Mindhunter expanded our minds about Jonathan Groff’s incredible talent

MINDHUNTER - Credit: Patrick Harbron/Netflix
MINDHUNTER - Credit: Patrick Harbron/Netflix /
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MINDHUNTER – Patrick Harbron/Netflix /

Jonathan Groff in Mindhunter was eye-opening, audacious, and brilliant

While 2021 won’t be giving us Mindhunter season 3, it’s a good time to look back and appreciate how much the Netflix original expanded our minds—particularly in relation to the incredible and often gut-wrenching talent of Jonathan Groff.

Everyone knows that Groff has talent. He’s a two-time Tony nominee and a Grammy winner, and people have been raving about him from Spring Awakening to Glee to Looking and Hamilton. The man has talent coming out of his pores. But it’s never felt like the respect he gets measures up to that resume.

Then with Holden Ford, he did something completely different.

And hopefully, people have started to look at him in a different and more complete way.

SPOILER ALERT: This feature contains spoilers for both Mindhunter season 1 and Mindhunter season 2. The complete series is currently streaming on Netflix.

Mindhunter has a very specific creative vision, thanks to Academy Award-winning director David Fincher, whose best-known works live in the psychological space. It doesn’t take a profiler to see the many ways you can apply the title—not just to Holden’s work getting into the heads of serial killers, but to the mental and emotional transformation that prompts in him. The latter is just as haunting and compelling as the former.

That is a very, very tricky thing to pull off. It’s taking what is internal and making it external—the hero’s thoughts, fears, aspirations, tendencies, self-perceptions. It’s paying attention to and conveying these little things to have large impact. That’s why in many TV shows, a character’s inner problems often manifest themselves externally or are prompted by external forces: someone has an emotional moment or a full-on breakdown, lashes out at a thing or another person, has to confront their issues through a case or a figure from their past.

Add in that profiling has become more popularized in the TV and film world over the last few years, creating a certain public image of the work and those who do it (Mindhunter, for example, has been occasionally compared to Criminal Minds, CBS‘ hit series that ran for 15 seasons and took place in the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, the successor to the team depicted in the Netflix show).

And then factor in that the character of Holden Ford is loosely based on a real person: John Douglas, who literally wrote the book the show is based on. Even though Groff’s not pretending to be Douglas himself, there’s only so much room an actor has when portraying a character grounded in someone’s actual life.

Yeah, it’s not easy.

Which is what makes how it happened, how Jonathan Groff executed it to near-perfection, and how much further he could have gone in Mindhunter season 3 so darned fascinating. Because of Groff, Holden Ford is the show’s most interesting case of all.