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Dakota Fanning Cast as Female Lead on TNT’s ‘The Alienist’

TCA 2017: Former child star will play NYPD secretary with detective dreams

Dakota Fanning has been cast as the female lead on TNT’s “The Alienist,” which is based on a New York Times bestselling book by Caleb Carr.

She’ll play Sara Howard, a headstrong secretary at Police Headquarters with dreams of becoming a detective. Fanning joins Daniel Brühl, who stars as forensic psychologist Dr. Laszlo Kreizler — the alienist himself — and Luke Evans, who plays reporter John Moore. The series will follow the trio as they investigate a series of brutal murders in New York during the Gilded Age (late 1800s).

Set to begin production soon in Budapest and slated to premiere in late 2017, “The Alienist” will be directed and executive produced by Jakob Verbruggen (“Black Mirror”). Other executive producers include Cary Fukunaga (“True Detective”), Eric Roth (“Forrest Gump”), Hossein Amini, Steve Golin and Rosalie Swedlin. The series is a co-production of Paramount Television and Turner’s Studio T.

The psychological thriller is set in 1896, when Manhattan was a city of vast wealth, extreme poverty and technological innovation. When a series of haunting, gruesome murders of boy prostitutes grips the city, newly appointed police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt calls upon criminal psychologist Dr. Kreizler and journalist Moore to conduct the investigation in secret, per TNT. They are aided by a makeshift crew of singular characters, among them the intrepid Sara, a young secretary on Roosevelt’s staff who is determined to become the first female police detective in New York City. Using the emerging disciplines of psychology and early forensic investigation techniques, this band of social outsiders tracks down one of New York City’s first serial killers.

Fanning’s character, the primly dressed but beautiful Sara, is the first woman hired by the New York Police Department, and she is determined to become the first female police detective in New York City. Self-possessed and intelligent, Sara grew up as an only child who was doted on by her father, according to the official description. She not only “shakes hands like a man,” but considers herself just as competent — if not more so — than any of the men on the force. Well-bred and well-spoken, Sara has a keen interest in crime-solving and is immediately intrigued by the case being investigated by Kreizler and Moore.

TNT made the announcement Saturday during the Television Critics Association press event in Pasadena, California. Readers may remember Fanning as the child star of “I Am Sam” and “War of the Worlds,” though the 22-year-old has put together a steady career since then.