Daniel Brühl saw his role in the new TNT series “The Alienist” as a chance to learn something.
“I’m a fan of New York and it was such a history lesson for me to learn about New York back in the days,” he says. “And it’s actually that period where so much was going on in that city. It was that exploding melting pot, where people from all over the world moved to it. It was probably the most fascinating city in the world.”
Brühl, born in Barcelona and raised in Cologne, Germany, plays Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, an alienist — which today we call a psychologist — in 1896 New York City working with newspaper illustrator John Moore (Luke Evans) in a case about a dead male prostitute.
amNewYork spoke with Brühl, 39, about the show.
What drew you doing this show?
It was the book. It was Caleb Carr’s writing. I was blown away by the story and I felt it reminded me of being a 12-year-old, reading at night with a torchlight under my blanket because I couldn’t put it aside. I was immediately drawn into the story. Of course, by the fact that it’s such a gripping and compelling psychological thriller, which keeps you going and it’s highly entertaining.
What makes Dr. Kreizler tick?
Well, he’s a very ambitious doctor and psychologist and it was the beginning of that science. It was just born, I think, 20 years before that. Before that it was a branch of philosophy. … We are talking about the very beginning of that science. So that makes him a pioneer, but also an outsider because it was very controversial. People were not taking it seriously, or [were] afraid of that new science. So that makes it hard for Kreizler to pursue this challenge. And then what I also found very interesting and very enduring about this book is that we’re dealing with so many of these pioneers that are all doing something new in their very own field.
Do you have a favorite place to hang out when you’re in the real New York City?
Oh, there’s so many. I’m a huge fan of New York. And in fact if I’m lucky I might move out there next year, maybe, because of my wife’s job, who is a psychotherapist. Fingers crossed, because it was always my dream to spend some time in New York. Most of my friends live around SoHo. But there’s so many parts of New York, I mean Manhattan in general is wonderful. And I always, always loved Brooklyn, Williamsburg. … I have to still explore places like Harlem more because that is also a place that I found very fascinating. … Strangely, as a European, I feel at home. And that happened the very first time I got there when I was 19 and I was on my own and I was scared. It was the first time that I was in America. And I thought, “Oh my god. Such a big city.” And I felt at home the first second I arrived in Manhattan.
Your wife is a psychotherapist? Did she help you with the role?
Yes, very much so. She gave me stuff to read. She put me in touch with other psychologists, with a criminal psychologist. It changed our relationship because all of a sudden I understood so much more about what she’s doing. And she, until the very end, was a very important support for me. Gave me precious advice whenever I had a question, if something wasn’t clear in the field of psychology. She would tell me about the origins, about how things have changed now. And so I’m incredibly thankful. And I’m very happy that she’s going to join me for the premiere because she’s as curious to see the show as I am.
If you’re considering moving to NYC, would you like to do Broadway?
Oh, I would love to. I never really thought about it because well, I didn’t get an offer. But also because I’ve been living in Europe and it’s always a real commitment timewise. So there hasn’t been the time because I was so involved with stuff back in Berlin or in Spain. But if we would really move out there, then this is definitely something that I would really like to try. And I would love to just go and to check out plays. I think I would spend a lot of time there while my wife is doing psychotherapy. I will hopefully spend a lot of time in the theater.
‘The Alienist’ premieres Monday at 9 p.m. on TNT.