Return of the Dragon: Richard Armitage talks Dolarhyde on “HANNIBAL” Season Three!


With Bryan Fuller taking his shot at editing FANGORIA #343, the wait for HANNIBAL to return has become an even more difficult endeavor for fright fans. However, Fuller was able to sneak FANGORIA onto the set of HANNIBAL last month, and we were able to catch up with the brilliant cast of the surreal series. Our next chat was with HANNIBAL’s most recent addition to its prestigious cast, as Richard Armitage let FANGORIA dig our claws into the latest iteration of Francis Dolarhyde…

FANGORIA: What can you tell us about Francis Dolarhyde and where he fits into HANNIBAL’s third season?

RICHARD ARMITAGE: I don’t quite know where he fits in. It’s probably going to take me about 4 or 5 hours to talk about the character. One of the things I love about this character is the detail with which Thomas Harris treats him in RED DRAGON, which has become a real bible for every day on set here. I think the main thing that fascinated me with the writing that Thomas did and what Bryan Fuller has done is that it’s figuring out the crimes of a psychopath, and then giving the character such an interesting, rich history with which to find a very winding, tormented path to that destination.

I haven’t seen or been on set for any of the aftermath or any of the murders that this character has committed, which has been really interesting because I feel like when the character is in that persona, his brain is different. He doesn’t recall what he’s done. That’s why he films it and he watches it back. We played one scene where he’s watching footage of the crime, and it was really disturbing for me to see that, and, as the character, to not comprehend what he’d done, and for him to feel that it was badly filmed and that it was badly executed.

FANGORIA: What kind of preparation did you do for the role?

ARMITAGE: I had 10 days to read the novel and completely change my body shape to become like the bodybuilder that Thomas Harris describes. Yeah, I did quite a bit of training, but 10 days is just not enough time. In the book, he’s described as a bodybuilder, so I took his military history, I took my own physique, and I took the psychology of someone that wasn’t happy with themselves and was trying to become better. We put him somewhere in the middle of that.

There’s a lot of stuff going on here with Francis. It was interesting because I didn’t speak for the first episode. You don’t hear him really utter any words. His speech is slowly evolved throughout the 6 episodes, until the end when he’s eulogizing in very succinct, poetic, gothic ways. It’s been interesting.

FANGORIA: Were you familiar with Tom Noonan’s performance in MANHUNTER?

ARMITAGE: I should be, but I wasn’t. I’d seen the film a long time ago, probably when I shouldn’t have when I was about 14 or younger. But I deliberately didn’t go back and watch, because I know that both Ralph Fiennes and Tom Noonan created iconic characters, and I needed to create my own iconography, so we were looking for that.

It is difficult because Thomas Harris’ description is so specific that ultimately you will end up playing the same role. Because he describes down to the finest stitch what his mask is made out of, we needed to think of a kind of iconography for the character which was unique and specific to this show, and we created a great artistic tattoo for the character. Even the way that the cleft palate is executed on my face is very specific to me and to his history.

FANGORIA: What is Dolarhyde’s relationship to Will and Hannibal? How does he differ from them?

ARMITAGE: Dolarhyde is somebody that’s tethered by his past. It’s like he’s trying to tread a path where he’s kind of tied to his past but it’s also shaping the way that his life is going, as we all would. But his past is so damaged that it’s like a hair follicle.

What he doesn’t realize is that he becomes kind of a bargaining tool between Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter, in an over-simplistic way. Of course, Dolarhyde doesn’t really know that. He only really knows the context that he has with Hannibal, which is a very fine thread. But of course, Hannibal’s psychology can be used to get inside Dolarhyde’s mind.

FANGORIA: Francis has some iconic moments in the novel. How curious were you about what would get translated to the small screen?

ARMITAGE: Yeah. It’s interesting because I read the book before I saw any of the HANNIBAL episodes, and I read it a couple of times. It’s quite a quick read, actually. Then I went back and watched seasons one and two. There were a couple of moments that I thought, “Oh, they’ve already played that. They’ve already played these lines.” But Bryan’s managed to pull out pretty much every single great detail that Thomas Harris wrote. Even if it’s been played before, he’s reinventing it in a slightly different context.

Dolarhyde is very physical, more so than I imagined. I think one of the things about playing someone that is insane is that you can’t detect insanity from looking at somebody, and to reveal insanity on screen, it has to have some kind of physical manifestation and a linguistic manifestation. I think insanity is incredibly difficult to write because we look for logic in text and we look for continuity. What you have to do is make him abstract and discontinuous, so that’s what we’ve done. I have no idea what any of this is going to turn out like. It’s been a big experiment.

FANGORIA: How was your experience working on a TV show like HANNIBAL?

ARMITAGE: I’ve been afforded a great deal of voice [on HANNIBAL]. It’s been a very democratic forum, so every idea that I’ve had and every thought I’ve had about the character has been embraced by the writers, the costume designers, the set designers, the stunt coordinator, and the director. When you’re given that opportunity, your brain starts to work in much more detail. I know that Bryan’s obsession with detail has definitely had an influence on me. Down to the way that the blood on my knuckles is positioned after a fight with the dragon, every detail is thought about and considered, and I’ve really enjoyed that.

FANGORIA: Was there ever a discussion about how to handle Dolarhyde’s redemptive side?

ARMITAGE: Yeah. It’s a difficult one when you think you know how it ends. I always knew that there would be an ending that’s going to be slightly different to the book, and it is different to the book. Bryan’s symphony ends with a bigger flourish than Thomas Harris’, which is nice.

But yeah. I look at the potential of the child that was taken down this path. I always felt that there was a kind of possibility of redemption through his love for Reba. But then that’s the point where I have to step outside the character and really see him as a figure of menace and discord, and let him be that. I fluctuated between loving him and condemning him.

FANGORIA: Having worked both in feature films and television, can you talk a little bit about the differences and preferences between those for you?

ARMITAGE: Yeah. One of the things that was compelling about coming to play Dolarhyde in HANNIBAL was that, in both of the other manifestations of this character, there’s been probably a a 90-minute chance to play that character. On this series, we get nearly 6 hours to play Dolarhyde. We really get the opportunity to go into great detail.

I think that’s one of the things I like about television and the way that Bryan Fuller makes television is that every episode is a movie. It has the same production values as a film. It’s not shot on the same budget as a film, and it’s certainly not shot in the same time frame as a film, but it just means everyone has to work so much harder. But you know, if you look at any single shot in this show, you could easily play every episode of HANNIBAL on the big screen and it would sell out theaters. Bryan is making mini movies every week.

HANNIBAL returns on Thursday, June 4th at 10 p.m. EST on NBC. HANNIBAL creator/writer Bryan Fuller will be serving as FANGORIA’s first Special Guest Editor for Issue #343; you can subscribe to FANGORIA here. Keep an eye out for more HANNIBAL coverage here at!


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