Skip to main content


  • Domhnall Gleeson plays serial killer Sam Fortner in The Patient on Hulu.
  • The actor is glad the Hulu series doesn’t make his character “a sexy serial killer.”
  • To capture Sam’s personality, Gleeson embraced his “teenage” qualities.
'The Patient' star Domhnall Gleeson. He's wearing a black shirt, black jacket, and standing in front of a poster for the Hulu series.
Domhnall Gleeson | Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

The Patient is becoming one of the most gripping FX series on Hulu, spinning a tale about a psychotherapist held captive by one of his patients. Sam Fortner — the patient in question — is a serial killer grappling with his homicidal urges. He seeks the help of Alan Strauss (Steve Carell) in an effort to control them. And while his attempt to change comes from a good place, his actions don’t reflect that. For The Patient star Domhnall Gleeson, that’s what makes his character appealing: that he’s human but not the “sexy serial killer.”

‘The Patient’ sees Domhnall Gleeson playing a serial killer who wants to change

Sam Fortner is a fascinating character because he genuinely seems desperate to change his violent ways. But as The Patient star Domhnall Gleeson told The New York Post, one thing prevents him from being entirely sympathetic: the method he uses to deal with his impulses.

“[H]e wants to get better, yet if he were truly empathetic there’s a quick way to deal with all of this, which is to turn himself in, and he’s not choosing to do that,” Gleeson explained.

Instead, Gleeson’s character kidnaps his therapist and forces him to provide services while chained up in a basement. It’s not the way most people would handle things, but Gleeson believes it makes the character easier to connect with.

“His selfishness is at the core of what he’s doing and yet he’s trying,” Gleeson told The New York Post. “I think that’s very relatable for a lot of people; everyone is selfish and most people are trying to be better people — but this is pushing that to the furthest extreme.”

Needless to say, The Patient‘s portrayal of Sam strikes a delicate balance, never making him too easy to empathize with — but not making him wholly evil either. And Gleeson is happy it didn’t lean too far in either direction. Had the show focused too heavily on Sam’s humanity, it might have risked embracing the “sexy serial killer” trope.

Domhnall Gleeson is glad the Hulu series doesn’t embrace the ‘sexy serial killer’ trope


‘The Patient’: Why Sam is a Member of No Shoes Nation

During an interview with TheWrap, Domhnall Gleeson reflected The Patient’s portrayal of Sam Fortner. And he admitted he’s satisfied with how Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg handled the character.

“I think the series is responsible about not just making him a sexy serial killer who’s interesting in all these ways, like, Oh my god, isn’t he fascinating?” Gleeson explained. “It’s like, no, there’s a deep well of pathetic self-loathing there which is really at the heart of a lot of what’s happening.”

It’s true that Sam is more pitiable than sympathetic, even in his most vulnerable moments on-screen. It speaks to the writing that Sam’s actions aren’t romanticized. It’s also a testament to Gleeson’s talent.

How the actor got into character while filming ‘The Patient’

The Patient makes an effort to present Sam as deeply flawed but human, and Domhnall Gleeson’s acting drives that depiction home. So, how exactly did the actor get into the mind of his murderous character? As he told TheWrap, he connected some of Sam’s qualities to a ““younger version of” himself:

“There are aspects of his character which are very teenage, like his ability to deal well with a situation where he doesn’t feel comfortable. I think just the way that somebody pours into themselves, the way their speech patterns change and the way that they’re able to conceal that — I think he’s very bad at concealing that.”

That certainly shows when Sam is on-screen, and it could be the very thing that gives Alan an opening to escape. After all, who’s better at reading people than a therapist? And as much as viewers can feel for Sam, they won’t be rooting for him in the end — for the very reasons Gleeson describes.

New episodes of The Patient stream every Tuesday on Hulu.