In Bryan Fuller's acclaimed Hannibal series, Mads Mikkelsen brings a distinctive, otherworldly air to the central character of Hannibal the Cannibal. And yet, that otherworldly air almost cast the actor the role, as showrunner Fuller revealed in an interview with Collider:
"There was some resistance to Mads Mikkelsen because he was European, because he was somebody who you could look at and go, 'Yeah I buy that he eats people'. We were dealing with a very American network that wanted a very American actor to sell to American audiences, and all the creatives on the show wanted somebody who was the best person for the role."
As it turns out, many of those creatives thought the best person for the role would be a mainstream actor who is more familiar to audiences,
"It was an interesting dance because I'd say, 'Mads Mikkelsen!' and they'd say, 'No, how about Hugh Grant?' and I'd say, 'Great, make an offer, he's gonna say no,' then they'd make an offer and he'd say no, and I'd be like, 'What about Mads Mikkelsen?' and they'd be like, 'Well what about John Cusack?' and I'd say, 'Great, make an offer, he's gonna say no' and they'd make an offer and he'd say no, I'd say, 'What about Mads Mikkelsen?'"
"That carousel went around for three or four months after we had cast Hugh [Dancy], it was going on for a while. Finally I just said, 'Mads is the guy, that's the guy I see in the role and I have to write it and I have to champion it and I have to understand it,' and Jennifer Salke at NBC bless her heart was like, 'Okay, that's your guy. I believe you and trust you and I'm excited about your vision for the show'."
While Bryan Fuller had to fight long and hard to get Mikkelsen in the lead role, an unforeseen advantage the casting presented him with was that it made the network allow them more free reign in terms of story development:
"For the other sort of marketing folks, they were like, 'Oh this show isn't going to break through for us'. They sort of gave up on it a little bit because we were casting a European guy as the face of [a show] they wanted to be more accessible."
"I felt that they were right for their reasons but wrong for my reasons. And so the gift of that, the gift of casting Mads Mikkelsen, is that their investment in the show became dramatically decreased, and so that allowed us to do a lot of things that we wouldn't have been able to do if they were saying, 'No this show needs to get 10 million people watching it every week'."
"Because then we would have to really be tied down to certain parameters of storytelling that were going to mesh with a mainstream audience. So Mads was the gift that allowed us to tell the story the way that we wanted to tell it, because the network was like, 'Well it's not the person that we wanted and we don't really see him in this role,' and we were like, 'Fine, just let us make the show'."
These quotes come from Collider.