In the third episode of Discovery’s Manhunt: Unabomber, airing Aug. 8, we’ll again see Ted Kaczynski (Paul Bettany) come face-to-face with FBI profiler Jim Fitzgerald (Sam Worthington), the man whose pioneering use of forensic linguistics helped identity him and put him behind bars. Fitz is tasked with trying to convince Kaczynski to enter a guilty plea, but as you see in the exclusive sneak peek above, Kaczynski has his own plan for how this situation should play out.
Worthington has called Manhunt a kind of “love story” between the two men, both struggling to have their ideas heard and accepted. How does Bettany see it? “I think initially it’s a pretty one-sided relationship,” he says. “The thing that Ted, in our story, really respects about Fitz is that Fitz has an imagination. Thinking imaginatively is actually really rare, and he was able to think outside the box, and that’s how he catches Ted in our story. I think Ted really found that fascinating because, essentially, [Fitz] made up a field of expertise in order to justify a hunt.”
As the clip reveals, it’s the thing Kaczynski admires about Fitz that he needs to discredit. If he can successfully argue that Fitz’s new style of analysis, which was used to obtain the search warrant for his cabin, failed to meet the burden of proof, then all of the evidence found there must be thrown out as fruit of the poisonous tree. “It’s a house of cards because he’s invented this field that didn’t exist, and he’s a nobody. He’s got no formal education,” Bettany says. “Ted should be in prison — what he did was monstrous — but he had a really good argument that the grounds on which they get the only evidence that condemns him is tainted.”
The promise that the story would dive into both men’s backstories is what interested Bettany in this, his first TV project in 17 years. As he recalls, seven of the eight scripts existed when he signed on, so it was easy for him to see the potential in the series. “I think the script does what television does very well, which is drama. Because a script for a movie, by the necessity of it being an hour and a half, becomes a thriller, and also a story about a dogged maverick cop hunting a monster. That would be about as far as you got and had time for, right? There is nothing wrong with that. I love those sorts of movies,” he says. “But I do think that this script plays to the strength of what television can do, which is say, ‘We’re going to spend an episode looking at his domestic life and we’re going to see what Ted does at home, and see what his childhood was like, and we’re going to see what the toll is on the detective’s relationship and his children and what’s going on there.'”
Viewers will have to wait for Episode 6 to see the hour devoted to Kaczynski’s past and the experiences that made him feel so isolated (and angry) as a child, teen, and adult. Bettany had access to Kaczynski’s unpublished autobiography and the list of “outsider novels” the FBI found in his cabin. “There was Conrad’s The Secret Agent, which is about an anarchist trying to build a perfect trigger for a bomb, and Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and [Camus’] The Stranger,” Bettany says. “They’re all about men living in a world that they feel alienated from.”
Bettany tends to live separate from the rest of the cast and crew on film shoots (“I’d always rather live in a house than a hotel,” he says), but this time, he wanted to experience more isolation. “I have a wife and children and a whole life, but it was interesting to sort of expand with silence and aloneness. I think the longest I managed was three days without texting or phone calls or email or being online or seeing anybody or talking to anybody, and that was amazing,” he says. “There’s a lot of time in the day to think, and we don’t do that. We’re in such constant contact with our cellphones and our computers. I’d even turn up on Monday and my voice would be cracking from a lack of use. I just hadn’t talked to anybody. It’s quite interesting.”
Manhunt: Unabomber airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on Discovery.
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