EXCLUSIVE: ‘Manhunt: Unabomber’ Showrunner Greg Yaitanes on Genius Porn, True Crime and Season 2

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Paul very much looks
like Ted, especially those shots of him in the hoodie and sunglasses. And even
Jane Lynch channels Janet Reno quite well onscreen. How important was it for
the actors to have the right look in addition to whatever they were able to
bring to the role?

With Ted, the only thing I wanted to really recreate was his
iconic images — that if you were to do a Google search, that is what you would
see. Beyond that, we took our cues off of evidence found in the cabin as to what
he wore and how people described him.

I didn’t want to make a wax museum version of the show. It
was very important that these were inhabited with the intention of these
characters, so we had excellent hair and makeup that really felt real without
losing the performance. If you really look, we pulled back on a few elements of
Ted because it felt it could fall into caricature. You have two characters that
Will Ferrell has played on Saturday Night
Live
. And it was just important that nothing would ever fall into satire or
being distracting. It was all intended to be very nuanced. It was important
that everything was of a tone.

Jane really got the walk down for Janet Reno. You know, Ted had blue eyes, but Paul’s eyes
are so piercing. He and I just talked and we felt that would just become
distracting. Paul was on a diet that was very similar to Ted’s. He lived in a
way very similar to Ted during production, but it was more just to come from an
informed place.

True crime continues
to be a popular genre on television with shows like American Crime Story and the upcoming Law
& Order: True Crime
about the Menendez Brothers, as well as all the documentaries.
Was there any hesitation about where Manhunt
would fit or how it would stand out?

No. That’s the quick answer. I think that any time I’ve ever
taken on anything on television, I always try to find some cinematic touchstone
that we can talk about. All the
President’s Men
, The Insider, Silence of the Lambs — these were films
that we talked about. Those were the things that we reached for. We felt this
was a dramatic thriller. You know, when I saw The Insider, they turned a story of 60 Minutes into a hot, tense thriller. I want to do the same thing
with language and tell the same thing with this story.

And I think there’s room for all of it because it’s
fascinating. You have to remember all these things have been dramatized once before.
There’s already been a Menendez movie and a Unabomber movie. You know back in
the day they would rip from the headlines and rush to make some TV movie about
stuff. They would be almost comical to look back on now, 20 years later, when
you see them. So it was nice the material attracted our cast. It really helped
to elevate it. But Manhunt is more of
a commentary on what’s happening now around us. If you can separate the bomber
from the message he was sending, the message was prophetic; it was a look at
our relationship and addiction to technology. He called it all 20 years ago. He
could see it coming.

Considering this has
been promoted as a potential anthology series, have you thought about a second
season and if you would do it?

We were originally a limited series that was going to be
contained, and then Discovery saw an opportunity to continue it as an anthology,
which I think is exciting. We put forth a couple of areas which could be
interesting, but whether that all comes together and when it wants to come
together is too early to tell. I’m very open to the idea, especially if there
was more opportunity to cross over some with the world and characters from Unabomber.

MORE: Amanda Knox, O.J. Simpson and Our Fascination With True Crime

It’s funny you
mention crossing over with the current season, because there’s a moment when
the camera pans over Janet Reno’s desk and you see all these case files for
crimes as the time, like Waco, Oklahoma City and World Trade Center. And I
thought it would be great if Janet Reno is the connective thread for potential
new seasons.

It is amazing how much was on her desk at any given time. I
think about the work I do for one TV show and I was looking at that desk, which
is an exact recreation of Reno’s desk, and I think the detail of the show is
something that immerses you into the ‘90s. But Janet’s desk — I couldn’t
imagine if I was doing a show about all that stuff — but there was tons of
stuff on her desk. And yes, there are maybe some future seasons on that desk.

The show hasn’t aired
yet on TV, but has any of the real-life people involved reacted to the news or
making of the series?

Not yet. I expect people will come out of the woodwork that
have very shamelessly taken credit for Jim’s work, that had built their own
narratives on that. We had to change a lot of names of the people who are not
considered public figures and we conflated people to make individual characters.
I know it’s on Ted’s radar because Jim reached out to Ted prior to [making the
series]. We were instructed not to, but we know Ted knows there’s a show being
made about him.

My hope is that David Kaczynski [played by Mark Duplass]
sees this and would feel that it was accurate. My hope is that Ted would see
and feel that we represented his story fairly. I know Jim feels this tells the
story of how this investigation went. We don’t do this to disparage anything or
anybody.

Even when I was mounting production, people were coming out
of the woodwork like, “I’m the guy who caught the Unabomber.” I was like, “OK,
but I’m doing a show about the guy who caught the Unabomber.” And they’re like,
“Well I was there. I was the SWAT guy in the fifth tree to the right who had
him in my sights.” And it’s like, “OK.” It was obviously an enormous sprawling
effort, but I think Andrew telling the story through the lens of Fitz and how
Fitz went deep into the case and became obsessed with the case and how it
affected his world is unique. I think we move away from any of the kind of tired
tropes of the detective investigation but try to embrace what really happened
and use that to propel the story.

Manhunt: Unabomber’s
two-hour premiere airs Tuesday, Aug. 1 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the Discovery
Channel.



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