Michael Cerveris Interview: ‘Mindhunter’
“He loves specificity and ambiguity,” reveals actor Michael Cerveris of famed director David Fincher. The performer joined Season 2 of Fincher’s crime drama “Mindhunter” as Ted Gunn, the new unit chief of the behavioral science division. The multi-talented Cerveris speaks about his character on the Netflix drama as well as his music endeavors with his band Loose Cattle. Watch the exclusive video interview above.
The ambiguity that Fincher craves certainly resonates within Cerveris’ depiction of Gunn. The actor explains that the character is “specific and intentional” in his actions, but those intentions are always a bit murky. This trait is embodied in the way Gunn interviews the main characters in the season premiere. Fincher told the actor to “find ways to mirror each of them.” The result is a fascinating game, with Cerveris squinting and hunching towards Holt McCallany’s Bill Trench, but adopting a more open, calming aura for Anna Torv’s Wendy Carr. The characters are disarmed and the audience has no idea where Gunn stands with any of them.
Cerveris appreciates the way Fincher is constantly talking and working through subtext between takes. “It’s like he’s trying to perform a mind-meld with you,” notes the actor. Of Fincher’s directorial style, Cerveris playfully states that “the rumors about 20, 30, 40, 50 takes are not exaggerated.” But he admits to loving the process. For him, “it feels kind of like rehearsal.” After working a scene so many times, “you just start to behave and react and respond.”
That’s familiar territory for an actor who has continually wowed audiences on stage. Cerveris is a two-time Tony Award winner for “Assassins” and “Fun Home” (out of an impressive six nominations). But Broadway isn’t the only musical genre he gravitates towards.
Though he is known for belting show tunes, Cerveris also leads a band called Loose Cattle. The group leans on country and Americana sounds that hearken back to Cerveris’ West Virginia roots. He formed the group with former girlfriend Kimberly Kaye. “We thought somehow, that putting a band together would be a good way to not fight” he says with a laugh. “Apparently, we never paid any attention to any Fleetwood Mac autobiographies.” The relationship ended, but their friendship and musical collaboration persisted.
Loose Cattle is next slated to perform at Joe’s Pub in New York City on December 4th. With the holiday season here, tunes from their non-traditional Christmas album will be making a welcome appearance. “I’m a huge Christmas fan… Kimberly is the Grinch,” explains Cerveris. The resulting album, “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” occupies the space between between those extremes. There are original tunes that sound like a casual and humorous jam session on a Louisiana porch. Others, like an evocative cover of Joni Mitchell’s “River,” delve into somber introspection. Cerveris affectionately describes it as a “Christmas record for people who think they don’t like Christmas records.” We can all get in the holiday spirit for that.