Exclusive interview with Aaron Abrams
June, 2013 | The new drama "Hannibal" started on NBC in the mid-season 2013. Bryan Fullers new project is based on the events in the novel "Red Dragon" by Thomas Harris and is focussed on the relationship between Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and serial killer Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen). Aaron Abrams plays Brian Zeller, an intelligent doctor, who specializes in fibers to determine the cause of death of victims. We had the opportunity to talk to Aaron about "Hannibal" and also about his recent parts on "Rookie Blue" and "The L.A. Complex".
1. You were born in Toronto, Canada, which is also the filming location of your recent shows. Did you also get started in acting there?
Yes, I started acting as a kid. I went to an arts high school as an acting major. Eventually I went to an acting conservatory in Chicago. That's where they beat the Canadian out of me. I started swearing and being generally less polite. Which helps me now because of the kinds of characters I sometimes play.
2. Brian Zeller, your character on "Hannibal", has a medical degree and works for the Behavioral Science Unit. Is this completely new territory for you? If so what is the best part of playing him?
He's certainly the smartest character I've ever played. So that's all very tricky. Mainly because I'm a big dummy. I know this acting stuff is basically a lot of pretending but in order to pretend well you have to know what you're talking about. So learning as much as I could about forensic science and medicine is the most challenging part of the job but also one of the best parts.
3. On "Hannibal" we often see very creepy crime scences and horrifically mutilated bodies. Does this have any impact on your sleep or is it all less scary when it is a setting for a scene?
It doesn't effect my sleep but the brutality can sometimes effect the scene. The art department does such an amazing job, everything looks very real. So there are times where Zeller is a little shaken up or effected by what he's seeing. That's often not a choice I made but something that crept up in the scene and I'd go with it.
4. You have most of your scenes with Laurence Fishburne. What is working with him like?
I've been very, very lucky to work opposite some amazing actors. Russell Crowe, Hillary Swank and yeah, working with Mr. Laurence Fishburne is one of my life's great pleasures. He's a legend and a craftsman and he's very giving and you feel like you're learning every second he's around. Not only that, he's just a great guy. I can't say enough about him. Scott Thompson on the other hand... Ugh. That guy is incorrigible. I'm joking of course. Please make sure to write that I'm joking. I wouldn't want Scott to hit me again.
5. Your character is usually bickering with someone and his dialogs usually provide a little bit of comic relief. How important is that for a show like "Hannibal"?
Bryan Fuller has cast a lot of really funny people in the show I think with the idea that some levity is important. Some lightness makes the shadows even darker. Did that sound smart or no? I don't know. Zeller is the smart one, not me.
6. Since Mads Mikkelson is from Denmark and Hugh Dancy from the United Kingdom, do you guys get the chance to talk about your different cultures or special traditions?
I'm like the only Canadian on the show and because it shoots in Toronto, I got to be the ambassador a little bit. I would tell them where you go to eat pizza. Where to go when you want to get drunk... and that's basically it. So yeah, I was the ambassador for those two things.
7. On "Rookie Blue" you played the corrupt cop Detective Donovan Boyd. At the end of season two the audience realizes who he really is. At which point did you know, that Boyd will go down that path? Have you ever imagined a different ending for him?
The amazing writers and producers of Rookie kept me in the dark most of the time, so I was left to daydream about what was going to happen a lot. I imagined Boyd dying a hero, Andy and Gail weeping over his body, fighting over who gets to steal one last kiss, both swearing celibacy for the rest of their lives because Boyd was the only real man they ever knew. In the end, they probably got it right. He was destined to go to jail or be a mall cop somewhere.
8. There is a really good on screen chemistry between you and the other cops in 15 Division. How did you get along behind the scenes?
Oh man. They're the best. I'm so, so close with those guys. Ol' whats his face and that other one. Blondie lady and the guy with his fudge recipes. Oh man. So close. We are like family. No seriously they are all very nice. I think they have chemistry on screen because of the kind of relationships they have off screen. If you are a fan of the show you would not be disappointed with how warm and funny and giving and amazing they are. Except for one of them. The one with the face. I forget the name.
9. There are a lot of fascinating, dangerous and exciting cases in "Rookie Blue", for example when Dov Epsteins puts his foot on a pressurized floor plate or where Andy McNally is trapped inside a building that is about to collapse. The stories by the writers are getting better and better. Which case impressed you the most?
Knowing them, I'd say the best is yet to come. But the one where Travis had to put on white jeans was pretty dangerous. In that it was practically daring the audience to change the channel.
10. In #2.11 A Little Faith Det. Boyd was responsible for Andy McNally and Sam Swarek finally getting together and then for almost destroying this new relationship. Did you ever receive any negative fan reactions because of what your character did?
Yeah, y'know what? You said something interesting there. Boyd doesn't get enough credit for getting Andy and Sam together in the first place. So what if I almost destroyed them, isn't that Boyd's right as the guy that created them? As far as negative reactions, I think the "Rookie Blue" fans were too smart to get bent out of shape at me personally. Hopefully they loved to hate me, not hated to hate me. The only negative reactions I've ever gotten is stuff like "How come Sam never punched you in the face??" ... which sounds like more of a negative reaction for Sam to be honest.
11. On "The L.A. Complex" you're in the reality show within the show with Jewel Staite's Raquel manipulating your character Ricky and all of them getting into trouble. How was that to play because there actually is some truth in it about how these reality shows are made, right?
Those scenes with Jewel might be the most fun I've ever had shooting something? Jewel and I are friends in "real life"... ugh, I just made air quotes when I said "real life". That's telling. And embarrassing. That's how you know you're talking to an actor, when "real life" gets the air quotes. Anyway, yes, I'm an avid listener of a podcast called "This American Life" and they had a story that went behind the scenes of a reality show. So in the writers room for "L.A. Complex", I really wanted to draw from that, finding something "real" in L.A. was a lot of what that show was about and to have a "reality" show that producers and actors were competing rig it in their favour just seemed perfect.
12. You also did some writing and producing on "The L.A. Complex". What came first, working behind or in front of the camera?
I only started writing to get myself more acting work. I was lucky that it worked. I'm always working on ways to get back behind the camera, I'm always writing. But firstly and ultimately I prefer in front of the camera. Basically, I am vain. Very, very vain.
13. Since myFanbase is an online magazine about U.S. television shows, do you have one or more favorite show(s)?
I just finished "House of Cards" and really enjoyed it. I loved "Deadwood". I enjoy shows that are very serialized, that tell intricate stories over whole seasons. I like TV shows that feel more like films. Which is why I'm so thrilled to be on a show like "Hannibal". See what I did there? How I brought this back to "Hannibal" and how everyone should watch it because it's awesome? Pretty crafty move right? Especially for a guy who only pretends to be smart on TV.
Thank you, Aaron, good luck with "Hannibal" and your future projects!
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