Mild spoilers below for anyone who hasn't yet watched the two-episode premiere of TNT's The Alienist: Angel of Darkness.
For fans of dark and grisly dramas, The Alienist: Angel of Darkness has arrived with a season-long arc centered around dead babies, kidnapped babies, and the trio of investigators (played by Dakota Fanning, Luke Evans and Daniel Brühl) most inclined to solve the crime and deliver justice. Like its 2018 predecessor, the second season of TNT's semi-anthological thriller is based on the historical fiction novel written by Caleb Carr, with some changes being made in the adaptation process. CinemaBlend spoke with showrunner Stuart Carolan about such changes, including the return of a TV character who wasn't in the book sequel.
An Irish playwright and writer arguably best known for the award-winning crime drama Love/Hate, Stuart Carolan took over showrunner duties for The Alienist: Angel of Darkness. In doing so, he chose not to remain 100% faithful to the fictionalized source material, but in a way that was still somewhat faithful to real-world history. During our chat, I asked him about making alterations from Caleb Carr's novel, and Carolan talked very specifically about bringing Monk vet Ted Levine's Season 1 character Thomas Byrnes back for the show, even though his arc did not get continued on the page. Here's how his explanation started:
So first and foremost, The Alienist: Angel of Darkness welcomed Ted Levine's Thomas Byrnes back because TV viewers tend to have certain expectations when it comes to already established characters. (And in Levine's case, his fully established mustache.) While this second season could have feasibly brought in a new character to serve as the NYPD's main investigator, that wouldn't have been the most ideal route. Because in the second place, no one should ever squander Levine's presence in any project unless absolutely necessary. The actor is tailor-made for roles like this, after all.
Having also said that The Alienist: Angel of Darkness novel was packed with details that could fill 100 hours of TV, Stuart Carolan talked about how bringing Ted Levine back for the second season meant taking into account multiple iterations of Thomas Byrnes. In his words:
Thomas Byrnes comes off as more of a straightforward obstacle for Sarah, John and Laszlo in the earliest episodes of The Alienist: Angel of Darkness. Granted, 80% of the characters in this show stand in direct opposition to Dakota Fanning's female detective, Luke Evans' news-making journalist, and Daniel Brühl's psychological-minded alienist. It remains to be seen whether or not Ted Levine's authority figure will change his tune, though it doesn't seem likely at this point.
To that end, Stuart Carolan started talking about Thomas Byrnes as both a celebrated and notorious historical figure who quickly rose through the ranks of the NYPD after his Irish family fled to the United States in the midst of the famine. In the showrunner's words:
Obviously The Alienist: Angel of Darkness isn't able to fully dig into the lengthy and extremely insightful backstory for Ted Levine's Thomas Byrnes, no matter how interested its showrunner was by the historical research. (Though by all means, Byrnes seems ripe for his own biopic or limited series, especially with Levine involved.)
In any case, Stuart Carolan talked more about trying to keep Ted Levine's version of Thomas Byrnes as fully realized as possible within the context of The Alienist: Angel of Darkness, so that he won't just be seen by viewers as a stereotype, nor as a shitty detective. Here, Carolan wraps up his thoughts on Levine and Byrnes:
Thomas Byrnes definitely isn't the only real-world figure that viewers see in The Alienist: Angel of Darkness, with The Flash and Narcos vet Matt Letscher portraying newspaper publisher and politician William Randolph Hearst, and even that's not all. But you'll just have to keep watching to see who else shows up.
Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for more from our interview with Stuart Carolan, and tune into The Alienist: Angel of Darkness episodes on TNT on Sunday nights at 9:00 p.m. ET. To see what other shows, both dark and otherwise, will be hitting the small screen in the coming months, head to our Summer 2020 TV schedule and our Fall 2020 premiere guide.
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Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.