‘Hannibal’ TV Series Greenlit: Casting The Horror Icon

The last we saw of Hannibal Lecter, he was disappointing critics and audiences in 2006’s “Hannibal Rising.” Managers of the brand would be excited to get past that unfortunate stage, which just might happen now that NBC has ordered 13 episodes of Bryan Fuller’s “Hannibal,” a show that will supposedly explore Lecter’s nascent mentoring relationship with FBI agent Will Graham, the original protagonist of the “Hannibal” franchise.

Appropriate for NBC’s ever-active search to capture the zeitgeist, it will be a contemporary take. But who should the Peacock Network cast to play the iconic cannibal? We came up with a list of five actors who we’d like to see in the role.

Benedict Cumberbatch
Fine, fine, we will recommend Cumberbatch for everything. But come on! It would be a perfect fit — he’s shown enough charm and suave to pull off Lecter’s insidious swagger, and he’s trained enough to embody the full facets of the cannibalistic psyche. With roles in the “Star Trek” sequel and “The Hobbit” set to break him stateside, this would be a big leap forward and sure to collect him a bunch of Golden Globes. If everyone loved Michael C. Hall’s performance on “Dexter,” couldn’t Cumberbatch reasonably appropriate the same effect for a network audience?

Michael Emerson
Since finishing “Lost” in 2010, Emerson’s been stalking new unwitting civilians on “Person of Interest.” We’d like to steal him away from that show for “Hannibal.” The detached creepiness of Benjamin Linus isn’t too far from the detached creepiness of Lecter, though of course Ben never ate people — he just kidnapped and tortured them in his intense game of psychological warfare. Tomato, to-mah-to, it’s all there, and we’d love to see him get his shine as the horror icon.

Giancarlo Esposito
Fresh off his stint as the diabolical mastermind Gus Fring in “Breaking Bad,” Esposito probably wouldn’t want to return to another ascetically cold-hearted character so soon. But after a career of playing excellent supporting characters, he could just decide to go for the money and the acclaim with a role that, in all honesty, he would knock out of the park. The color change would be controversial to some, but you know, get over it.

Jared Harris
Harris is devilishly sly as Lane Pryce in “Mad Men” and Moriarty in “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” balancing British whimsy with a more reserved darkness that doesn’t always manifest itself in the most obvious ways. In the role of the chilling Lecter, he would entertain us with his wryness while keeping us guessing about his real motivations. And how good does he look in those tailored suits? Such a proper dandy.

Ben Foster
The TV show may go younger and hotter, because it’s television. In that case, casting executives should look to Ben Foster, who’s previously dazzled with a number of supporting roles in movies like “3:10 to Yuma,” “The Messenger,” and the recently released “Rampart.” The jump to television could be the perfect vehicle to break his brand of crazy and collected cool. With his physique, they could easily market to the tween crowd eager to cheer for a sexy cannibal, because that’s where America is these days. God help us all.

Tell us who you would cast as Hannibal in the comments section and on Twitter!