David Tennant nearly made the leap from Doctor Who to Doctor Lecter. The beloved Scottish actor has revealed he had meetings with Hannibal showrunner Bryan Fuller about starring as the titular cannibal in NBC's version of the Thomas Harris literary character, made globally famous by Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs.
Tennant, of course, became wildly popular for his portrayal of the Tenth Doctor on Doctor Who from 2006 to 2010. That warm, emotional, dashing version of the Doctor made Tennant something akin to a superhero for many people. Tennant slightly subverted that reputation with his acclaimed performance as the gruff, antisocial detective Alec Hardy on the crime drama Broadchurch. He would go on to obliterate that reputation as the nightmarish villain Kilgrave on the first season of Jessica Jones. Kilgrave was the point when audiences realized Tennant was capable of the sort of pitch black darkness that was essentially the exact opposite of what he had accomplished in his most famous role inside the TARDIS.
It turns out Tennant very nearly went down that dark path much earlier. In an interview with EW promoting his new film Bad Samaritan, Tennant reveals he almost portrayed Hannibal Lecter on NBC's 2013 reboot of the infamous cannibal serial killer. Tennant doesn't seem too bothered that he didn't get the role, suggesting the ultimate choice, Mads Mikkelsen, was the correct one.
I met [Hannibal executive producer] Bryan Fuller a couple of times, and we talked about it. But I think they quite wisely chose Mads Mikkelsen, I think he was a perfect choice for it, and I think he did things with that character that I wouldn’t have managed, so I think the right man got the job.
Hannibal was never a ratings winner over its three seasons, but it was a critical darling, pulling off the sort of dark, experimental, beautifully violent storytelling that just doesn't show up on network television anymore. Mikkelsen's understated, deeply unnerving performance was the show's secret weapon, a complete subversion of Hopkins' more cartoonishly evil take on the character. Fans are still hopeful that Fuller and the cast will eventually reunite to tell more Lecter stories, with all parties hoping they get to tackle The Silence Of The Lambs.
Tennant can afford to be gracious about missing out on Hannibal. The same year Hannibal premiered, Tennant was starring in the first season of Broadchurch, and he's gone on to be one of the most reliably dazzling presences on television. In addition to the recently ended Broadchurch and Jessica Jones, Tennant also voices Scrooge McDuck on the rebooted iteration of DuckTales. He's also set to star alongside Michael Sheen in Amazon's upcoming adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's novel Good Omens. Tennant as Hannibal Lecter is an undeniably enticing idea, but it probably worked out best for everyone involved.