Did You See The Black Serial Killer On 'Hannibal'? (And Did You Have A Problem With It?)
Photo Credit: S & A

Did You See The Black Serial Killer On 'Hannibal'? (And Did You Have A Problem With It?)


on NBC is one of the best (perhaps the best) and no doubt

most disturbing series currently on network television. For sure it’s the most

violent and grisly show that’s even been on commercial network TV proving that

the success of cable series such as The

Walking Dead really has the networks running scared.

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?

Shadow and Act is a website dedicated to cinema, television and web content of Africa and its global Diaspora. With daily news, interviews, in-depth investigations into the audiovisual industry, and more, Shadow and Act promotes content created by and about people of African descent throughout the world.

© 2023 Shadow & Act. All rights reserved.