Netflix's gripping serial killer drama series Mindhunter has finally returned for season 2, and we've put together a guide to show's cast, and what the real versions of Mindhunter's characters looked like. Created by Joe Penhall, Mindhunter is based on a book of the same name written by John E. Douglas, an FBI agent who did pioneering work in the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit in the late 1970s.
Douglas is represented in the show by Holden Ford, a young and ambitious agent who works together with his BSU colleagues Bill Tench and Wendy Carr to build a database on serial killers. Their goal is to use interviews with incarcerated serial killers to build psychological profiles and identify patterns that can be used to catch killers who are still at large. Season 1 of Mindhunter featured serial killers like Edmund Kemper and Jerry Brudos, while season 2 focuses primarily on the BTK Strangler and the Atlanta child murders.
Mindhunter obviously takes certain creative liberties for the sake of dramatization, but the details of the serial killers themselves and the crimes they committed generally stick very close to the facts. Here's a guide to the main and recurring characters of Mindhunter season 2, along with photos of the real-life people they're based on.
Jonathan Groff as Holden Ford
Jonathan Groff plays Agent Holden Ford, who is based on John E. Douglas. Last season ended with Holden having a terrifying encounter with Ed Kemper, the serial killer whom he'd gotten a little too close to during his interviews. After being hospitalized for a panic attack, Holden struggles to keep his stress in check as he continues his important work at the BSU in Mindhunter season 2. The real Douglas retired in 1996, and has written extensively about his experiences with the FBI since then, collaborating with true crime writer Mark Olshaker.
Holt McCallany as Bill Tench
Holt McCallany plays Holden's partner, Bill Tench, who is based on John E. Douglas' colleague Robert Ressler. As the older and more level-headed of the two, Bill is tasked with keeping Holden in check when he's in danger of running away with his instincts. However, in Mindhunter season 2 Bill finds his attention divided due to troubles at home. Robert Ressler passed away in 2013 at the age of 76, after writing several books on his knowledge of serial murders.
Anna Torv as Wendy Carr
Anna Torv plays Dr. Wendy Carr, a psychiatrist who is employed by the BSU to offer her insight on the psychological profiles of serial killers, and to ensure that the team's conclusions are supported by science. Like Bill, Wendy is tasked with keeping an eye on Holden in Mindhunter season 2. Wendy is based on Dr. Ann Burgess, who is considered a pioneer in the assessment and treatment of rape victims, and consulted with Douglas and Ressler during their work at the BSU. Today, Dr. Burgess works at Boston College's Connell School of Nursing.
Sonny Valicenti as Dennis Rader
Mindhunter season 2 opens with the return of Sonny Valicenti as Dennis Rader a.k.a. the BTK Strangler, who is still credited only as "ADT Serviceman" in the show. Rader murdered ten people between 1974 and 1991, all of whom were strangled to death except for his fifth victim, Kathryn Bright, who was stabbed to death. As seen in the show, Kathryn Bright's brother, Kevin Bright, was with her when the attack took place, and survived three gunshot wounds to the head. Rader was finally apprehended in 2005 and is currently in prison, serving ten consecutive life sentences.
Oliver Cooper as David Berkowitz
Oliver Cooper plays David Berkowitz, also known as the Son of Sam killer. Berkowitz is interviewed by Holden and Bill in the hopes that he can shed some light on the BTK Strangler. Between 1976 and 1977, Berkowitz committed eight shooting attacks that left six dead and another seven wounded. During his initial confession, Berkowitz claimed that he had been told to kill people by his neighbor's dog, which was actually a demon in disguise. However, as in Mindhunter, Berkowitz later admitted that this story was a lie. Berkowitz is currently in prison, serving six consecutive life sentences.
Michael Filipowich as William "Junior" Pierce
Michael Filipowich plays William "Junior" Pierce, a serial killer that Holden interviews with Jim Barney during his first trip to Atlanta. Though he's one of the lesser-known criminals featured on the show, Pierce is one of Georgia's deadliest serial killers, having murdered nine people in the space of a single year. Holden soon becomes frustrated by Pierce's attitude and apparent lack of intelligence while interviewing him. Pierce is currently in prison, serving multiple life sentences.
