Hannibal Tests the Bounds of Network Tv Violence

By Sean Plummer

April 11, 2013 6:45 PM


Lara Jean Chorostecki does not protest when I describe her Hannibal character as a creep. The Brampton, ON native plays tabloid reporter Freddie Lounds on the new TV show, which explores the budding partnership between FBI profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen). Graham, obviously, does not yet know that Dr. Lecter is both a serial killer and a cannibal.

“I like that she doesn’t care what people think, and it’s kind of a fun alter ego,” Chorostecki says of Lounds. “I’m very Canadian. I love animals, I like to hike, I love the outdoors, and here I’m playing someone who is so 100% for herself, so sociopathic, so just out to get ahead and doesn’t really care what happens in the meantime. And being able to explore – really, let’s call it what it is – such an unlikeable character is so freeing as an actor, and so much fun.”

Modelled loosely on disgraced News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks, Lounds makes her memorable debut on this week’s episode by posting illegally-obtained crime scene photos on her website She also outs Will Graham’s involvement in an investigation, and, in one taut scene, unwisely tries to glean information from Lecter by posing as a potential patient – a scenario which could potentially put the curious blogger in harm’s way.

“He’s very generous as a scene partner, and I’m so in awe of his work in general,” Chorostecki says of Mikkelsen, citing the Danish superstar’s films The Hunt, A Royal Affair, and “of course” Casino Royaleas favourites. “He’s so subtle in his work, yet you understand every single emotion that he’s portraying, and I think that is the mark of an excellent actor. He can say [something] with the slightest intonation, he can move his face in the slightest way and you can know everything that’s going on inside of him.”

Hannibal is of course inspired by the works of author Thomas Harris who introduced the Graham and Lecter characters in his 1981 novel Red Dragon. Lounds also appears in Red Dragon, although he does not survive to be seen in Harris’s next Lecter novel, The Silence of the Lambs (1988).

Chorostecki was familiar with both previous cinematic iterations of Lounds – Stephen Lang (Avatar) played him in Manhunter (1986); Philip Seymour Hoffman in Red Dragon (2002) – but is not worried about comparisons.

“Because she’s a she now there’s so much freedom in this role,” Chorostecki says. “You could compare my performance to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s, but it would kind of be a moot point because they are so different, just in gender alone. And women trying to get ahead in the world are different from men trying to get ahead in the world. There’s no two ways about it.”

Like the various films made from Harris’s Lecter novels, Hannibal, which sees Lecter and Graham collaborating to track down a variety of killers from episode to episode, does not stint on its depictions of violence, fully justifying its 10 p.m. timeslot.

Asked what she thinks about such graphic images on network TV, as opposed to the more liberal environs of cable, Chorostecki says: “I think it is a debate that is important. But Hannibal has a very filmic feel to it, and the way TV is moving is in that direction. And if we want network TV to be on par with the quality of cable, we need to kind of step it up and raise the bar.”

Chorostecki credits showrunner Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies, Dead Like Me) with imbuing Hannibalwith an intelligence and artfulness which if it does not mitigate the impact of the blood spilled, at least justifies its use perhaps more than in other police procedurals.

“I think that is what Bryan has really done here is to raise that bar and say, ‘Look, we can explore this psychological aspect on TV.’ I think he’s also, with the filmic and surreal aspects that he’s added to the show, it doesn’t lessen the graphicness or goriness of the show, but it certainly makes it a little more psychological, a little more compelling; a little less in-your-face gore.”

Asked to relate a story that typifies her experience making Hannibal, Chorostecki talks about the “amazing... but disturbing” work of the show’s prosthetics and special effects department which turns out gruesome crime victims each episode.

“It’s such dark subject matter. And the hair & makeup ladies in our trailer put up pictures of some of these special effects and prosthetics work. But everyone is smiling in these pictures and everyone is making a silly face. And I think that really encompasses what this experience was like, because everybody was so humble and so down to earth yet we were delving into such intense, dark matter. And that was really the juxtaposition of working on this show, was being able to go to into a makeup trailer and see these smiling faces wearing awful, awful things.”