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PBJ Talks to Eric Roberts and Elisabeth Rohm About Killer's Vault

· Time to read: ~5 min

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A new kind of true crime show is launching on June 28th.  Narrated by Elisabeth Rohm of Law & Order and read by actor Eric Roberts the Killer’s Vault will reveal the contents of never before seen correspondence from famous serial killers.

The Killer’s Vault is the first official release of more than 10,000 never-before-seen personal letters, and hundreds of hours of phone recordings, artwork, journal excerpts, and unpublished books from some of America’s most notorious serial killers, including John Wayne Gacy, Charles Manson, David Berkowitz, Richard Ramirez and more. Listen to the Season One Trailer here.

Season One includes six episodes about Gerard Schaefer, John Wayne Gacy, Richard Ramirez, David Alan Gore, and ‘Toolbox Killers’ Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris.

The contents of the collection have been cataloged and archived by owners and curators Dr. David Adamovich and Lynn Wheat over 20 years in the hope that one day it might be used to help understand the minds of serial killers and to aid in their capture.

Podcast Business Journal spoke to Elisabeth Rohm and Eric Roberts for this story.

Elisabeth Rohm the narrator has a very personal connection to true crime. She says her uncle was murdered when he was a teenager and it scarred her mom so deeply that even though she never met her uncle, his loss left a deep imprint on her, and she became curious about the mind of a killer.

“You’re gonna find out about a lot of deep personal trauma, and the shocking extent of their (the killers) mental illness while approaching it from a deeply empathetic point of view,” she says of the series. The series was harrowing for her to narrate and she thinks it will be for the audience as well. Her theory about why people are attracted to true crime is that it’s like “putting on a new totally foreign persona.”

Additionally, she will speak with original case investigators, surviving victims, as well as friends, family, and associates of both the victims and killers to share their stories and “understand the criminal mind like never before!”

I spoke not only with Eric Roberts but his wife Eliza who told me that she actually would sometimes leave the building when Eric was reading the letters because it unnerved her so much. Having listened to a few of his recordings I can verify that is extremely creepy to hear him chuckle in a killer’s voice about something sick and twisted.

One of the things Eric wanted me to know was that this series is not an exploitation of the killers but it’s a way to understand these broken people who he believes were abused as children.

Eric Roberts: They are broken and set out in the world and they do these things and oh my god, they are remembered forever. They weren’t taken care of properly, and look what happened.  The whole thing is very valuable (for understanding) if we do it properly, and I believe we are, and I’m just proud to be a part of it.

He told me he can’t really get into the mind of a killer but says “he can imagine it and can play it and I can play-act it and have done it well.”

His wife Eliza adds that “the thing that these killers have in common is the compulsions they could not ignore, and I think what I’ve seen Eric do is tap into his extremely mild, normal range version of the psychology and let it grow inside him. Their compulsions are incredibly grotesque and horrific, but everyone has fixations, and I think that’s where you find the common ground.” 

At that point, Eric cut in, “Yeah. but it’s sort of hard to explain that to people.”

Despite the fact that he’s played serial killers before Eric never really followed the stories of any of them with the exception of the Summer of Sam Killer in 1977 because he was in New York. He says his baby sisters (Julia Roberts and Lisa Roberts Gillian) visited him in New York at that time and “they were scared to death” he tells me. When it would get dark they would get scared of shadowy figures, “Is that him there? That could be him,” they would say.

On working with director Bob Fosse and playing a killer in Star 80 in 1983:

Eric Roberts: “Paul Snyder was not a favorite role. It was memorable. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life and it was not fun. Bob Fosse was a great leader, and even though it’s an overused and abused word, he was a genius. And once you work with a genius, you realize two things, that you’re not one and that they are very, very, very unusual people. He directed me to a great performance and I understand who I played in that movie, but I don’t understand serial killers because they’re bizarre and so sad.”

One final lesson that he took away from the production was for people to understand “how important it is to give respect to a child just like we would to a peer.”

Killer’s Vault Season One launches June 28th.

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