Mads Mikkelsen led the cast of the NBC show as Hannibal Lecter; the story largely serves as a prequel to the novels by Thomas Harris and explore the relationship between Hannibal and the FBI profiler Will Graham. While borrowing elements from the 2006 novel, the series has generally not explored the backstories of the protagonists, instead focusing on the origins of their relationship and how it has affected those around them.
Analyzing the television series, the actor explained how the creative team tried to distinguish his performance from previous ones
In honor of his role in Indiana Jones and the Quadrant of Destiny, Mads Mikkelsen sat down with GQ to describe its most iconic characters. In particular, the actor explained why the writers refused to explore his backstory, believing that the series would become “mundane”:
“We didn’t want him to be a classic psychopath. If so, then we’ll dive into his past, into what happened to him, “Oh, there was something”. It becomes a trivial story that could have been resolved soon, but we didn’t like the idea of figuring out his journey, we just wanted it to be that, and not a classic psychopath. We wanted him to be a man with emotion and empathy, but unlike the show’s protagonist, Will Graham, who is not in control of his empathy, he has too much, Hannibal is in complete control of when to have it and when to give it. They’re like a yin-yang situation, that was the whole idea of the show, that they just revolved around it, and eventually something had to happen, and it did.”
As a note Mikkelsenthe decision to explore the history of Hannibal would have been original, giving the protagonist an emotional rationale for his murders without the deeper psychological themes the original novels were praised for. It also reduces the overall legacy to well-tried tropes of the horror genre, bringing it closer to characters like Freddy Krueger o Jason Voorhees rather than the elevated horror it enjoyed to begin with.
Season 3 would have adapted some elements of Hannibal Rising, especially Lecter’s story, but took a better approach, keeping many details vague, except the confirmation of his sister’s fate, although it’s not clear if it happened in the same way as the prequel novel and film. By restoring the mystique of the character without fully retconning an entire source material, the creator Bryan Fuller proved to be one of the best visionaries behind the adaptation of the novels by Harris.