Producers didn’t get the rights to reference Hannibal Lecter in the new series “Clarice.” But that didn’t bother them in the least.
“The event that happened in ‘Silence of the Lambs’ was a doorway into Clarice,” co-star Michael Cudlitz explains. The new CBS series isn’t an extension of that moment. “It’s about her experiences.”
Set in 1993, “Clarice” details the agent after her close encounter with the serial killer.
For Rebecca Breeds, the actress who plays Clarice Starling, picking up after the Oscar-winning film was freeing. To help viewers make the connection between her Clarice and Jodie Foster’s, she focused on the accent.
“I wanted really badly to echo the voice because it’s that comfort, that familiarity that … will link the two worlds in a really beautiful way,” Breeds says. The West Virginian Appalachian accent that she used also helps the Australian make a break from the show’s dark material. “It’s a nice on and off switch.”
To expand the “Silence of the Lambs” world, producers have given Starling a host of other characters to play off.
“As we were writing it, the tagline we had in our minds kept pushing itself to the foreground: ‘The Silence is Over,’” Executive Producer Alex Kurtzman says. “This was our compass. We just really didn't want to tread territory that’s been done so well by so many others.”
Catherine Martin, a character who was abducted in “The Silence of the Lambs,” is in the series, too. Played by Marnee Carpenter, she’s another one who is trying to move on from the trauma of the original. “It’s about continuing to let this boiling warrior come out,” says Carpenter. “She’s not about playing things safe. She is not a wallflower. She’s coming at you.”
Devyn Tyler, who plays a Black agent in a white-dominated FBI world, sees the series as a way to address issues that faced minorities some 30 years ago. “There’s a lot of new space to expand so we can see how (her character) Ardelia moves…and lives.”
“Clarice” also gives Starling a chance to deal with new-found fame. “What’s it like to be sort of suddenly famous for saving a life and defeating a monster?” Executive Producer Jenny Lumet says. “(Author) Thomas Harris' world is so lasting and popular…it’s kind of like you get to add your instrument to the symphony.”
Although the “Clarice” shoot was put on hold for more than half a year due to coronavirus concerns, cast members got to bond over Zoom and establish what Kurtzman calls a “long-standing dynamic.”
Starling butts up against Cudlitz’s character, Paul Krendler, who doesn’t want to cut her a break in the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program.
“It’s so excruciating, but it’s so relevant,” Breeds says. I’ve been through this in my own life – not being taken seriously – and I think we have a long way to go to really trust each other and develop that mutual respect.”
Adds Cudlitz: “We’re going to learn together. And we’re not necessarily going to like the lessons we learn.”
Starling’s real concern: “What if she was a one-hit wonder and now she’s a liability?” Breeds says. “It’s a very interesting dynamic for both of them.”
“Clarice” is now airing on CBS.