‘‘It made me want to be true to what I believed was right,’’ he says.
One thing he clearly believes in: not putting on airs. Striking a contrast to the three-piece-suit polish of Hannibal, Mikkelsen has arrived for his interview bundled up and in transit. He had wrapped the first season of ‘‘Hannibal’’ in Toronto only hours earlier, and in a few more hours would be taking off from New York. He looks the part: Toting a duffel bag, he’s dressed in jeans, running shoes, peacoat and knit cap. He looks like he might be shipping out on the next freighter.
Sleep-deprived, he sips a can of soda for a burst of caffeine and continues making his case for authenticity.
He points to a dining scene where Hannibal tells Jack, ‘‘Next time, bring your wife. I'd love to have you BOTH for dinner.’’
Viewers all too familiar with Hannibal’s dietary fetish may be tickled by that line and its secondary meaning. But Mikkelsen delivers it as if nothing more than a gracious invitation.
‘‘I can never wink at the audience,’’ he says, noting that Jack and Will aren’t dummies: ‘‘Will is the best profiler in the world.’’ So his performance must always accommodate their brilliance. ‘‘I can’t be having fun with a line like this, without them seeing it!
‘‘If you’re doing it for the audience,’’ Mikkelsen sums up, ‘‘you’re killing the reality.’’
That’s one thing even a killer like Hannibal Lecter won’t do.
Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore(at)ap.org and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier