When it comes to diving deep into a murderer's psyche, there may be no one with better insight than former FBI unit chief and profiler John Douglas, who has interviewed several serial killers from Ed Kemper to “BTK Strangler” Dennis Rader.
A pioneer in criminal profiling, Douglas has been the inspiration for characters on the big and small screen, including Jack Crawford in “Silence of the Lambs.” The latest series to draw from his career is Netflix’s “Mindhunter.”
The name of the series corresponds with one of Douglas’ books, “Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit.” Jonathan Groff plays Holden Ford, a character based on Douglas, who interviews killers to try to understand their mindset and see if it can provide insight for other cases.
Season 1 was released in 2017 with David Fincher and Charlize Theron attached as executive producers for the series, and was a huge hit for Netflix. Now, fans are clamoring for more information about Season 2, which comes out later this year, especially about which cases will be featured.
In an interview with Oxygen.com, Douglas spoke about the upcoming season and details mostly being kept a mystery for viewers.
“Everything has been so secret, even the release date until Charlize came out and said it was going to be in August,” Douglas said.
Season 2 will feature some lesser-known cases Douglas worked on, but he said high-profile cases will continue to be a thread on the show, which will have eight episodes.
“Charles Manson is going to be one of the people that they’re going to be interviewing,” Douglas noted. “They’re also going to be interviewing David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam.”
As part of the FBI research program, Douglas first interviewed serial killer Edmund Kemper, who murdered 10 people, including his mother. Douglas said his second interview for the program was with Manson at San Quentin State Prison.
“It was just kind of remarkable his size, how small he was. I thought he’d be a little bit bigger than he was, but he was about 5 feet, 5 feet 2 inches,” Douglas said.
Manson in “Mindhunter” will reportedly be played by actor Damon Herriman, who is also portraying the cult leader in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood."
"Mindhunter" Season 2 will also showcase the infamous Atlanta child murders, according to Douglas. He noted he actually faced backlash for his profile of the possible killer in the 1980s.
“I said the killer is going to be in his mid-20s and he’s going to be African-American,” Douglas said. “He’s going to be a police buff, which he was, he was arrested for impersonating a police officer. He’s going to have a dog, a police-like dog, which was the power kind of dog back then.”
He went from being reprimanded by the FBI to later receiving a letter of commendation for his work on the case, Douglas said.
(Despite police claiming Wayne B. Williams was linked to at least 20 victims, Williams was never charged in connection to the Atlanta child murders. He was found guilty for the murders of two adult men and is currently serving a life sentence. Williams has maintained his innocence.)
So how accurate is “Mindhunter?” Well, Douglas said the backstory of how he got involved in cases might change slightly, but the process of how he approached interviews is accurate.
“The trouble in the FBI accepting us, you know, is very true,” Douglas explained. “The police in the field at the time not accepting it, it's true.”
Health issues and the anxiety the character Ford faces is another example art imitating life, according to Douglas. For example, while working on the Green River murders, Douglas got sick with encephalitis, which he said almost killed him.
But Douglas and his wife, a teacher for nearly 50 years, have found some humor in watching his life play out in a dramatized setting. He described the moment they watched a sex scene on the show together with slight disbelief.
“Is that supposed to me?” Douglas recalled his wife asking.
“Well, it sure as hell isn’t me,” Douglas said, laughing.
And in real life, Douglas isn't done sharing his insights. He released a new book in 2019 with Mark Olshaker called “The Killer Across the Table: Unlocking the Serial Killers and Predators with the FBI’s Original Mindhunter.” It details his experiences talking to four killers and his profiling techniques.
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