Dakota Fanning Reveals What She'd Tell Her Younger Self and Reflects on First TV Role (Exclusive)

The 26-year-old actress reflects on her first TV role 20 years ago.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Dakota Fanning's first TV role. In 2000, the actress guest starred on an episode of NBC's ER when she was 6 years old, and remembers it "like it was yesterday."

"My character was named Delia. I was in a car accident, they found out that I had leukemia," Fanning recalls to ET's Keltie Knight of her character. "The props people gave me a whole, real medical kit at the end. Like, a neck brace, and they gave me all the all the props to take and play with. I literally thought it was Christmas Day."

The 26-year-old starlet says she remembers "that feeling of fun and that feeling of excitement" while on set of the hospital drama. "I was very young to watch ER, but at the same time, it was a show that my family watched, so I was familiar with the story."

As for what she'd tell her 6-year-old self, Fanning would stress "never forgetting to sort of soak in the fun of it all and the excitement and to not lose that kind of child."

Decades later, Fanning has a thriving acting career and is now returning to star in the second season of TNT's The Alienist alongside Daniel Brühl and Luke Evans. This time around, former police department secretary Sara Howard (Fanning) has opened up her own private detective agency and has reunited with Dr. Kreizler (Brühl), the alienist, and John Moore (Evans), who is now a New York Times reporter, to try to find the Spanish Consular's kidnapped infant daughter.

Evans tells ET that the story will resonate with audiences because the struggles in 1890s New York City are quite similar to what society is facing now. "For everybody who watches it, you see the fight isn't over, and the fight began a long time ago," he explains. "But it's very interesting to see it portrayed such a long time ago and to see that we not might have come as far as some other avenues."

Brühl agrees, noting, "There's so many things you can explore about New York, about the society back then, about the similarities between then and nowadays. It was a very fascinating journey."

Fanning adds that it was fun for her to play such an independent woman in that time period. 

"You see [Sara's] detective agency sign and you see the young women that she's kind of mentoring, but at the same time, it's not all roses for her," she shares. "You still see the inequality that she's facing and not being taken seriously and being considered a lady detective."

Fanning adds, "I think that's something I also love about the show, is it is very progressive and it is very forward-thinking and modern, but at the same time, the reality of the time is still very present. It's not just an easy road for everyone."

The Alienist: Angel of Darkness, based on the bestselling book by Caleb Carr, premieres July 19 on TNT.