The following feature appears in the October 2017 issue of NYLON.
Within a few minutes of meeting each other, Hannah Gross and I are trapped. We’re stuck on the first floor of the SoHo building where her NYLON photo shoot took place, and try as we might, the door leading back onto the street just won’t open. There’s no knob, no buzzer, no lock for a key we wouldn’t have, anyway. It’s an experience that would be mildly terrifying—not unlike the prelude to a grisly murder on Mindhunter, the chilling Netflix crime drama in which Gross co-stars—if it weren’t so funny. When all seems lost, Gross gives the door one last determined push and it swings open into the sunshine. We survive.
A few blocks away at the casual bistro Lucky Strike, Gross orders a Coke and a grilled chicken sandwich, which comes with a side of fries she’s eager to share. The 26-year-old actress wears a black tee tucked into her jeans and a pair of sensible black sandals, the perfect uniform for mid-August in Manhattan. A graduate of the Experimental Theatre Wing of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Gross moved to New York City from her native Toronto nine years ago, but she still doesn’t quite consider herself a full-on New Yorker. “I think you really have to be born here,” she says with a sly grin.
On film, Gross is a watchful, spellbinding presence. She embodied a younger version of Lois Smith’s title character in this summer’s Marjorie Prime, opposite Jon Hamm, but Mindhunter represents her breakthrough. The thriller, which is executive-produced by David Fincher, centers on the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit and their meticulous study of imprisoned killers in the hopes of apprehending those still at large. Gross plays Debbie, the romantic partner of Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff), a special agent based on John E. Douglas, co-author of the 1997 book Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit, from which the show draws its inspiration. Confirmation that her character and Groff’s are in a relationship is the most Gross will reveal about the top-secret series, which premieres October 13.
“I’m not allowed to divulge anything. Fincher put a bug in all of our phones, I think, to listen,” she jokes. Working with the notorious perfectionist, who also directed several episodes, was “so wild, so surreal,” Gross says, perhaps an even more transformative learning experience than four years of theater school. “[He] has a platonic ideal of what he wants a scene to look like, down to every line, every blink. I came from the indie world where it’s like, ‘Two takes, done!’ This was an endurance test,” she recalls.