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‘Clarice’: CBS Gave Producers Carte Blanche So They Wouldn’t Take the Show to Streaming

"We didn't want to tread territory that's been done so well by so many others," said producer Alex Kurtzman.

Matt Cudlitz, Rebecca Breeds



The cast and crew of CBS’ new crime series “Clarice” know what you’re going to ask: How does Hannibal Lecter fit into a narrative that takes place one year after the events of Thomas Harris’ “Silence of the Lambs?” The famous cannibal won’t be mentioned in the new series, not just because of well-known and highly convoluted rights issues, but because the new series doesn’t see why they should. “The events of ‘Silence’ were a doorway into Clarice,” actor Michael Cudlitz said during Wednesday’s Television Critics Association 2021 Winter Press Tour panel. “It’s about her experiences that [Lecter] was interested in.”

But, more importantly, the crew knew that after three different iterations of the Lecter story, they didn’t want to repeat anything. “It has been explored in great depth by so many brilliant people,” producer Alex Kurtzman said. As they were writing the pilot, he and creator Jenny Lumet kept reiterating the tagline that the “silence is over.” “She hasn’t spoken in 30 years and we think it’s time for her to speak now,” Kurtzman said. “We didn’t want to tread territory that’s been done so well by so many others.”

Kurtzman and Lumet originally envisioned this as a streaming show, but CBS told them if they did it on their network they could do whatever they wanted. “They have not given us one note,” Kurtzman said. And Kurtzman said the show is not looking to mimic the similarly network-based cult favorite “Hannibal.” In “Clarice,” the story breaks will always be organized around their own characters and help them illuminate a struggle: “What are they scared to look at?” Kurtzman asked.

Lumet explains that Clarice Starling became her hero because “she went down into the dark…and pulled out the light.” She believed that the character of Clarice was a woman who held a lot of secrets. Lumet couldn’t let go of the missing years of Clarice’s life, so much so that she “email-stalked” author Thomas Harris. “We spoke about the light in Clarice’s eyes,” she said. “I want to know the light and the dark, and the mind, and the heart of this woman, this hero.”

In 2021, she said, people are rediscovering who they are after extraordinary circumstances. She thinks Harris remains popular because of how grounded in reality “Lambs” remains; the fear of ourselves and our capabilities are what are lasting. “People are realizing they can use their voices for change…that’s Clarice,” she said. “She’s the hero that you need, too.”

Lumet especially saw Clarice as a fresh angle in and of herself because of how male gaze-y the previous features have been. “What’s it like to be young…and female and live in this world?” she asked. Events take place just a year after what happened in “Silence of the Lambs,” and there’s going to be a lot of contention and subtext in Clarice joining the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program throughout the season.

“She just wants to be given her shot,” star Rebecca Breeds said. It’s something Breeds said she relates to in not being taken seriously because she’s a woman, and there will be several questions during the show as to whether Clarice’s past success is a fluke or if she’s a one-hit wonder.

“Clarice” premieres on CBS February 11.

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