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Posted on
Aug 23, 2019

Anna Torv Bets Dr. Wendy Could Have Handled Charles Manson

The Aussie actor on her brilliant character, that surprising Fringe reunion, and going on two cross-country road trips with costar Lauren Glazier.

This post contains spoilers about Mindhunter season two.

Anna Torv might play the most elegant true-crime junkie on television. In Mindhunter, David Fincher’s feverishly good series about the FBI agents who began interviewing notorious serial killers in the late 1970s, she plays Dr. Wendy Carr, a dapper psychologist and FBI consultant who analyzes murderers and helps the profiling team understand what motivates them to commit such heinous crimes. But unlike costar Holt McCallany, who plays agent Bill Tench and prepared for the show by writing letters to serial killers David Berkowitz and Ed Kemper, and visiting Manson family member Bobby Beausoleil, Torv doesn’t consider herself a murderino.

“I don’t enjoy that side of it,” the Australian actor said in a recent phone interview. She kept things strictly by the book when preparing to return to the series, doing research on some of the cases examined this season—including the Son of Sam case and the Atlanta Child Murders, which she wasn’t familiar with before the show. To prepare herself for the grueling journey ahead, Torv also decided to take a sprawling road trip from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh, the show’s shooting location, with costar Lauren Glazier, who joined the cast this season as Dr. Carr’s free-spirited love interest, Kay. Torv and Glazier, who’s Canadian, thought it would be an idyllic way to get to know America, camping at national parks all across the land with Torv’s dog and Glazier’s 4Runner in tow.

“Zion was just to die for,” Torv said, referring to the Utah park. “I’d never seen anything like it. [It’s] so different from Australia, and just so incredibly beautiful at night. That was just magic.” They also went “right up to the top of the Rockies” in Colorado. “That was pretty magic too.”

Kay’s inclusion in the show is part of season two’s broader effort to dive deeper into Wendy’s life. Dr. Carr doesn’t join the team until a few episodes into season one; the most we saw of her personal life was a tense conversation with her longtime partner and some stoic wine-drinking sessions alone at home. This season sees her commit fully to the FBI and become a more integral part of the behavioral science unit. Behind the scenes, she also starts flirting with Kay, an impossibly hip bartender at a local bar. The two begin to date, forcing Wendy to open up and reckon with the way she’s been compartmentalizing her life after leaving her former partner. Torv didn’t attribute this major character development to any one thing in particular (“I didn’t say ‘I want more lines!’” she jokes), but did note that Courtenay Miles, Mindhunter’s former first assistant director, became one of its head writers this season. Considering the structure of this season—all the groundwork had been laid, the Behavioral Science team had been set—Torv suggested that there was simply more time to dive into Wendy’s life.

“Everybody is really in their own world,” she said. It felt right to examine how their work impacted their everyday lives. Wendy’s choice to remain closeted at work, for instance, drives a rift between her and Kay, who finds it hypocritical.

“I think that’s something that the show handles really quite bloody beautifully,” Torv said of Wendy’s conflict about hiding her sexuality from her colleagues. This is the FBI in the 1970s, after all, and homosexuality has only just been declassified as a mental disorder. “It’s not like she’s having a conflict within herself, going, ‘Hm, should I tell the guys? Maybe I should.’ It’s like, no fucking way is she going to tell the FBI that she’s gay. Of course not.”

Kay doesn’t quite view things that way, ribbing Wendy for keeping her life so segmented. But when Wendy hears Kay talk to her ex-husband, with whom she has a child, she realizes Kay isn’t quite living a free life either—leading to a nasty breakup. “I know!” Torv exclaimed when I pointed out how harsh Wendy’s final words to Kay are. “I agree. I’m like, ‘Jesus Christ.’ But then I also understand.”

Wendy did try to open up, after all, and was hurt when Kay played down their relationship to her ex. It’s a melancholic ending, especially when the relationship “could have been great,” Torv said. “You’re vouching for them going, This could work, this could really work! But there’s just no self-reflection there.”

Beyond her relationship troubles, Wendy’s also dealing with workplace sexism—mainly brought on by the team’s new assistant director, played by Michael Cerveris, who consistently tries to flatten Wendy’s ambition. Behind the scenes, though, Cerveris’s casting was a wink from the TV gods, as he and Torv used to costar together on the beloved sci-fi show Fringe. “That was just a thrill,” Torv said of the reunion.

“Michael is fantastic,” she added. “He’s fantastic in the show, and he’s just beautiful to work with.”

Between her agitated love life and her sexist office, Wendy focuses her attention on her work itself. This season sees her leave the office to conduct interviews with murderers for the first time, a darkly exciting prospect after all that time spent analyzing tapes. One of the highlights of the season is her captivating tête-à-tête with killer Elmer Wayne Henley Jr. (played by Robert Aramayo), where she reveals she’s a lesbian in order to gain his trust. (Her colleagues later brush off the admission as an ingenious lie.) Torv was excited for those scenes, though she didn’t prepare the way that, say, Jonathan Groff’s Holden Ford would have. Wendy is “not flashy Jonathan,” Torv said. Maybe that’s why she thinks Wendy might have been better at handling Charles Manson than Holden and Tench, who interview the notorious cult leader in episode four.

“She doesn’t have any of the interpersonal issues that Tench has…she’s not a sycophant like Holden is,” Torv said. “She would have just been absolutely cool, calm, and collected.”

There are theories that if the show is picked up for a third season, it will include interviews with John Wayne Gacy, the killer convicted of murdering 33 young men and boys. Redditors picked out that detail after seeing a photo of Gacy on one of Wendy’s boards of psychosexual serial killers worth interviewing. Torv, for the record, has no idea what will happen next.

“There’s been no talk of a third season,” she said. “Obviously I’ve got my fingers crossed as, do a lot of other people that worked on the show, but no. If it goes, I don’t know what it will be like—but I have an enormous faith that it will be worth being a part of.”
Credit: Yohana Desta, Vanity Fair