Post Mortems: Hannibal's Gillian Anderson Talks Bedelia's Motivation: 'She's Teasing the Devil - and She Gets Off on It'
By Michael Slezak
TV Line: June 18, 2015
Worst. Dinner. Ever.
Hannibal's Bedelia Du Maurier may be spending Season 3 in a gorgeous Italian apartment and dining on intricate gourmet meals, but this week's installment also included her "husband" (the titular Dr. Lecter) sticking an ice pick in their guest's skull - and letting him bleed out all over the formal china.
For Bedelia's portrayer, Gillian Anderson, it was yet another instance in which the character's ability to differentiate between "observation" and participation" has begun to blur. "Human beings are much more complicated than we give them credit for," Anderson reasons. "Bedelia is really scared but completely titillated by the courage that it's taking for her to be on this quest for herself. And at varying times, she feels that she might be one step ahead of [Hannibal], and then sometimes she is not, and she is slightly addicted to that dance. She can't stop."
We caught up with the actress to discuss Bedelia's deliberate cadence, her likelihood of winding up on a dinner plate and this week's super-intense bathtub scene.
Before we discuss Episode 3, "Secondo," I've got to ask you about a scene in the Season 3 premiere - a flashback to Bedelia having killed her enigmatic patient, and she looked somehow elbow deep down his throat. It was quite gruesome. Do you know what exactly was taking place there? And what can you tease about it?
I know quite a lot about it, and you will find out more about it, too, as the season progresses. An incident takes place with a patient. We already know that. We don't know exactly what drives that moment into the present, but it's got to be something provocative enough for someone like Bedelia to be on her knees participating in that scenario. And yes, that will be revealed.
Let's jump into "Secondo." At the start of the hour, Bedelia tells Hannibal that he is going to be caught, and then adds, "I'm not concerned about me. I know exactly how I will navigate my way out of whatever it is I've gotten myself into." It's chilling when she says that. How smart is she? How deliberate and premeditated is she? Plus, she says everything in this halting cadence that's poetic and ominous at once, and her words are so carefully chosen. Can you walk me through that scene?
When I first started working on the series, it was just Mads [Mikkelsen] and I sitting across from each other, in a psychiatrist-patient relationship, and her cadence is born from that. It's born from a need to remain on a particular level because she can't. . . you know, she's got the ultimate poker face. She can't reveal anything to him about what she's thinking. I mean, even though she is quite opinionated to him, she's quite bold in that way, but she's very self-aware and aware of how she's adjusted herself to fit him. That, ultimately, is where the cadence comes from.
But I do think that she is the smartest woman in the room, and I do think that she's potentially one step ahead of him at times. So, she's always on her toes, but she also pushes his boundaries, and she pushes her own boundaries with him. Sometimes she's very outspoken, and sometime she says things that are incredibly provocative, and you do wonder, "Oh my God, just cool it!" [Laughs] You don't want to be revealing too much, but she knows what he can take, and she potentially is also playing with his. . .not with his breaking points, but she knows that he likes the fact that she is courageous and brassy as him. I'll let that sit there.
We saw that Hannibal is feeding her oysters, acorns, and marsala, and then there's a conversation about how that's the diet the ancient Romans used to improve animal flavor. Is that part of the excitement, that she could wind up on a plate at any minute?
I think it is. I mean, you have two reactions to that [dietary revelation]. You either run for the hills, which says one thing about you, or you stick around, which she does, and that says something else. So either she's got a really damn good plan up her sleeve, and she's willing to risk her days or her hours that her plan will be able to be set in motion and she won't meet her end sooner than later - or she doesn't care, and she likes the fact that [death] could literally be around the corner and that maybe he is flavoring her, and being with other characters is not necessarily a deterrent.
In "Secondo," there's that incredibly shocking scene where Sogliato gets the ice pick to the head - right in the midst of dinner. The dread leading up to that moment, so much of it is telegraphed from your facial expressions. There's a combination of anxiety, horror and anticipation as Hannibal's talking about how the cocktail he's made was the last beverage for first-class passengers on the Titanic. Did you know that so much of the scene was going to hinge on your face as you're filming it? Does Bedelia see that kill coming, or is it not until Hannibal drives that ice pick into the guy's head that she's sure how that's going to play out?
She's not sure, and I was also playing that I wasn't sure what was in the drink - and whether I was I was going to end up on a slab as well. I mean, she has degrees of trust with him. She believes that she won't necessarily die so early on, or he wouldn't have brought her over here [to Europe], but they're already eating somebody [during dinner with Sogliato], and so there's already one body on the table.
This is early days for them, and she wouldn't necessarily think that he would have the balls to murder somebody while they're in the process of eating somebody else. But she also can tell that this guy's really pissing Hannibal off, and she knows that he's enough of a sociopath and psychopath to pull it off. Any time anybody comes for dinner, she's going to be on her toes. [Laughs]
The funniest line in the episode comes after she yanks the ice pick out, and Hannibal says, "Technically, you killed him."
I love that. I love that. And he even says it a second time. . .he actually repeats it! [Laughs]
Does Bedelia have some culpability for just sitting there?
She knows that she does, but she's so far in at that point. Obviously, she doesn't want more people to die, and the more people who do die around them, the more likely they're going to get caught. But how much of her wants to get caught? I don't know.
The episode ends with Bedelia soaking in the bathtub, neck over the side, incredibly vulnerable - while Hannibal washes her hair. And suddenly, she's really pushing some major buttons. "Would you like to talk about your first spring lamb?" "How did your sister taste?" It's so creepy. She's literally poking the bear! What did you think when you read that scene?
It's great. I mean, by that point it's like balls to the wind. She's playing constantly with what the boundaries are. So regardless of how much of a net she may or may not have set up for herself, that net does not exist within the walls of their apartment. Anything can happen there, and so any time she pushes those buttons, she is literally teasing the devil. . . she's playing with fire, and she knows that, and she gets off on it.
As an actor, as you're playing a scene like that, do you get creeped out, or can you disassociate from that creepiness?
Well, there's a certain degree to which I need to associate with it, so that the tone is right. But then there's the bigger picture whereby, for my own sanity, it needs to remain technical. You know what I mean? It's like I do need to disassociate the other half because it's just too dark.
I interviewed Hugh Dancy last week at a Hannibal event in New York City, and he had said that Will will be interacting with Bedelia. We will start to see those two in the same room, and that even with the time jump after Episode 8, Bedelia continues in his life. Can you tease a little bit of what we can expect?
No, not really, except maybe to say that now they're both. . . the energy between them is almost like mistress and wife. They're obviously wary of each other and fascinated by each other, but not wanting to reveal that they're fascinated by each other. And they're both not necessarily arguing over, but they're discussing somebody who's completely thrown both of their worlds upside down. And yet, they're protective of that person. It's not just two people getting together getting to gossip and thrash at their heartache because of their shared experience. [Laughs] They're both still hooked into him. So it's complex and interesting.