Although NBC’s Hannibal first aired nearly ten years ago, no one who has ever laid eyes on the show feels even a modicum of surprise that it remains a topic of conversation today. Hannibal went beyond expectations and norms for a network television show of its time. And though it was canceled too soon, in its wake remains a whole new legacy for the cannibalistic killer. After its cancellation, it’s fair to say, Hannibal became a true cult hit. To this day, new viewers are discovering the show, which happily exists on streaming platforms such as Hulu and FilmRise, and eagerly diving into its blood-soaked, fever-dream fairy tale. To celebrate Hannibal‘s continuing agency in this world, we spoke to Caroline Dhavernas, who played Doctor Alana Bloom.
In the early seasons of Hannibal, Alana served as a kind of heart for the show. She brought a sense of human goodness into a world of great but terrible creatures. In the end, though, not even Alana could resist the siren song of Hannibal Lecter forever. And now, Dhavernas looks back on the complex fun of the role, Alana’s transformations, and what she took away from her time on Hannibal.
Nerdist: It’s been almost exactly ten years since Hannibal first aired on NBC, and in that time, it’s really become a cult classic, and people continue to find it, watch it, and get really invested in it. And it’s really influenced the TV landscape at large. How does it feel to look back on the character of Alana Bloom now and to be a part of that? And what do you think remains with you from that experience?
Caroline Dhavernas: That’s a huge question. Well, working with Bryan [Fuller] is always such a treat. I had the pleasure of meeting him when we did Wonderfalls together, when I was about 25 years old, so a while ago. And just having the opportunity to work with him again, and for him to trust me for a completely different character, was really a beautiful moment in my career.
And to know that this was made on network television is still kind of amazing to me. Because you rarely see this type of show on network TV. So I think NBC really gave us a lot of freedom, which was wonderful. And Bryan has a very unique mind, and he made all these characters so brilliant and layered and interesting. And when I look back, I see how even ahead of his time he was on many levels. So yeah, it was a wonderful experience. One of my… I think one of the most high-quality shows I’ve ever worked on, for sure.
A lot of people that I meet talk to me about Hannibal with a lot of, I guess, passion. And they found it so intellectually stimulating, which I completely agree with. And even though I’m not always a big horror fan, there was something so operatic about Hannibal that made all the kind of gory stuff, that I usually have a problem with, work as a big ballet and operatic horror study. It was very interesting. I look back, and I’m very proud to be part of it.
Something you’ve touched on was the operatic quality of Hannibal. And Alana was almost this human wandering around in the Hannibal opera for the first couple of seasons, a human heart in this really mythological realm. But then, in season three, some of that mythology kind of bled into her. Do you think that there was a world wherein that completely overwhelmed Alana, and she became fully immersed in the murder? Or do you think she would always search for that humanity?
Dhavernas: I think something inside her kind of collapsed, and she lost faith probably in, I don’t know, in mankind. But, not completely. She did fall in love again with Margot. But she went to the dark side, for sure. Maybe because she thought if you can’t beat them, join them and just do whatever good you can, being on the dark side.
She used to be very… She had principles, and she was very soft and open, but strong at the same time. But yeah, she definitely shifted wildly. Which was a bit of a challenge for me to keep her as Alana, but still… But it was fun because you rarely get to do a 180 like that with a character.
So it was a big challenge, but it was so fun to get to go to the dark side as well. But she still wanted Margot to have her baby, and she helped her. She was there for Margot. So she didn’t give up on everyone and everything.
Speaking of the relationship between Alana and Margot on Hannibal, it is this beautiful thing born of all the darkness around it, but it’s also powerful, flirty, and fun. And in the end, the pair of them get what no one else does, to waltz into the sunset together. Incredibly, almost a decade later, the relationship really holds up. What were some of the discussions that you, Bryan Fuller, and Katharine Isabelle (Margot Verger) had in creating that representation?
