For Holt McCallany the old phrase “what goes around, comes around” has special meaning these days. The veteran actor, who has appeared on TV shows like “Blue Bloods,” “Heroes,” “CSI: Miami”and a couple of the “Law & Order” series, plus such films as “Three Kings,” has reconnected professionally with David Fincher.
The acclaimed director and producer has tapped McCallany as one of the two male leads in his upcoming “Mindhunter” crime series for Netflix — set to go before the cameras May 2 in Pittsburgh.
“David is someone I’ve known for about 25 years,” said McCallany in a recent call from his California home. “In fact, the first real part I ever got in a studio picture was for David in ‘Alien 3’ with Sigourney Weaver. … Then, he hired me for ‘Fight Club,’ which, of course, has become this iconic cult hit.”
Mainly set in the 1970s, “Mindhunter” will focus on a pair of detectives who travel the country investigating the worst serial killers of that era. McCallany explained his character is based on the late Chicago native Robert Ressler — a former FBI agent and author who is credited with coming up with the phrase “serial killer.”
“While I’m not portraying Ressler, my character is based on him and the role he played in coming up with the idea of psychological profiling to understand the motivation behind serial killers,” said McCallany. “For me it’s really the role of a lifetime.”
Along with Fincher, the series’ executive producers will include Oscar winner Charlize Theron, with Broadway’s “Hamilton” star Jonathan Groff cast as McCallany’s detective partner on the show.
“Fringe” actress Anna Torv has been tapped to play the female lead on the series.
“David is such a visionary guy,” noted McCallany. “He also does everything on a high level, so I know this will be a quality show. Plus it’s great it’s on Netflix, where David is also executive producing ‘House of Cards,’ and where so many great things are happening these days. … On top of all that, David has such a great feel for this kind of dark material,” McCallany added, pointing to such earlier Fincher projects as “Se7en,” “Gone Girl” and “Zodiac.”
While the filming of “Mindhunter” will begin in Pittsburgh, McCallany noted Chicago is likely going to be part of the locations where the project will travel. “The idea is that these two detectives travel the country investigating such killers as Charles Manson, John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, the Zodiac killer — those famous arch-criminals.”
The actor revealed he has spent a lot of time researching the life and work of Ressler. “Our story begins a few years after J. Edgar Hoover is gone. … Ressler wanted to explore techniques in law enforcement that went far beyond the traditional approach the FBI took at the time. His idea was to interview witnesses who would give insights into the psychological motivations behind those horrible crimes.
“Serial killers don’t murder for the same reason others kill,” explained McCallany, based on his Ressler research. “It’s not for profit or revenge. They tend to be sexually motivated homicides. … It’s very difficult to capture those killers if you can’t understand their motives.”
As for Ressler, McCallany regrets the man died in May of 2013. “I would have loved spending time with him and had the opportunity to ask him so many questions about his work and approach to crime-solving.”
Meanwhile, McCallany recently wrapped a small role in a much different project. “I did it for two obvious reasons,” said the actor with a laugh. “The chance to be in a Clint Eastwood picture, and the opportunity to share a couple of scenes with Tom Hanks!”
That project is “Sully,” slated for a fall release, with Hanks portraying “Miracle on the Hudson” airline pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who safely guided his disabled US Air plane to a water landing on the Hudson River in New York in January 2009. The film is based on Sullenberger’s memoir, “Highest Duty,” written with the late Sun-Times advice columnist and author Jeffrey Zaslow.
McCallany plays Mike Cleary, the head of the U.S. airline pilots association.
“As you can imagine, even though the role is relatively small, it was terrific to have the opportunity to witness the filmmaking brilliance of Clint Eastwood and acting ability of Tom Hanks at such close range.”
As for the future, McCallany hopes to fulfill his dream of getting made a documentary about his late mother, cabaret and Broadway star Julie Wilson. “My mom led such an extraordinary — and fortunately long — life,” said McCallany. “I really think a film about her life will be so inspirational to many people, plus the kind of tribute she deserves.”
While the actor regrets his mother — who died last year at the age of 90 — didn’t live to see him cast in “Mindhunter,” in a way, “I do believe she may be aware of it all. Every time I see the stars twinkling above at night, I do believe that’s Julie waving to me — and watching over me.”