The Spanish-born German actor Daniel Brühl is the star of The Alienist, the new period drama based on the homonymous book by Caleb Carr. Brühl, who is best known for Good Bye Lenin! Inglorious Basterds, Rush, Captain America: Civil War and The Cloverfield Paradox, plays Laszlo Kreizler, a doctor focused on patients with mental health problems; in other words, a psychologist, though back in the late 19th century
- as we learn since the beginning of the show - these experts were known as alienists. He is also the lead in the movie 7 days on Entebbe The film, with Daniel Brühl and Rosamund Pike as the kidnappers, has made a dent in the actor born in Spain, habitual of titles about Nazism but tired of "falling into these stereotypes" and getting into the skin of "anti-Semitic Germans" because of his accent. In Berlin, where he lives, he runs a tapas bar since 2011. Apart from this he has just published his first book, in German, with the title: "A day in Barcelona", a declaration of love to his favorite city.
Q: You seem to be playing many characters based on historical moments
A: I am against any radical or extremist position that implies acting violently against another person. I'm interested in telling the truth; I read a lot about history, I analyze it. I want to understand why we are where we are. I'm not Swedish or Finnish, I'm German and Spanish, and of course I'm going to participate in projects that show what happened in my countries. I want to understand where I come from and what motivates me because of my genetic heritage
Q: You have written a book dedicated to Spanish culture
A: Yes. I had never imagined writing a book, but writing a book about my favorite city is being amazing.
Q: Are you bilingual in Spanish and German
A: Yes. And English now. Luckily I learned how to read and write in Spanish. In primary school, in Germany, I was ashamed of that foreign language. Only when I grew up I did understand how great that language is. First, it sounds good; second, impressed the girls I liked
Q: Do you read in Spanish?
A: A lot. Many. I don’t want to mention just one as I don’t want to forget any but I do read many books in Spanish to learn from the new authors, I want to keep writing and I would publish a second book very soon
Q: Talking about books, the alienist is a mix of different elements. How would you describe it to someone who is not familiar with the book?
A: it’s a combination of things. On the one hand, obviously a psychological thriller, a dark crime story, but it’s also a book that deals with New York at the time, so you’ll learn a lot about things that happened in New York historically. Then it also deals with the beginnings of many sciences, like psychology and forensics.
Q: The character has some Sherlock Holmes vibe
A: That’s something that attracted me. The character that I portray is, you said it quite rightly, a sort of a detective, he’s like a profiler, and not just a doctor and psychologist. That’s something that appealed to me because I grew up reading stuff like Sherlock Holmes, but also I was attracted by dark stories and writers like Edgar Allan Poe. I enjoyed very much reading Jekyll and Hyde when I was young; reading about Jack the Ripper… it’s the whole gloomy, dark, sinister world that totally attracted me.
Q: How did you research process for your character?
A: I read about famous psychologists of the time, just to get an understanding of the way they worked and thought. It’s fascinating because they were really pioneers and many of them not very well respected at first because the science was so new; psychology was form in 1870, before that it was considered to be a branch of philosophy, only in the 1870s it started to be seen as a proper science.
Q: Did you fell in love with New York shooting this show?
A: I love New York. 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 are so many parts of New York; I mean Manhattan in general is wonderful. Strangely, as a European, I feel at home.
Q: Can you tell us your Spanish background and how affected you
A: I grew up in Germany, but I am the son of a Spanish mother and a German father. I have two French aunts, so I also grew up in a French family in Germany with cousins that are half-German, half-French. So it was a very multicultural environment. Professionally speaking, I started playing in school theatre as a child. So I got in touch with the film universe and it was always something that interested me because my father was a documentary filmmaker and TV director. And then by the age of 15 I did my first film. I was immediately fascinated by it so I wanted to become an actor at that time.
Q: Your career has led you to play very different roles
A: I guess for an actor it’s interesting to explore all these different sides. That’s what makes it interesting and keeps you fresh and curious. Like in life, we are many things at once as human beings. So I was happy to be given the chance not to be typecast as just one thing. But it’s not easy to get the opportunity because people want to put you in a box, you know.
María Estévez - Correspondent Writer