The last time Dakota Fanning had a regular role on a TV show, it was for the alien-tinged Sci-Fi Channel miniseries Taken, which premiered the year after her talents shone in her breakout role for 2001's I Am Sam. Now, for the first time since 2004, Fanning will finally head back to the small screen for a starring role in TNT's period crime drama The Alienist, based on the best-selling novel. Despite the name, there won't be any extraterrestrials in this new show.
In development for almost two years now, The Alienist canters on a trio secretly attempting to track down one of New York City's first serial killers in 1896, and the drama at last started the casting process late in 2016, adding Daniel Brühl as forensic psychologist Dr. Laszlo Kreizler and Luke Evans as reporter John Moore. Dakota Fanning rounds things out as Sara Howard, hired as the NYPD's first female employee. Confident and She aims to be the first female detective working in the NYC, and this case is certainly big enough to land her such a distinction.
In the acclaimed 1994 novel, written by Caleb Carr, the murders in question involve the brutal and disturbing deaths of boy prostitutes. The freshly appointed commissioner Theodore Roosevelt pulls together the three aforementioned quasi-sleuths to track the killer down, and it obviously won't be an easy task. They'll be using the psychological and technological methods of the time period, so it's the team's wits as much as anything that will lead them to their goal. No cell phone CSI here.
Dakota Fanning's last TV appearance was for a Season 10 episode of Friends, as the girl moving out of this house, so there must have been something in The Alienist that really spoke to her. She's definitely kept up a consistent career on the feature side, with blockbusters like the Twilight films, top-notch animated flicks like Coraline, and more. Her upcoming slate is chock-to-the-blocks full of potentially stellar projects, too, making the jump to television all the more intriguing. She'll star in the punk rock drama Viena and the Fantomes alongside Evan Rachel Wood, in Dutch director Martin Koolhoven's acclaimed Western thriller Brimstone (which premiered at Venice but has yet to get a wide release), in Universal's star-studded animated comedy Ghost Wars, in The Bell Jar's adaptation, and in the female-led spinoff Ocean's Eight. So much Dakota Fanning is coming to our lives.
The Alienist is one of TNT's newest offerings as part of their shift to darker and edgier programming, and it's also one of the latest series to draw film actors over to episodic projects. Marvel's Helmut Zemo, Daniel Brühl was in some German television series, but hadn't yet made U.S. TV a home, so having him, Luke Evans and Fanning together all for this show is a pretty impressive catch for TNT. As well, the series was developed by Cary Fukunaga, with Caleb Carr serving as a consulting producer, and the writing team consists of names like John Sayles (Apollo 13), Hossein Amini (Drive), Gina Glonfriddo (House of Cards) and E. Max Frye (Foxcatcher). Talent all around.