Mads Mikkelsen talks about his role as Hannibal in the series that explores the early life of Dr Lecter

Anthony Hopkins brought the twisted, Dr Hannibal Lecter to life in Silence of the Lambs. The movie was followed by Hannibal and two prequels Red Dragon and Hannibal Rising. Now it looks like we cannot have enough of our favourite psychopath. Hannibal is a television series from Bryan Fuller starring Mads Mikkelsen (remember him weeping blood as Le Chiffre in Casino Royale?) as Hannibal. The series sets out to explore Hannibal’s life as a respected psychiatrist before he turned to fava beans as an accompaniment to his grisly taste. Hugh Dancy plays FBI profiler Will Graham, who is being treated by Hannibal while Laurence H. Fishburne plays Graham’s boss, Jack Crawford. Mikkelsen and Fishburne share their thoughts on the making of the series and reinterpreting the iconic role. Hannibal is aired every Friday at 10 pm with a repeat telecast on Saturdays at 9 p.m. on AXN.

What drew you to the role?

I think Hannibal is an attractive character. There is something fascinating about the devil. I don’t see him as a sick man; I see him as a devil. And a devil has a purity to what he does. There is something, not only me, but the world has always been fascinated with. If people were just running around smiling and drinking water, there would be no drama.

What were the pressures on taking on the iconic role?

Yes, there was a lot of pressure. We cannot copy what Hopkins has done to perfection. But if we carry around that pressure, it is sure death for us. But this time it is different. We are starting out in a different scenario. We are starting when he is free, he’s a practicing psychiatrist and for this reason, you will see a different Hannibal.

How did you prepare for your role?

I guess every actor brings something different and so will I. My approach is based on a close relationship with writers/directors. We will look at the script and this is what we will try to bring to life. It's not only in my hands. I did the work I always do. I discuss the script a lot and we take it from there. As Hannibal, it's about finding that balance. My challenge is to be honest. It is being as honest as we can with this character.

Do you prefer negative characters? Why?

I would like to put it that there is a lot of fascination for the dark side. I don't know how many biographies have been written about Stalin, Hitler or Mao. We don’t want to embrace it but we want to understand what is going on. Hannibal is not some kind of a killer. He is much closer to being the devil. He finds beauty in what he does. That is not a simple banal reason for it. And I think he also finds himself above it. But I'm not becoming Hannibal. I don't approve of what he's doing. I'm trying to find a parallel world that I do understand.

Do you prefer television or cinema? Why?

I don't see the gap between TV and films. They are just different media, but every film is different, every show is different and you just try to jump into that universe and then have enough conversations with your director and your writer to understand what they want and then you can do your best to join that universe.

What next?

This is taking basically all my time. If I'm not shooting here, I'm preparing for the next scene because the scenes are not yes and no, they are quite elaborate and so we are preparing quite a lot. And after that, I will spend some time with the family.