It has been almost two years since the second to last Hannibal episode, ‘The Number of the Beast is 666,’ aired on NBC. Split Screens Festival brought it back, this time to the big screen for a rewind and discussion. The episode was a brutal one for Raúl Esparza’s Frederick Chilton, who had a run in with the Red Dragon (Richard Armitage) and came out of it a bit crispy around the edges. Raúl was in the audience during the screening and got up on stage afterward to talk about the episode and his experiences on Hannibal with Split Screens creative director Matt Zoller Seitz.
This was the first time that Raúl had actually watched the episode as he admitted he rarely watches his own work. He is too much of a perfectionist and tends to focus more on the things that could have been done differently than the piece as a whole. However, with enough time gone by he said that he was willing to watch it and shared that it was rough for him. No surprise, given Chilton’s brutal treatment at the hands of the Red Dragon.
Apparently the scene with the Red Dragon, where Chilton was glued to a wheelchair and subjected to punishment was actually the first time he had met or worked with Richard Armitage. It was hard, but worked for the scene because they did not have any sort of pretense that may have lessened the intensity. Both actors brought their A game and spent hours working on the terrifying sequence. It was exhausting to watch, I can only imagine how exhausting it must have been to film.
During the discussion there was a lot of love for the crew, specifically props and design for the work they did on Chilton’s burn suit. It took hours in makeup to get into the suit and have it painted up to look burned. Raúl said they had a burn expert come on the set to help with the realism and she was asked about her thoughts on Chilton’s state of being. She looked at him and said, “This man? This man would be dead.”
Despite the rough scenes with the Red Dragon, Raúl admitted that part of the work is finding the humor in the situation. Even Hannibal for all of its gore and dark themes is downright funny, something the audience agreed with during the re-watch, as dramatic pauses and outlandish situations received giggles from those watching.
Moving on to general experiences, Raúl shared that he learned more about how to act for a camera on Hannibal than in any of his other projects. In part he learned a lot from his cast members, who are all talented in their own rights. They had good advice. He also pointed out that there was a lot of freedom on the set to play with scenes. Coming from a theatre background to television can be a big change because in theatre every scene and every line has to be right the first time. On television they can play because if a take isn’t any good, they’ll get it on the next one.
With that in mind, Bryan Fuller encouraged everyone to bring something to their characters. Actors were allowed to float ideas and insert little Easter eggs that people might not pick up, but which brought the actors some sort of joy or depth to their character. For example, Raúl shared that Chilton does not use contractions when he speaks. He explained that as a person he has a tendency to speak pretty quickly and it did not fit the character. Eliminating contractions forced him to speak slowly and provided a distinct cadence that was unique to the character.
These are the kinds of little things that Raúl mentioned in our exclusive interview that are there for people to catch if they are so inclined. They are part of the beauty of screen acting and when fans catch it, it is elating. He ended the panel admitting that he was very proud of the work he did on Hannibal and in particular ‘The Number of the Beast is 666.’
Given Split Screen Festival’s dedication to quality television, it is no surprise that not one but two episodes of Hannibal made the final cut. Raúl said it himself, he can’t believe that Hannibal was actually a television show because it was so high quality and different from a lot of other network shows. We were excited to see it on the big screen and appreciated Raúl’s insights on filming such an intense episode. It was a job well done.