Will, played by Hugh Dancy, serves as the main protagonist of the NBC show. He is a criminal profiler. The character was adapted from Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon. Will lives in Wolf Trap, Virginia with his family of dogs, all of whom he has adopted. Will’s affinity for dogs hints at his gentle nature, and he reveals that he prefers dogs to people. Will has a strong and heightened sense of empathy that allows him to perform his job in a unique way. He can take on the mind of killers, seeing and feeling what they felt when they committed their crimes. This allows him to recreate the crime scene and analyze the killers’ motives and thoughts. However, this ability is also dangerous to Will’s health. Because he spends so much time in the minds of killers, he becomes more susceptible to losing touch with reality, making him more privy to manipulation by Dr. Lecter.
When the show opened, Will’s character was reserved, laid-back, and introvertive. Although many of these traits remain throughout the show, Will becomes stronger throughout the course of the three seasons as he gains a handle on his own stability and consistently steps outside his comfort zone.
Will becomes close to Hannibal Lecter throughout the course of the show, and the two vary between friendship and rivalry. The truest nature of their relationship is not always clear, as Will is able to manipulate him yet maintain cordiality with him.
In the latter half of season three, it is revealed that Will has married Molly Graham and has a stepson, Wally.
Will enjoys fishing, something he enjoyed with his father. He is also a lover of nature, as exemplified by his secluded cabin near the woods.
Dr. Hannibal Lecter
Hannibal, brought to life by Mads Mikkelsen, is a multifaceted array of characteristics. He is, of course, a doctor, a psychiatrist, a chef, a charming man, and a killer. He enjoys fine music, food, clothing, and art, hiding in the world with his educated and calm demeanor. Exquisite dinner parties are great joys in his life; he meticulously prepares meals for his colleagues and friends, seeming to take pride in knowing what they are actually eating. Hannibal, though he is a cannibal, considers cannibalism an act of consuming one’s equals. Most of the people Hannibal kills, to the man himself, have been rude and thus deserve death and being eaten.
Hannibal was raised in Lithuania and orphaned very young after the death of his parents and his younger sister, Mischa. He was then raised by his aunt, Lady Muraski.
He is extremely good at deception, as seen by his constant evasion of the FBI despite being so close to them and throwing around cannibal puns so casually. This is a hint into his wit and cunning, clever mind. The two personas Hannibal has killed as are known to the FBI as the Chesapeake Ripper and the Copycat Killer.
Hannibal took an immediate interest in Will Graham upon their introduction, striking up a professional relationship and eventual friendship with him despite qualms between the two. He is fascinated both with Will’s mind and him as a person. The relationship between the men is sensual, particularly on Hannibal’s end, and it can certainly be argued that Hannibal’s interest in Will is of a romantic sort.
Hannibal does not have many close friends, especially by the end of the show, but his psychiatrist, Bedelia DuMaurier, is cordial with him and goes to great lengths in order to protect him. Hannibal also takes advantage of people easily, as shown by his treatment of ex-lover and friend, Alana Bloom. Hannibal is a pansexual man, meaning that he is attracted to all genders.
Jack, played onscreen by Laurence Fishburne, is the head of the Behavioral Science Unit for the FBI. He is Will’s boss and one of the main characters of the show.
Jack, despite appearing gruff at times and showing several outbursts of anger when he is upset, is all in all a friendly man with a sense of humor. He is mostly kind to the people he works with in both personal and work-related attitudes. His reluctance to acknowledge hints that Hannibal may be responsible for crimes do not indicate a lack of skill at his job; rather, it is that Jack is trusting, particularly of people he considers friends. Jack does not like being argued with or told that he is wrong. He prefers to investigate for himself and is very dedicated to his job and the deliverance of justice.
Jack is married to Bella Crawford, a patient of Hannibal Lecter. The two have had a lasting, loving relationship. He is extremely affectionate towards his wife and cares for her deeply.
Dr. Alana Bloom
Alana is played by Caroline Dhavernas and is a professor of psychology guest lecturing at Quantico during the course of the show. Alana is a smart woman who genuinely cares about Will, even questioning Jack at times for the way he handles Will’s career. Alana usually tends to see the good in people and believes she can be of help to those in need of it. She is unafraid to stand up for her beliefs, especially if she believes that something unethical is transpiring. She is, like Jack, very trusting, making her more susceptible to deception. She can quickly adopt a no-nonsense aura of authority when in charge, but stays true to her kind nature.
She is a good friend to Will, and is generally courteous even to those she does not particularly see eye to eye with, such as Freddie Lounds and Dr. Chilton. She is respected by many of her colleagues, Hannibal in particular.
Alana is bisexual and has romantic relationships with both men and women throughout the show. She is a zealous lover and displays passion for her infatuations both as romantic interests and as people.
Alana is one of the characters who is mentioned in Red Dragon but was given a much more complicated, fleshed out plotline and character. In the book, the character was Alan Bloom, but the role of Alana in the show was written for a woman with much significance.
