Daniel Bruhl had some help in preparing for his return as psychiatrist Dr. Laszlo Kreizler in Season 2 of “The Alienist.”
“Being married to a real ‘alienist’ made my whole relationship even better,” says Bruhl, 42, using the term for psychiatrists in the late 19th century.
“I learned so much from my wife’s [Felicitas Rombold] profession by playing this part and she enjoyed being able to help me and support me,” he says. “She gave me precious information and interesting things to read. I did my first hypnosis session in Season 2 through someone she knew.
“I learned a lot about [my wife] and about my role in general.”
The series, returning Sunday on TNT, is based on Caleb Carr’s 1990s crime novels. Season 2, “The Alienist: Angel of Darkness,” is set in 1897 New York City roughly a year after the events of Season 1 — in which Kreizler, secretary Sarah Howard (Dakota Fanning) and journalist John Moore (Luke Evans) teamed up to find a serial killer preying on young male prostitutes.
Sarah has now opened her own private detective agency and once again joins Kreizler and Moore as they hunt down a ritualistic baby killer terrifying the city amidst the backdrop of racism, women’s rights, corruption and the brewing Spanish-American war. (William Randolph Hearst, then the publisher of The New York Journal and a proponent of the war, is a lateral character.)
“There’s a shift in their triangle and in the power within this triangle,” says Bruhl. “Sarah is pretty much in charge of the new case which, at first, is difficult for Kreizler to accept given his stubbornness and arrogance. But thanks to the intense friendship he shares with Sarah, he eventually realizes that, in fact, she does have the psychological skills and the qualities to be the leader in their journey.
“Kreizler will also change as a person,” he says. “He’s going to open up a bit more and he’s going to meet some kindred spirits that will open his eyes and change him. I don’t want to say too much, but you’ll see a different side of him than you did in Season 1.”
Bruhl says the series reflects many aspects of life in the 21st Century.
“The subjects we touch on in the second season feel incredibly current,” he says. “It’s interesting to think that the story was set in 1897 and [Carr’s book] was published in the 1990s — but the issues of racism, female empowerment, corruption, inequality, etc. sadly could not be more topical.”
Bruhl, whose acting career stretches back over two decades, is better-known for his big-screen roles — including “Inglourious Basterds,” “Rush,” “Captain America: Civil War” and “The Cloverfield Paradox” — than for his TV rwork. But that’s changing, he says.
“It started with shows like ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘Breaking Bad’ and the great BBC shows for actors to see how wonderful it must be to be able to play a good part for such a long time and not be limited to 90 minutes,” he says. “I guess that’s what we actors enjoy about television … to go deeper and spend more time exploring all facets and details of a complex part. When this project came along I was thrilled right away.
“I was in France on vacation two years ago, in Britanny with some friends of mine, when I got the call [about the series renewal],” he says. “I was incredibly happy and relieved that they gave us another shot.”