Many elements of Maniac, the new Netflix original limited series, leave the audience feeling off-kilter and even a little disturbed. But none of them create the same amount of tension as Grimsson, the imaginary “brother” to Owen (Jonah Hill). We don’t know much about this imaginary person at the beginning, but the amount of discomfort he causes Owen is evident. It’s also immediately clear that he’s the source of conspiracy theories that torture Owen, despite his best efforts to resist them. But who plays Grimsson, a character whose presence lingers long after he’s off-screen? That would be Billy Magnussen. Here’s what you need to know about the actor.
Wait, which one is Grimsson in Maniac?
Let’s be clear: Grimsson is not real. But Grimsson does look exactly like Owen’s real brother, Jed, who’s headed to court. That means it’s more than a little easy to mistake Jed and Grimsson for one another. Grimsson appears to Owen when he’s not around the rest of the family, while Jed only pops up when other members of the clan are around. Grimsson looks disheveled (mostly, although not at the end of the series), Jed is always perfectly coiffed and dressed. But if you want a super simple way to tell the two apart, let it be this: Grimsson wears glasses, Jed does not.
We see Owen prepping to speak in defence of his brother, mostly begrudgingly, throughout most of the show. We get a lot of explanation about Grimsson through this prep. Owen, it’s made clear, is going to have to defend his capacity to understand what’s real and what isn’t, following a past psychotic break. It’s this same event that marks the birth of Grimsson.
Grimsson suddenly appears and seems to be the cause of his “blip” in which he screams at poor unsuspecting Olivia (played by Grace Van Patten). From then on, Grimsson appears now and then to Owen and tells him to look for “the pattern.” Essentially he gets Owen riled up on paranoia from time to time, and he appears throughout the experiences Owen has in the drug trial.
Who is Billy Magnussen?
Although some people were convinced that the actor behind Grimsson was in fact comedian John Early, all the credit for the discomfort the character causes goes to Billy Magnussen. So who is he, and have you seen him before on screen? We break down what you need to know about Billy Magnussen, who also happens to be a funny guy. Though Magnussen is a comedy actor, not a comedian.
You’ve probably seen him in a movie before
Although his name might not sound familiar, within the last four years you might have seen him in Bridge of Spies alongside Tom Hanks, Into The Woods with Anna Kendrick and Emily Blunt (he’s Rapunzel’s beau), as well as Game Night with Rachel McAdams.
He’s in the upcoming live action Aladdin movie
Although we don’t know much beyond the cast of the upcoming live action version of Aladdin (hello, Will Smith as the genie), and the fact that you won’t recognize some of the music in the remake, we do know that Billy Magnussen will be in it. His character, Prince Anders, is a new addition to the storyline that has received its fair share of criticism already considering we know nothing about this role other than the characters name.
He got his start in theater
Billy Magnussen said it was a “blessing” to move from theater into TV and movies when he talked to Vulture about Maniac, but added “though I do miss theater so much.” He made his Broadway debut back in 2007, landing a role in The Ritz. But his big break came with Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. In 2012 he was cast in the play with David Hyde Pierce and Sigourney Weaver. The play was nominated for 6 Tony awards and Magnussen himself was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his role as Spike.
Billy Magnussen is in a band
He guitars plays alongside fellow actor Tom Degnan in the band Reserved for Rondee. It doesn’t look like the band has played many gig since a show earlier this year in Brooklyn, for which the band is described as “more fun than a game of horseshoes with Chuck Norris, more powerful than a 1986 Volvo station wagon, and more dangerous than two four year olds playing chicken on tricycles.” Magnussen sometimes posts updates about the band through his Twitter account.