As Dr. Hannibal Lecter, actor Mads Mikkelsen knows how to make a bloody exit. In the Season 2 finale of "Hannibal," the good doctor, in a series of confrontations, seemingly left his friends and colleagues for dead. He stabbed Jack in the neck with a glass shard. His puppet, Abigail Hobbs, pushed Alana out a second-story window, after which Hannibal slit Abigail's throat and gutted Will. The serial killer then seemed to savor his handiwork as he and his psychiatrist Bedelia Du Maurier sipped some bubbly on a first-class flight to Europe.
Season 3 kicks off with Hannibal forging a new life in Italy. However, he apparently cannot leave Will -- or his cannibalistic appetite -- behind.
On the Toronto set of "Hannibal," Mikkelsen spoke with journalists about his character's continuing obsession with Will, his relationship with Bedelia, the Red Dragon and why audiences hate to love his character.
Season 2 ended with a horrific bloodbath. Does Hannibal feel guilty about attempting to murder his friends, or was it simply circumstances and bad timing?
Mads Mikkelsen: It could not be any other way. In Hannibal's world, that was the ending. He gave Will a chance to come out and be honest. Will chose the other version, so that was the ending. Hannibal doesn't feel guilty. He's sad it had to happen. It's a little like God, when he puts insects on the human race, or floods the whole planet. He's not happy about it, but it had to be done. "Guilt" is not a big word in Hannibal's life.
There's a temptation, though. Hannibal doesn't have to send Will a Valentine's Day card.
He can't help himself. He can't imagine a life without Will, and he can't imagine life without Will trying to chase him down. It's all part of his life. At least he knows Will is thinking about him. He can't help it. If life is not a game, it's definitely something that has to be amusing every single day.
In this season, we are going to see Hannibal in Florence and Italy. He's also going to be in prison for the first time. How was it, playing those two sides?
It's part of Hannibal's life. Hannibal has no obvious problems going to jail. He has a vast memory palace. He can close his eyes and he'll be somewhere else. It would also be an interesting challenge. He's always curious what's around the corner. It's not the end of the world if he goes to jail. He does like his freedom, of course. He loves being in Paris and Florence. He gets to do stuff he hasn't done in years. If that changes, he has something up his sleeve. He has his memory palace.
Hannibal and Bedelia start the year off together. What are we going to learn about their dynamic?
We touch on their past. We get to know a little bit about how they met and why they have this strange, kinky story going on. It's not a healthy relationship. In a strange way, it's distant, but it's also intimate because they are who they are.
There's a new serial killer on the prowl. What does Hannibal see in the Red Dragon that compels him to serve as a mentor?
The vanity is always there. Some would call it jealousy, that there's a new kid in town getting all the attention. That's part of it, but the most important part is, it's a way to get to Will. Hopefully, one day Will will come and visit me in jail and he [the Red Dragon] might be my ticket. That's the engine, and that's the gasoline, for Hannibal having any interest in this man. It's all about Will. He's obsessed with Will, and that's the most important person in his life, whether he's dead or alive.
You've brought such swagger to Hannibal. Are you aware of how conflicted the audience must feel with liking Hannibal when they shouldn't?
I'm very aware of that. It's one of my favorite things, not only about the show, but also about my favorite films. I had that vivid experience the first time I saw "Taxi Driver." That film has always been a huge inspiration for me in the sense I left the theatre with a feeling of not liking this guy, but at the same time, liking him. It was really complex and frustrating, because I was used to having bad and good. That was easy. Give the good guy an Oscar. When it gets muddled-up, you get confused. We might even see our own reflections. We want to do the good thing, but we don't always do it. Obviously, those kinds of characters are very interesting and to a degree, very human.
Can you talk about some of the research and preparation required to portray such a Renaissance man with so many skills?
He's very difficult to research. Obviously, you have the books and you've got the films. Because we are not doing what the other films are doing, we can't really be inspired by that. The books can give you an insight. He's just a man embracing the moment. He's living in the moment. He has no time for bad wine or boring people. You don't have to research for that. He's doing what the rest of us should have done our whole life, except for the part of killing, but embracing life. Every second is an opportunity of beauty.
The food is a key element and a metaphor for how Hannibal is. In your life, what does cooking represent for you?
On many levels Hannibal Lecter is the exact opposite of me. He's an enjoyer of a lot of things. In my life, I'm more of a consumer. Food is for eating. I can definitely enjoy really good food, but I'm not a foodie in any way. I would not be able to talk about a bottle of wine for an hour. I would have to drink it. He's very different from me when it comes to that. Again, there are a lot of things I don't necessarily have in common with the character, but there's a lot of things I find fascinating about him and I like about the man.
What does it mean, to be involved in a TV series with such a cult following?
I guess it's interesting in the sense we don't feel it all the time, unless you go on the Internet and see how people react to it. Then you will feel it's a cult show. But we're not aware of it while shooting it, and we shouldn't be. We should do what we think is right and then we'll just have to wait and see how people react.
But when you eventually meet the fans, or the Fannibals as they call themselves, it's quite an impact. It's nothing I've ever seen before with anything else I've ever done. They almost have a whole-life dedication to it that is fantastic and interesting. Without them, we wouldn't have a show, so we're grateful.
Season 3 of "Hannibal" debuts Thursday, June 4 at 9pm on NBC.