky to have 10 hours to tell their story. We didn't feel like those relationships were rushed, it’s a slow build, which makes it more believable. Also, as much as The Alienist is a mystery, the series is about the baggage each of the three main characters brings and working out their personal demons.”

TVSW Tell us about Sara

DF: “She is a fan of Kreizler’s work and that tells you a lot about her. Kreizler is an outcast because his ideas are controversial but he’s a blazing a trail and, as the first woman in the police department, Sara has that in common with him because women then had so many restrictions.”

The Alienist

The series is very dark, was that challenging?

DF: “I loved the dark subject matter because it was a part of that world and time period. I am naturally attracted to that as an actor. But there is so much more to it than that and you become desensitised to the darkness as you are working on it. I got lost in the world more than I usually do.”

TVSW Sara’s costumes are impressive, but were they tough to wear?

DF: “I fainted in my first fitting so that give you some indication! But it was a privilege wearing those dramatic sleeves and skirts with small waists and the corsets. It’s an easy way to get into the character. It changes how you move and breathe.”

TVSW The series is filmed in Budapest, what was that like?

DF: “Filming in Budapest in the summer was sweltering in those costumes. But I loved spending six months there, it was so beautiful. I cried when I left, I was hysterical! Before I went, I was nervous about spending that long away from home but Daniel, Luke and I just connected. That made the experience so much fun.”

The Alienist is available on Netflix from Thursday April 19th

Caren has been a journalist specializing in TV for almost two decades and is a Senior Features Writer for TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and What’s On TV magazines and she also writes for What to Watch.


Over the years, she has spent many a day in a muddy field or an on-set catering bus chatting to numerous stars on location including the likes of Olivia Colman, David Tennant, Suranne Jones, Jamie Dornan, Dame Judi Dench and Sir Derek Jacobi as well as Hollywood actors such as Glenn Close and Kiefer Sutherland.


Caren will happily sit down and watch any kind of telly (well, maybe not sci-fi!), but she particularly loves period dramas like Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey and The Crown and she’s also a big fan of juicy crime thrillers from Line of Duty to Poirot.


In her spare time, Caren enjoys going to the cinema and theatre or curling up with a good book.