Corey Allen as William Henry Hance
The second of the two killers that Holden and Jim interview in Atlanta is William Henry Hance. Hance was a soldier who killed four women between 1977 and 1978. He had an IQ of less than 80 points, and in Mindhunter Holden once again grows frustrated in the interview when he is unable to get useful information out of Hance. The real William Henry Hance was executed via the electric chair in 1994.
Robert Aramayo as Elmer Wayne Henley, Jr.
Robert Aramayo plays Elmer Wayne Henley, Jr., who was an accomplice to the murders committed by serial killer Dean Corll, and also the man who eventually killed Corll. Also known as the Houston Mass Murders, at least 28 boys and young men were raped, tortured, and killed by Corll up until the night of August 8, 1973. On that night, Corll grew angry at Henley for bringing a girl to his house, handcuffed him and threatened to shoot him. Henley persuaded Corll to take off his bindings and then shot him repeatedly. Henley is currently serving six consecutive sentences of 99 years in prison.
Damon Herriman as Charles Manson
Damon Herriman plays cult leader Charles Manson, who directed his followers to commit nine brutal murders in 1969. Herrmian also played Manson in Quentin Tarantino's film Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, which arrived in theaters just a few weeks before Mindhunter season 2 was released on Netflix. The FBI's new assistant director Ted Gunn is extremely supportive of the BSU's work in Mindhunter season 2, so when Holden asks for an interview with Manson, Gunn sets it up. The real Charles Manson died in prison in 2017, at the age of 83.
Morgan Kelly as Paul Bateson
Morgan Kelly plays convicted killer Paul Bateson, whom Gregg and Wendy interview while Holden and Bill are busy in Atlanta. Bateson made an appearance in the 1973 horror film The Exorcist as a hospital technician, but he's better known for the murder of film industry journalist Addison Verrill. He was also suspected of the murders of six men whose dismembered bodies were found in bags in the Hudson river, but was never convicted. Bateson was released from prison in 2003 and his current whereabouts are unknown.
Christopher Livingston as Wayne Williams
Christopher Livingston plays Wayne Williams, the prime suspect in the Atlanta child murders. Though Williams was only ever convicted of the murders of two adults, Holden strongly believes that he's responsible for at least some of the killings of young black children in Atlanta. Williams becomes a tricky adversary for the FBI and the Atlanta police at the end of Mindhunter season 2, fervently denying his involvement in the murders and doing his best to control the story in the media. The real Williams is currently in prison serving a life sentence.
Dohn Norwood as Commissioner Lee Brown
As Holden and Bill turn their attention to the child murders happening in Atlanta, they cross paths with Public Safety Commissioner Lee P. Brown. Brown was appointed Commissioner in 1978, and went on to serve as the first African American police chief of Houston, Texas, then was appointed the Police Commissioner of New York City, and in 1997 became the first African American mayor of Houston. Now retired from politics, Brown currently lives with his wife in Houston.
Other Cast & Characters in Mindhunter Season 2
Mindhunter season 2 also features many other characters, not all of whom are explicitly based on real-life people. Some of these characters represent groups of people or broader factors in the BSU's investigation - such as Jim Barney, who represents local Atlanta detectives who worked on the child murders case. Here's a guide to the other prominent characters you'll meet in Mindhunter season 2, and who plays them.
- Michael Cerveris as Ted Gunn - The new assistant director of the FBI
- Joe Tuttle as Gregg Smith - An agent working in BSU
- Albert Jones as Jim Barney - An FBI agent working in Atlanta
- Gareth Williams as Chief Redding - The police chief in Atlanta
- Lauren Glazier as Kay Manz - A bartender who captures Wendy's attention
- Sierra McClain as Tanya Clifton - A hotel concierge who enlists Holden's help
- June Carryl as Camille Bell - Mother of one of the murder victims and a dedicated social activist.
- Nate Corddry as Detective Art Spencer - A detective investigating the murder of a toddler
- Stacey Rocca as Nancy Tench - Bill's wife
- Zachary Scott Ross as Brian Tench - Bill's son