Why Domhnall Gleeson Thinks The Patient's Sam Fortner Is 'Relatable'

Okay, I know what you are thinking. Isn't "The Patient" about someone who kidnaps their therapist? Why yes, it is, which is why it might seem strange that actor Domhnall Gleeson — who plays the titular patient, Sam — describes his character as "relatable."

However, let's hear him out before jumping to conclusions. To promote the upcoming limited series on Hulu, Gleeson spoke to The New York Post about his complicated character. As we outlined in /Film's review of the show, Sam is a young man that is seeing Dr. Alan Strauss (Steve Carrell) for treatment for his intense compulsions. However, Gleeson's character isn't the person he claims to be, and his compulsions aren't as straightforward as Dr. Strauss thinks they are. Sam is a serial killer with the neverending desire to murder others, and in order to finally rid himself of these compulsions, he locks his therapist in his basement and demands he cure him once and for all.

So, what's so relatable about this situation? According to Gleeson, it is because Sam as a character recognizes his own evil but seemingly can't find a way to stop it. At the same time, though, he also wants to save himself from as many consequences as he can.

"There's this huge thing," Gleeson explains. "He 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."

Self-improvement without consequences

It is true that he could just turn himself in and admit his guilt, but that wouldn't make for a particularly engaging show. What is engaging, though, is hearing how Gleeson compares Sam's conflict with smaller, more normal ones that regular people deal with every day. "I think that's very relatable for a lot of people," the actor said. "Everyone is selfish and most people are trying to be better people — but this is pushing that to the furthest extreme."

He actually makes a pretty compelling point. While many people might recognize their misdeeds or undesirable traits, they might not want to risk getting hurt themselves if they confront them head-on. It's an act of self-preservation, one that eventually needs to be broken in order to truly heal or improve.

Unfortunately, Sam is a character that wants to atone for his crimes without hurting himself or his reputation in the process. That is why he finds himself in the predicament he started, which will be charted throughout the series. "You see that Sam has a temper, that he has struggles, and you see he's messed up in lots of ways," Gleeson mused about his character, "but his lack of control, and the awfulness of what that is ... that's hidden beneath the dialogue and covered up."

"The Patient" premieres August 30 on Hulu.