Why CBS’ ‘Silence of the Lambs’ Sequel ‘Clarice’ Can’t Mention Hannibal Lecter by Name

Buffalo Bill and Catherine Martin are fair game, and play a large role in the series

Brooke Palmer/CBS

CBS’ “Silence of the Lambs” sequel “Clarice” won’t get to mention one of its most famous characters by name because of rights issues.

Despite taking place a year after the events of “Silence of the Lambs,” the CBS series will not mention Hannibal Lecter, the cannibalistic serial killer memorably played by Anthony Hopkins in the 1991 film.

The rights to Thomas Harris’ characters are split between MGM and the Dino De Laurentiis Company. “Clarice” showrunner Elizabeth Klaviter explained that CBS only has the rights for characters introduced in Harris’ 1988 novel “Silence of the Lambs.” Unfortunately, since Lecter’s first appearance came in another Harris novel, “Red Dragon,” that makes him off-limits.

“Of course, Hannibal Lecter is an iconic villain, who has enchanted all Thomas Harris fans throughout a variety of series and movies. And it’s been really great to be able to experience all of those stories that are built around him,” Klaviter said. “Now it’s time for Clarice to step into the spotlight and tell the story of the hero of ‘Silence of the Lambs.’”

Along with Starling, who is played by Rebecca Breeds, “Clarice” features “Silence of the Lambs” characters Ardelia Mapp (Devyn Tyler), Paul Krendler (Michael Cudlitz), Ruth Martin (Jayne Atkinson) and Catherine Martine (Marnee Carpenter). Buffalo Bill’s presence will be felt throughout the series (Catherine adopts her dead captor’s dog, which is an, ahem, interesting decision). Klaviter said they’ll use other side characters like Noble Pilcher, Barney Matthews and I.J. Miggs as well.

Breeds explained that “Clarice” won’t ignore Hannibal entirely, it’s just that any reference to him will have to be vague and opaque. After all, it was Dr. Lecter who started to into Clarice’s head about her childhood trauma, which will end up being a major focus of “Clarice.”

“The forefront of my trauma that I’m experiencing is how he has started the unraveling of her trauma from her childhood, and what she went through with Buffalo Bill in the basement,” Breeds said. “I think anyone who’s seen the film, anyone who knows the legend, truly knows that she’s not living her life in fear of him. He’s not coming after her.”

But Breeds said it wasn’t that difficult to skirt around Hannibal despite his outsized presence in the “Silence of the Lambs.”

“He’s a part of her story, he’s a part of her history, absolutely. We don’t deny that and we don’t shy away from it,” she said. “I think they’re really smart in how we acknowledge him and acknowledge his part in her story. But he is not the center of this story. He is not the center of her world.”

“Clarice” premieres Thursday, Feb. 11 at 10 p.m. on CBS


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