Dhavernas: Bryan has always been very open about hearing what his actors have to say during the writing process. When we received a draft, if there was something we didn’t understand or something that we thought could be, I don’t know, built slightly differently to make sense to us, he always heard it and made his best effort to make it more real for us.
And I remember once, we were doing an audio commentary for the DVDs in LA, and during the… I mean, you can actually hear it. Bryan said, “I’m going to have to find a love interest for Margot next year.” And I said, “I’ll do it.”
And then he looked at me like, “I’m noting this.” And then he made it happen. So that’s how open he is to suggestions. And so, that’s how it all started for Margot and Alana.
And he’s always, also, been very careful. Like when we started Hannibal, I remember being very impressed. Alan Bloom, in the book, of course, was a man. And he made him Alana, same with Freddie Lounds, and he said to me, “I don’t want all the women in the show to be victims. I want the show to have strong female characters.”
That was so important in the show. Also very, I guess, ahead of his time, again. And this very deep love between Hannibal and Hugh Dancy’s character, Will Graham, is a deep love as well. So yes, representation is definitely a part of the show in many ways.
In a hypothetical season four for Hannibal, what do you think Alana would be up to?
Dhavernas: Well, I don’t know if Alana would come back. I mean, we don’t know what this new season would be at all. Would Bryan be able to dig into Clarice and all that, or would he go somewhere else? Time will tell if it does happen. So I have a hard time imagining what it could be because I really have no idea.
But it would be kind of fascinating to know what happened to Margot and Alana. You know, are they still very passionate about each other? Are they fighting all the time because one of them isn’t emptying the dishwasher right? I mean, it’d be interesting to know.
Alana was a fashion icon on the show! Her outfits had such range and were truly beautiful. What do you think Alana was trying to convey with her sharp fashion change after season two of Hannibal? Was it something she’d always wished to do or just armor she felt she had to don?
Dhavernas: Well, the whole show is very beautiful. I mean, the sets, Hannibal’s costumes were just insanely beautiful, everything was made for him. The sets were also very interesting to shoot in. They always made you feel a certain way, as an actor, when you entered them.
And so the costumes, I guess, are the same. And that trip in season three, costume-wise, was really cool because Alana started wearing suits like Hannibal. So in some ways, she was not exactly becoming him, but inspired by his facade and what he wore to present himself. And she kind of took that strength from him and tried to, I don’t know if “emulate” is the right word, but she became him a little bit through the costumes.
And Christopher [Hargadon], the costume designer, was just so talented, and he made it happen beautifully.
Did you have a favorite outfit? And did you take anything home with you?
Dhavernas: I did. They were kind enough to give me a couple of suits and other things that I liked, but mostly suits. I think when they asked me what I wanted for my wardrobe, I chose the purple suit, it’s very soft. It’s a wonderful fabric. And another checkered one, and I can’t remember… But yeah, they were very generous.
For many fans, watching Hannibal was a transformative experience, whether it was just transforming what they thought good TV was, or helping them to see something in themselves. Do you feel like Hannibal transformed something in you?
Dhavernas: It’s always a bit of a mystery what we keep from our characters. Some of them leave a bigger impression or bigger marks on us than others. The character is something that I played and did not bring home with me at the end of the day.
I guess, for actors, though, it’s more the people that you work with. I mean, Mads [Mikkelsen], and Hugh, and Bryan, and the rest of the crew that were my team and the people that I interacted with.
Are you in anything right now that you’d like to talk about, or can we catch you in anything going forward that particularly excites you?
Dhavernas: Well, in the last couple years, with the pandemic and everything, I had spent more time in Montreal, Canada. And so, I did a couple of French Canadian series.
But I’m looking forward to pilot season, which is happening pretty soon. And hopefully, I’ll have something to tell you in the next couple months.
We’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for what Caroline Dhavernas will be doing next. In the meanwhile, we recommend rewatching her brilliant performance as Alana Bloom on Hannibal. Hannibal is currently free to stream via the FilmRise app, available across iOS and Android phones, Rokus, and other smart devices.