Cameron Britton Interview: ‘Mindhunter’
Cameron Britton realizes “you don’t get characters often that are that in-depth, especially as a guest star,” so he relished the opportunity to play serial killer Ed Kemper in the Netflix series “Mindhunter,” for which he’s nominated for an Emmy for Best Drama Guest Actor. But that doesn’t mean it was easy to get into the mind of a psychopath — or to get out of it. Watch our exclusive video interview with Britton above.
At first Britton didn’t realize Kemper was a real person. “The first thing I saw was him talking about being a regular guy most of his life,” he explains. “Then he says, ‘But at the same time I was living a vile, depraved, entirely parallel other life filled with mayhem and death.'” Then Britton “went down a rabbit hole” of research.
But there were some things he had to stop researching. “I had to stop looking up the victims,” he says. The cold, dispassionate way Kemper discusses his murders was unsettling, especially during a moment when he’s asked how he felt about the women he killed: “He takes a moment and says, ‘I liked Mary the best. I was lukewarm on Anita.’ And it was really uncomfortable to say. It was one of the reasons I had to stop looking up the girls because I started getting empathy for them.”
Kemper also killed his mother, so Britton remembers feeling uneasy when his own mother visited the set. “I’m not a method actor, but if anyone is doing a character, especially one that’s that dark for nine months, you’re going to develop some dark thoughts,” he admits about the difficulty of letting such a character into your psyche and then trying to get him out. “Once we were done shooting I expected the character to leave, but he didn’t want to … I had to start being active about making those habits go away.”
Britton wouldn’t be the first actor to win an award for playing such a disturbing role. Anthony Hopkins (“The Silence of the Lambs”) and “Mindhunter” executive producer Charlize Theron (“Monster”) won Oscars for playing serial killers, and two actors in recent years have won Britton’s very same Emmy category for such roles: Michael Emerson (“The Practice”) and John Lithgow (“Dexter”).
If Britton ever got the opportunity, he would ask those other actors, “‘What was it like for you?’ Because it was such an indelible experience for nine months to be in that head space … I think that’s why people watch true crime, because it’s hard to really understand why someone would do these things.”