You've heard of the Unabomber, but the name James Fitzgerald may not ring a bell. That's why Discovery's new series Manhunt: Unabomber is putting the spotlight back on Fitzgerald, the FBI agent and criminal profiler who caught Ted Kaczynski. The show follows Fitzgerald from 1995 when he joins the investigation to the Unabomber's 1996 capture to the trial the following year, and what James "Fitz" Fitzgerald is doing now won't come as a surprise to you when you look back on his career.
Discovery's eight-episode series, premiering August 1, gives an in-depth look at how Fitzgerald, played by Avatar's Sam Worthington, took down the Unabomber using forensic linguistics. At the time, it was a new and unorthodox way to find suspects that put Fitzgerald at odds with his co-workers. However, ultimately, it was the key to solving the case, which Newsweek said was "one of the longest and most expensive manhunts in FBI history."
Fitzgerald retired from the FBI in 2007, according to his website, after a noteworthy career where he worked on the JonBenét Ramsey murder investigation, the D.C. sniper case, and the anthrax investigation. But, as you might expect from someone with so many serious projects to his name, Fitzgerald isn't exactly done working, because he still helps with cases at the FBI Academy.
He's also been the technical advisor to the CBS TV series Criminal Minds, which focuses on a team of FBI profilers trying to catch criminals through behavioral profiling. In a 2009 interview with the Centre For Linguistic Forensics, Fitzgerald said,
"On the whole I believe the show is very much true to form in terms of real life, the only exception being of course, that the crime is solved in 42 minutes, or even a few days and weeks of TV time. That is less common in the real world."
On top of that, he's written three books as part of his four-part memoir series Journey to the Center Of The Mind, which look at his time as an FBI agent. His latest, Journey to the Center Of The Mind: The "First Ten" FBI Years, has him writing about his first assignment after graduating from the FBI Academy — which just so happened to be the Unabomber case.
Last week, at the Manhunt: Unabomber panel at the Television Critic's Association (TCA), Worthington admitted that he used Fitzgerald's books to give him insight into the character. That was because he wanted to wait a long time before meeting Fitzgerald, out of fear that the retired FBI agent would profile him before he got a chance to do the same. When they finally sat down together, Worthington said he was looking to portray him "warts and all." Fitzgerald, on the other hand, was focused on making sure the facts were correct — like letting Worthington know that he’s left handed, not right.
After all, Fitzgerald knows that it's those little details that could lead to big discoveries.