- Actor Cameron Britton was nominated for an Emmy for the first season of Mindhunter.
- He plays real-life serial killer Ed Kemper.
- Britton has played a number of other roles, and also delved into his experience on Mindhunter.
There’s a lot of moving pieces at play to make Netflix’s serial killer drama Mindhunter, now back for its second season, work. Yes, the dark stylings of David Fincher—whether he’s behind the camera or strictly serving in his executive producer role—make the show stand out. Sure, the story is compelling. Absolutely, the main cast of Jonathan Groff, Holt McCallany, and Anna Torv make for a more-than-formidable trio. But the true breakout of Mindhunter‘s first season wasn’t, in fact, any of the above; instead it was actor Cameron Britton, who, in only three of the season’s ten episodes cast a dark, compelling shadow over the entire season, earning an Emmy nomination in the process.
As Ed Kemper—the real life serial killer—Britton is personable, charismatic, chilling, and above all else, totally uncanny. Kemper is the first killer that detectives Holden Ford (Groff) Bill Tench (McCallany) talks to, and that conversation helps form the premise of the show. It’s why Groff’s character, Holden Ford, returns to him in the Season One finale, and why Kemper is back in the show’s sophomore season.
Believe it or not, the role in Mindhunter was actually the first major TV role for Britton. He’d appeared in a few other shows in minor capacities (as a security guard in the Disney Channel series Lab Rats, for instance), but his role in Mindhunter was his first guest spot. “I went into this job hoping to not get fired,” he said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “Most of the conversations with my wife the night before we started shooting was, ‘Man, this is my first guest star, and it’s with David freaking Fincher. I hope to God I can just keep up and not make a fool of myself.‘“
Britton has discussed the challenges of playing such a deeply disturbed character like Kemper, who resented—and eventually killed—his own mother. In a video interview with Vulture, Britton said, “I was in that dude’s head for 9 months … I’m using a lot of dark thoughts to get where I need to go.” Britton described an almost “Pavlovian” reaction when his mother came to visit the set.
“You wanted to murder her?” McCallany asked in the interview. “Yeah!” Britton answered, saying that he was in tears when she left. “It wasn’t me wanting to hurt my mom, but…,” Britton said. “It was the character, who just can’t stand his mom…it was a weird thing.”
In the years since the first season of Mindhunter aired, Britton has appeared as a cop in HBO’s Barry, alongside Bill Hader and Henry Winkler. Last fall, he played a hacker in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo sequel The Girl in the Spider’s Web. And earlier this year, Britton was cast as a series regular on another Netflix series, The Umbrella Academy, where he played a time-traveling assassin.
While the real Kemper was 6’9” and Britton is 6’5”, that hasn’t stopped the actor from occasionally being recognized by fans. “If you meet someone at a bar or something and they ask what you do for a living and you say, ‘I’m an actor,’ they say, ‘What have I maybe seen you in?'” he told THR. “And you mention Mindhunter, some of them, you can see the light go on when you say Mindhunter. Or some will say, ‘Oh, I knew it! I knew it was you!'”
Britton is clearly a fan-favorite, despite playing one of the most depraved characters in a show chock-full of them. As Mindhunter continues to move forward, it’s exciting to see how Britton’s role as the charismatic killer will continue to expand.