Programming

Bettany Tackles Kaczynski, Channing Planning Romanian Cop Drama

Discovery scripted series 'Manhunt: Unabomber' premieres Aug. 1 7/31/2017 8:00 AM Eastern
Paul Bettany ("The Avengers," "Captain America: Civil War") is Ted Kaczynski in Discovery Channel's "Manhunt: Unabomber," premiering Aug. 1.
TakeAway

"The Watchman," a behind-the-scenes look at new programming, from "Through the Wire," July 31, 2017

Discovery channel’s Ted Kaczynski close-up, Manhunt: Unabomber, starts off August 1. The scripted series is also a close-up of Jim “Fitz” Fitzgerald, the FBI profiler who tracked Kaczynski down. Sam Worthington plays Fitz. He said he chose not to meet Fitzgerald until shooting started. Instead, Worthington sent Fitz a 1,000-question questionnaire that he figured would help him get an honest read on the guy.

“It’s like an interview with him, but he’s not looking at me,” Worthington said. “I’m trying to profile a profiler. He’s in a profession where he can hide [himself] really well.”

Worthington, who played Jake Sully in Avatar, said he was drawn to the “mechanics” of Manhunt: Unabomber — the nuts and bolts of how the FBI caught a terrorist in the pre-internet age. He mentioned digging Discovery’s Deadliest Catch and “the mechanics of how these guys operate on these big ships.”

Paul Bettany plays Kaczynski. Bettany’s film credits, which include The Avengers and Captain America: Civil War, go on and on. He said he was eager to pick up some television work, and was struck by how fast the shooting goes in TV. “I’m used to shooting one-and-a-half pages a day,” he said. “Shooting 12 pages a day felt really fast.”

Bettany said Manhunt’s eight episodes allowed him to dig deeper into his character’s background, including psychological experiments Kaczynski went through as a teen at Harvard. “What he did was heinous and disgusting and disgraceful,” Bettany said. “But you can have empathy. I did when I learned about his childhood.”

Another crafty take on ’80s crime is Amazon’s Comrade Detective. Premiering on Aug. 4, it’s a Romanian police show dubbed in English. At least it appears to be. In fact, while it was shot in Bucharest with a Romanian cast and crew, Comrade Detective was never an ’80s detective show.

Rhys Thomas, executive producer, described falling into a YouTube hole of Eastern European cop shows, often with a pro-communist, and anti-capitalist, message. That’s what the producers set out to make, and spoof.

Thomas said he gives Amazon major points for getting on board with Comrade Detective. “It’s a high-concept idea,” he said. “The fact that they are up for it speaks a lot to their bravery.”

Comrade Detective follows cops Gregor Anghel and Iosef Baciu as they investigate the murder of a fellow officer. Executive producer Channing Tatum and Joseph Gordon-Levitt voice the main characters. While investigating, the cops unearth a plot to bring capitalism to Romania.

Thomas said the series is a celebration of ’80s thriller directors such as Brian DePalma. “It’s a fun, pulpy story,” he said. “I don’t know that there’s anything else like it out there.”

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