Actor Holt McCallany talks “Mindhunter”, Broadway and Prison

The actor gets candid about his starring role in Netflix’s latest drama

You might not realize it, but you’ve actually known actor Holt McCallany for years. You’ve known him as The Mechanic in Fight Club; as Detective Tom Finnegan in Alpha Dog; as Karl Lockwood in Gangster Squad; as Mike Cleary in Sully and as plenty of other secondary characters in first-rated film and TV productions.

Now finally getting the chance to show off his chops as a leading actor, McCallany joins Broadway darling Jonathan Groff in Netflix’s latest TV crime drama: Mindhunter. The David Fincher-produced show, which delves into the psychology of renowned murderers (think Ed Kemper and Charles Manson), is inspired by the eponymous book by former FBI agent John Douglas and has already been picked up by the network for a second season. “If there’s a better job in TV, I’ve never heard of it,” says McCallany.

A few weeks before the premiere of the series, now available on the streaming network, McCallany took some time to discuss his newly formed opinion on the country’s prison system, what it is really like to work with Groff and how Broadway will forever call his name.

There is a line on Mindhunter that goes something like “How do we get ahead of crazy if we don’t know what crazy thinks?” Has starring in the show changed your perspective on how America fights crime?

I think that we have a lot of problems in our prison system and we incarcerate more people per capita than any other industrialized nation in the world and it doesn’t seem to me that we’re very successful when it comes to rehabilitation. Often, prisons become more of continuing education for criminals. These [murderous] tendencies begin very, very early in the childhoods of these criminals. It’s a long process to get somebody to that point and, once they are there, how do you unwind all of that? It’s not clear to me that our prison system, the way it currently operates, is really equipped to rehabilitate these guys.

Has working on the project changed your level of compassion towards the criminals?

One of the subjects that we deal with in the show is the whole argument of nature versus nurture: How did these guys become the way that they are? Is there something genetically wrong with them? Do they have some kind of imbalances within themselves that give them a greater propensity for these kinds of crimes [compared to] other people? Or is it simply a question of the environment that they’re raised in, their early experiences as children and then later as adolescents? It’s complicated. I find that I have much greater empathy for the victims of these crimes.

How was working with Jonathan Groff?

I think that this young man’s potential is really limitless. He is so gifted, he is so professional, so well-prepared. He’s got such enormous talent, he can do anything: He can sing, he can dance, he is a confident actor and he is also, probably, the sweetest, kindest, most easygoing guy that I’ve ever met in show business. This guy is going to be a big, big star. Take it from me, you heard here first: This is only the beginning for Jonathan Groff.

You come from a theatrical family: Both of your parents worked in theater and have been nominated for Tony awards. How do you feel about the state of the industry in 2017?

It’s kind of a double-edged sword. It has been a little bittersweet because I’ve really wanted to continue to work on stage in New York but, in recent years, they really have become interested in having actors that have big film and big television names. Top line Broadway productions try to get people into seats, to grow audiences. And I understand that but, while I was a working actor who stayed busy over many years, I was never considered the kind of star that could put people in seats so, unfortunately, the opportunities to work on Broadway have been fewer than I have preferred. But, who knows? Maybe, if Mindhunter is a big hit, you might get to see me [on Broadway].

Photo Credit: Patrick Harbron/Netflix