She’s best known for her roles in early 2000s flicks like I Am Sam and Uptown Girls, but Dakota Fanning has accomplished something few else have — she’s seamlessly transitioned from child star to serious actress without going off the rails along the way.
Now, she’s marking two decades in the industry. “I started acting when I was 6,” says Fanning, who portrays Sara Howard, a headstrong detective struggling to be taken seriously as a woman during the 1890s, in The Alienist: Angel of Darkness, which recently wrapped season 2 on TNT.
“I was always a very imaginative child and enjoyed playing pretend. My mom saw that and, well, one thing led to another and here I am!”
Fanning recently took a quick break to talk about revisiting the past and looking towards the future.
What’s it like going back in time to play Sara?
Dakota Fanning: It’s exciting. The costumes are a big thing. They affect everything — the way you sit, the way you get up. That restriction is a metaphor for the restrictions on women during that era.
The tone of the show is pretty dark. What’s the vibe like on set?
The wonderful part of this is we all get along so well. We keep things light — none of us are Method actors.
Any notable fun moments?
There are many. Luke Evans split his trousers both seasons!
Aside from wardrobe issues, what are some of the challenges of being part of a period piece?
There are little things, like making sure you don’t throw in anything modern. I remember in one of the scripts, Sara gives someone a thumbs-up. I was like, “Did they have the thumbs-up in 1897? When did the thumbs-up begin?”
How has Sara grown between season 1 and the second installment?
She’s opened her own detective agency, and she’s learning more about what it means to be a woman in 1897, like the choices they were forced to make and the pressures of having a career and a family.
So the subject matter is still pretty relevant.
That’s something I really love about the show. It’s like an entertaining history lesson.
What have you learned from being a part of the series?
It’s not always easy to speak up for those who can’t use their voice, but I think Sara uses her privilege to do that. I’m proud to play a character like that and I hope to continue to implement that in my real life.
Any word on a third season?
There are no plans as of this moment, but I never say never to anything. I obviously care about this character and world very much.