Following his Emmy-nominated breakout role as serial killer Ed Kemper on Mindhunter, Cameron Britton is once again playing a real-life person in trouble with the law. This time, however, he’s taking on the story of Richard Jewell, who was wrongfully accused of being responsible for the deadly 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing, on Deadly Games, season two of the Spectrum Original anthology series Manhunt.
During the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, a bomb killed one person and injured hundreds. Jewell, who was a security guard at the time, discovered the bomb and was able to get the area cleared of spectators before it detonated. Despite his heroic act, he quickly became the FBI’s main person of interest and the center of a media circus when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution identified him as a suspect.
While Britton, who is 33 years old, was not familiar with the story, he mentioned he was playing Jewell to those that were. “There were folks who thought that Jewell still did it, which definitely inspired me to do the best I could to tell this story -- a story that needs to be told,” the actor tells ET. "What makes it so compelling," he continues, is that the story is incredibly long and elaborate. There are a lot of factors going into it. The media side, the FBI side, the ATF side. It’s definitely stranger than fiction.”
So interesting that it was also recently told in the 2019 Clint Eastwood film Richard Jewell, with Paul Walter Hauser in the same role. Britton says the 10-episode series, however, “fills out the story.” In addition to Jewell’s experiences with the FBI and the press, it also shows the hunt for the elusive serial bomber, Eric Rudolph, who ultimately pleaded guilty to the terrorist attack.
Britton goes on to explain that Deadly Games is also a reminder “that being a hero has nothing to do with being in a cape or a chiseled jawline,” he says. “It’s simply heading towards adversity. And we don’t really know how we’ll act when something traumatic like a bomb goes off. Like, what would you do? And Jewell ran towards that bomb.”
“Even though by his demeanor and his looks, you wouldn’t call him a hero initially, it’s a great reminder that heroes are in our hearts,” the actor says.
In addition to the story itself, Deadly Games also included a welcome opportunity to work alongside Judith Light, who is no stranger to true-crime series, having earned an Emmy nomination for her work in The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story. On the Spectrum series, she portrays Jewell’s mother, Bobbi. “It’s really an extraordinary piece of work,” Light says of Deadly Games. “It is quite remarkable, and I feel very fortunate to be able to do that as well.”
Britton says that watching her on set was a huge learning experience. He recalls how impressed he was when she came to the first table read in a wig that she bought at a department store and was in tears in front of all the executives while reading the script. Light was “so warm and loving,” he says, adding that it was like having another mother on set. “I felt like I could tell her everything. And I hope to work with her many times again.”
Britton’s role as Jewell marks this third major TV series, following Netflix’s Mindhunter and playing Hazel on the adaptation of The Umbrella Academy, which also streams on the platform. While he couldn’t tease anything about season two of the superhero series (“I’m tease-less,” he says), he’s dismayed about not being able to play Kemper again. After earning an Emmy nomination for season one, he briefly reprised the role on season two of the true-crime drama, which has been put on “indefinite hold” while director and executive producer David Fincher prioritizes other projects. “I try not to think about it. I would be lying if I pretended like I’m not sad. I miss that cast and crew and that character,” the actor says.
“It’s certainly interesting -- you don’t know which characters you’ll miss or you’d like to get a beer with. As weird as it was, Kemper was fun and easy. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a giant genius with no feelings? But Jewell is the hardest project I’ve ever done,” Britton says.
Manhunt: Deadly Games is now available on Spectrum’s On Demand platform.