Not surprisingly Hannibal is struggling in the ratings. Network TV is a “safe harbor” for viewers, especially older audiences. There’s a comfort and reassurance that what you see on NBC, ABC, CBS or Fox isn’t going to cross the line. It may come to the edge and maybe tip a toe over it, but never goes all the way. Hannibal does that in every episode. The result is that it’s driving older audiences away to the safety of The Voice or whatever else is out there.
But this is not to talk about the show itself, but actor Demore Barnes (Supernatural, The Unit) who played the role of Tobias Budge in the recent episode entitled Fromage, perhaps the most intense of all the intense episodes on the series.
Of course Lawrence Fishburne is a regular on the show playing the usual “black guy in authority” role, though Fishburne’s performance and the way the character is written is given some real depth, especially with regards to his character’s complicated relationship to his seriously ill wife played by Fishburne’s real life wife Gina Torres.
But Barnes’ character was truly fascinating. He played an extremely urbane, sophisticated music teacher, musician and composer who was also a sadistic and twisted serial killer.
In the episode he was shown disemboweling one man and using his guts to make cello strings, and later was revealed to be the killer who killed a man and then slit open his trachea to literally shove the top part of the cello down his throat to play it as an instrument in a concert hall.
Later in the same episode he brutally kills two cops and his twists his partner’s neck completely around killing him. Needless to say, Hannibal Lecter forms a real affinity for him seeing his as a kindred spirit.
Eventually, it all leads to a brutal mano-a-mano fight between Tobias and Hannibal in his office, but we can guess who won that fight.
However it’s still very rare to see a black actor playing so disturbing a character. I think any actor, regardless of race, would love to sink their teeth into playing such a villainous role. Any real actor wants to challenge himself even if it means delving into the uglier and more depraved regions of their psyche.
However, I’ve always held to the idea that many black audiences are too concerned about black actors only playing “positive” and “uplifting” roles; that playing anything less than a doctor or lawyer, a teacher or some upstanding citizen, who can walk on water, is “negative” and shows black people in a “negative” light.
But why are some of us so concerned about being accepted?
As I’ve mentioned before, it reminds me of what Viola Davis told me when I interviewed her a few years ago, and I asked her about playing a serial killer who kills an entire family on an episode of Law & Order Criminal Intent, and whether she had any qualms playing such as role especially being a black actress. (Because you know how black people are…)
Just the opposite, she told me. It was because she is a black actress that she wanted badly to play the role, since you had never seen a black actor in a role like that before. She wanted to explore that sort of twisted mentality that black actors rarely, if ever, get a chance to do. It’s all part of the human experience.
I agree. We can’t be worried about what people think about a black actor playing a role that is (how can we say...) less than flattering. Who are we trying to prove ourselves to?
What say you?