TNT’s upcoming straight-to-series drama The Alienist has tapped Jakob Verbruggen (London Spy, Black Mirror) as director. He replaces Emmy winner Cary Fukunaga (True Detective), who had been the driving creative force behind the project. Fukunaga, who wrote all episodes of the series based on the best-selling novel by Caleb Carr, will remain as executive producer for Paramount Television and Turner’s Studio T. Verbruggen is currently slated to direct the first two episodes, with a possibility for more. Filming will begin in early 2017 in Budapest.

Deadline AwardsLine TIFF Gallery with Beasts of No Nation's Cary Fukunaga
Director Cary Fukunaga
Photograph by Chris Chapman

The Alienist had gone through a difficult development process since the series was announced by TNT at its 2015 upfront presentation. Fukunaga, known for his cinematic approach, and Paramount TV went back and forth with the network on a budget for almost a year as location moved from Canada to New York and eventually Budapest. By the time all sides agreed on a budget, the schedule had been pushed back several times, pushing back Fukunaga’s other commitments. Meanwhile, TNT needs the series and was ready to go into production. That led to the hire of Verbruggen while Fukunaga is focusing on the feature The Black Count. Under his overall deal with Paramount TV, Fukunaga also is set to executive produce and direct the Netflix comedy series Maniac starring Emma Stone and Jonah Hill and has several other projects in development.

The Alienist is a psychological thriller set in the Gilded Age of New York City in 1896, 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 (aka alienist) Dr. Laszlo Kreizler and newspaper reporter John Moore to conduct the investigation in secret. They are aided by a makeshift crew of singular characters, among them the intrepid Sara Howard, 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.

Alienist

Also executive producing the series are Eric Roth, Hossein Amini and Anonymous Content’s Steve Golin and Rosalie Swedlin.

Verbruggen’s credits include directing the TV series London Spy, The Fall and Code 37. Most recently, he directed an episode of the anthology series Black Mirror and the penultimate episode and season four finale of House of Cards.

“Jakob will capture the intensity of this edge-of-your-seat thriller,” said Sarah Aubrey, EVP of original programming for TNT. “The Alienist’s unique setting and characters, along with its pervasively tense and unsettling mood, couldn’t be in better hands.”

Added Amy Powell, president of Paramount Television and Digital Entertainment, “No one can bring The Alienist to life better than director Jakob Verbruggen and the stellar producing team of Cary Fukunaga, Eric Roth, Hossein Amini and Anonymous Content. TNT is the perfect home for Caleb Carr’s intense and emotional crime story during the iconic gilded age in New York’s history.”