'Manhunt: Unabomber': 8 of the Show's Stars and Their Real-Life Inspirations

6:59 PM 8/1/2017

by Rebecca Cohen

Discovery's new drama series takes viewers inside the FBI's effort to capture America's most notorious serial bomber.

'Manhunt: Unabomber' cast
'Manhunt: Unabomber' cast
Discovery Channel

Discovery's new miniseries Manhunt: Unabomber, takes viewers back to the '90s and follows the key players who worked to track down serial killer Ted Kaczynski.

The eight-hour drama, airing on Tuesdays, stars Paul Bettany as Kaczynski, the domestic terrorist whose bombs killed three people and injured 23 others; Sam Worthington as Jim "Fitz" Fitzgerald, the FBI agent who captured him; and Jane Lynch as Janet Reno.

Read on to find out how these and other cast members in Manhunt: Unabomber were influenced by their real-life counterparts.

  • Ted Kaczynski, portrayed by Paul Bettany

    Paul Bettany as Ted Kaczynski
    Paul Bettany as Ted Kaczynski
    Courtesy of Discovery Channel

    For 24 years, the Unabomber lived in a secluded cabin in a remote area in Montana with no heat, no electricity and no running water. It is here that he set up his workshop, the origin of the many homemade mail bombs that would later distributed all over America, injuring 23 and killing three targeted citizens.

    He was arrested at the cabin in 1996 and ultimately sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He is still serving in ADX Florence, a maximum-security prison in Colorado.

    Bettany plays the paranoid schizophrenic murderer who instilled fear throughout the country with his letter-bombing campaign in the '80s and '90s. To prepare for this role, Bettany took time to himself in a remote forest home, unplugged and secluded himself from the rest of the world, he told the Los Angeles Times.

    “It allows you to go back in time and see this man who did monstrous things but who monstrous things also happened to,” Bettany explained before pointing to Kaczynski's brilliance and questioning his peculiar choices in crime: “He could go and sabotage the system, blow up the Hoover Dam, whatever the … he wants to do. He's that bright. But he doesn't. Why?”

  • Jim "Fitz" Fitzgerald, portrayed by Sam Worthington

    Sam Worthington as Jim Fitzgerald
    Sam Worthington as Jim Fitzgerald
    Courtesy of Discovery Channel

    Sam Worthington plays the role of Jim "Fitz" Fitzgerald, the FBI profiler and forensic linguist who ultimately captured Kaczynski through his relentless investigation, including poring over the Unabomber's infamous manifesto.

    Worthington told Maxim that he doesn’t like meeting real-life characters before he creates his own version of them in fear of glorifying the past. "When I met [Fitzgerald], I thought, 'I've already cemented this, and hopefully you like the approach,'” Worthington said.

    Before meeting Fitzgerald, Worthington spent time reading books, interviews and the show’s script to understand the FBI agent to the best of his ability.

  • Janet Reno, portrayed by Jane Lynch

    Jane Lynch as Janet Reno
    Jane Lynch as Janet Reno
    Courtesy of Discovery Channel

    Jane Lynch plays former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno in Manhunt: Unabomber.

    In the early days of her term, Reno launched the Unabomber Task Force, which included over 150 members and worked with the FBI, the ATF and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. This task force is ultimately responsible for the capture of Kaczynski.

    Lynch spoke highly of her character on NBC's Today, claiming she was a huge fan of Reno’s work in the '90s.

    “She was an independent force out there,” Lynch proclaimed, “she made a lot of mistakes and owned up to all of them.”

  • Don Ackerman, portrayed by Chris Noth

    Chris Noth as Don Ackerman
    Chris Noth as Don Ackerman
    Courtesy of Discovery Channel

    Don Ackerman held another key role in the Unabomber case, working alongside Janet Reno as the Bay Area divisional head of the FBI and supervising the Unabomber Task Force.

    Noth spoke with Vanity Fair about the Unabomber case and the FBI’s involvement in it: “The FBI, I think, was transformed in a sense by him, in the task of getting him. It was not just frustrating, but it was probably the most daunting task they’d faced in a long time.”

  • Henry Murray, portrayed by Brian d’Arcy James

    Brian d'Arcy James as Henry Murray
    Brian d'Arcy James as Henry Murray
    Discovery Channel

    Notorious psychologist Henry Murray was Ted Kaczynski’s professor while the math prodigy was enrolled in Harvard University as a teen.

    Murray encouraged his students to participate in difficult, purposely brutalizing psychology studies, which are thought to be responsible for Kaczynski’s harsh outlook on life and disbelief in science, two factors that contributed to his behavior later in his life.

  • David Kaczynski, portrayed by Mark Duplass

    Mark Duplass as David Kaczynski
    Mark Duplass as David Kaczynski
    Courtesy of Discovery Channel

    David Kaczynski, besides being the Unabomber’s brother, is one of the major reasons that he was ultimately captured. When the manifesto was released in 1995, David came forward with information believing that his own brother might be the Unabomber. Along with Fitzgerald's linguistics skills, this clue is what the FBI needed to confirm their suspect was truly the serial killer they had been tracking for almost two decades. 

  • Stan Cole, portrayed by Jeremy Bobb

    Jeremy Bobb as Stan Cole
    Jeremy Bobb as Stan Cole
    Courtesy of Discovery Channel

    Another name on the long list of FBI investigators who were searching for answers that led to Kaczynski, Stan Cole was Don Ackerman’s subordinate and another roadblock in Fitzgerald’s obsession to locate the infamous anarchist.

    Cole, like many others, was hesitant to proceed in the case without any real, hard information, something that didn’t stop investigators like Fitzgerald, though he still worked on the task force alongside the team that discovered the identity of the Unabomber.

  • Natalie Rogers, portrayed by Lynn Collins

    Lynn Collins as Natalie Rogers
    Lynn Collins as Natalie Rogers
    Courtesy of Discovery Channel

    Natalie Rogers was a linguistics specialist working at Stanford at the time of the Unabomber case. Fitzgerald personally calls on Rogers to help him in this unconventional case and the two of them work to identify Kaczynski through the manifesto.

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