NBC lays out quite a full table when Hannibal premieres on Thursday, April 4 (10/9c), and we thought it would be a good idea to give you a peek at the menu before you belly up to the feast.
Your server for the meal? The cannibalistic Dr. Lecter himself, aka Mads Mikkelsen, the Danish actor best known in the United States for playing a Bond bad guy in 2006′s Casino Royale.
Mikkelsen recently gave a group of reporters some savory scoop on what to expect from Bryan Fuller’s latest drama. So tuck in your napkins and dig in.
THE BROMANCE BEGINS… | As previously reported, Hannibal deals with the relationship between Lecter and FBI profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy, The Big C), characters introduced in Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon novel. (Lecter, of course, later became the centerpiece of Harris’ Silence of the Lambs and its big-screen adaptation.) Mikkelsen says the interaction between the two men, though a bit rocky in the beginning, is rooted in true affection – at least, on Hannibal’s part. “When he sees Will, he recognizes himself to a degree,” the actor says.
Both men have a knack for knowing how other people feel; the difference is, Hannibal can turn the ability on and off. Will “has a lot of empathy, but he has no idea of what to do with it,” Mikkelsen adds. “And that’s a nice opportunity: ‘I will help this young man to open his eyes and see his real potential eventually’… And he also sees an opportunity for a friend, which he’s probably not had too many of.” Despite whatever manipulation may take place, Mikkelsen asserts,”Hannibal really, really loves Will.”
… OR, MORE ACCURATELY, CONTINUES | In real life, Mikkelsen and Dancy have been friends since they both appeared in Antoine Fuqua’s 2004 King Arthur. “We did not have a lot of scenes together. We were basically just sitting on a horse for six months and killing people,” the actor recalls. “I think we all need to feel comfortable when we’re working on the ground that is, as you say, ‘iconic.’ We need to be comfortable around each other. And Hugh is definitely somebody who does that for other people.”
CHOW DOWN | Chef Jose Andres serves as the series’ culinary advisor – which means he tells Fuller & Co. exactly what preparation of human liver goes best with fava beans and a nice chianti. It also means he’s behind the dishes on which Lecter dines. “The [prop] food is [real] food, obviously not human – as far as I know!” Mikkelsen says with a laugh – and dealing with that aspect of shooting hasn’t been as hard to swallow as you might think. “I’ve always been really good at eating anything,” he says. Also helpful: “I have a great metabolism.”
THE ULTIMATE BIG BAD | Mikkelsen has read Harris’ work and seen Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Lecter, but his Hannibal is based on the devilish daddy of them all. “The closest thing I could come to was the Fallen Angel… [who] believes in the beauty of the darkness. That’s so incomprehensible for us. We can’t understand it,” Mikkelsen says. “So was not reading textbooks about mental diseases, I was imagining how it was to be Satan.”
BE ON THE LOOKOUT | Fuller has populated the first season with faces (such as Wonderfalls‘ Caroline Dhavernas, pictured at right) that will be familiar to fans of his other shows, as well as nods to the universe in which Harris’ books take place. Some of these references, Mikkelsen says, are easier to spot than others. “I think Bryan is doing that constantly. If you are a big fan, you will notice something in the set, something in the decoration, a little picture… He’s definitely playing with that idea.”
LADY KILLER | Though he doesn’t have a significant other in the pilot, there’s a good chance women will play a bigger role in Lecter’s life as the story progresses. “He finds them delicious,” Mikkelsen says, laughing, but maintains, “It’s very complicated for him to be in a relationship.”
PAGING AGENT SCULLY | X-Files alum Gillian Anderson will show up later in the season as Lecter’s own therapist. Mikkelsen jokingly characterizes their interaction as “very kinky, but very interesting.” He continues, “There is a strange chemistry going on there. And there is definitely something that has happened between those two that we will know later… we’re not really dealing with it yet, but you know it’s there.”
A CLOSET TO DIE FOR | Turns out, this Hannibal has a killer sartorial sense; his fashion choices lean toward colorful, patterned, high-end pieces that are far from the film character’s jail jumpsuit. “It’s great, and it’s part of the character,” says Mikkelsen, a self-identified “man of Adidas.” The good doctor’s wardrobe is “a very big change for me. You put it on, something happens.”
A RETURN TO FORMAT | Mikkelsen played Allan Fischer in the Danish cop drama Unit 1 in the early 2000s, a gig he says was a little too “politically correct” for his taste. “It was always, we wanted everyone to see us, people who are 8 and 95. And that became really frustrating sometimes, if you wanted to do something more radical.” He’s quick to say that he’s not trying to berate the popular series. “I don’t mind those kind of TV shows. But the corners are round. They are not corners.”
MASKED MAN | Mikkelsen will gladly don the killer’s iconic facemask, if and when that day comes. “I would love to,” he says. “I think that would be fun.”