The biggest thing about The Stranger‘s Carl E. that DeHaan’s eye was his complexity. As the actor explained in an April 2020 interview with Collider, he was intrigued to delve deep into the dark role, fleshing out the character as much as he could and digging through the many layers of Carl’s characterization in hopes of ultimately discovering the motivations behind his actions.
“I just think he really fascinated me. I remember when I first read [the script for The Stranger], I think I only had like the first, maybe let’s say five episodes, so I didn’t understand why he was doing what he was doing. That was my main question that I had with Veena and in my conversations with her. […] Why is this guy doing these things?” DeHaan told Collider. “In the series itself, you really learn a lot about this guy as the series goes along and his motivations are quite fascinating. They just make a lot of sense. And for me, I learned a lot about different things, algorithms, all sorts of things to why this guy’s doing what he’s doing.”
In trying to understand Carl and make him a more well-rounded character, DeHaan sought to distance him from Hollywood’s cookie-cutter villains. “He turned out to be much more fleshed-out character than just your stereotypical evil guy that he seems like in the first few episodes,” said DeHaan.