Bedelia, played by Gillian Anderson, is Hannibal’s colleague and psychiatrist. She becomes essential to the series, and she is shrouded in mystery and often keeps the audience guessing. Bedelia is a strong woman with a soft voice, and she is a deep thinker with thoughtful dialogue. At times, Bedelia can be impossible to read as she keeps a calm demeanor with minimal expressions.
Many of Bedelia’s relationships are not entirely conclusive as it is difficult to tell what lies behind the surface. She supports Hannibal as her patient, and the two of them are both well-educated colleagues who have respect for one another. She elects to help him, but does not participate in actual murder of his victims. However, she does not offer him up to the FBI. As for her relationship with Will, she becomes aware of him through her sessions with Hannibal and eventually becomes his psychiatrist.
Abigail, who is played by Kacey Rohl, is a young girl who becomes involved in the show after it is revealed that her father is the Minnesota Shrike, a serial killer hunted by the FBI. Abigail was a hesitant accomplice in her father’s crimes. Abigail is a skilled hunter, which she learned from her dad. Abigail is haunted by the girls her father killed, especially because it is partially her fault that they died. Abigail is not afraid to speak her mind, though she does fear that she has inherited traits from her father, and despite her intelligence, she is easily manipulated by her father and eventually by Hannibal.
Once she is orphaned, Abigail comes to view Hannibal and Will as paternal figures, looking up to them and appreciating their presence in her life. She is a patient of Alana Bloom and eventually works on a book with Freddie Lounds despite not trusting her at first.
Garret Jacob Hobbs
Played by Vladimir Jon Cubrt, Garret Jacob Hobbs is a serial killer known to the FBI as the Minnesota Shrike. His victims are all similar in looks to his daughter, Abigail, and he finds it important to honor his victims, presumably in the form of cannibalism.
Hobbs himself only plays a significant role in the pilot episode; however, after Hobbs’s death, Will, who was deeply affected by his encounter with the man, starts to see him in hallucinations, proving that this first killer has had a lasting impact on Will’s psyche.
Freddie is played by Lara Jean Chorostecki and is a tabloid journalist and blogger. She writes for TattleCrime.com, a website that posts stories about crime and serial killers, usually in exaggerated reports. A highly dedicated woman without a moral compass, Freddie will stop at nothing to get a new, exclusive story, even if it means lying to the police or sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong. She focuses less on the truth and more on gossip. Freddie is very manipulative and smooth about it, which proves that she has an extremely clever streak as well. She is extremely ambitious, especially when she has the opportunity to get herself ahead of the game.
Freddie gets into trouble with the FBI due to her unethical processes. She is not trusted by Jack and she and Will are equally wary of each other. Freddie is convinced that Will is a serial killer himself, and Will does not approve of her methods. The only person Freddie seems to genuinely care about is Abigail. Though she initially sought her for a story, Freddie is protective of Abigail and her wellbeing.
Freddie’s character is no stranger to the world of Thomas Harris. The character of Freddy Lounds appeared in Red Dragon as a journalist man. As with Alana, Freddie was given more depth and purpose and her gender was changed in the show.
Beverly, played by Hettienne Park, is a witty, clever character who works as a crime scene investigator for the Behavioral Science Unit. She is a specialist in fiber analysis. Beverly has a thirst for knowledge, yet she goes about it with dedication and passion. She is trusted by her coworkers and Jack, her boss, and she puts a great deal of thought into her work. She is motivated in her job, yet she is also a friendly, down to earth soul who offers compassion to her colleagues. Beverly becomes a friend to Will Graham, offering him comfort and friendship when she suspects the job may be negatively affecting him.
Played by Scott Thompson, Jimmy works in the Behavioral Science Unit under Jack Crawford. He specializes in latent fingerprints and also has a knowledge of bees. Jimmy is close friends with his coworker, Brian Zeller, and though the two often joke around at work, they are both very efficient at their jobs. Jimmy’s character often provides a bit of comic relief, particularly considering his banter with Zeller. It speaks a lot about his personality that Jimmy is able to maintain a relatively outgoing and positive demeanor in the context of his job, especially when it deals so closely with death.
Aaron Abrams plays Brian Zeller, a specialist in time of death at the Behavioral Science Unit. He often works alongside Beverly and Jimmy, and is particularly close with Jimmy. He is not afraid to crack jokes, and he and Jimmy act as comic relief with witty dialogue and sharp remarks. Zeller is slightly distrustful of Will at times, possibly even jealous of Jack’s respect for the empath, but eventually warms up to him.
Mason is played in season two by Michael Pitt and in season three by Joe Anderson. He is Margot’s twin brother and the heir to his father’s meat packing dynasty. He is extremely entitled because of this, and has a violent, dominant nature. Mason is extremely knowledgeable about the pigs raised on his farm, even threatening them on his own sister. Despite being an intolerable character, Mason has a number of one-liners and his methods are sometimes so extreme that they make him slightly humorous in a dark, twisted way. He becomes a patient of Hannibal, who finds him extremely rude. Mason thrives on inflicting pain and discomfort, making him a sadist.
Mason is sexually and emotionally abusive to his sister and even to children who visit the farm. He hates Will Graham as well. Though he seems to tolerate Hannibal at first, he actively hates him and seeks revenge later on. Alana Bloom eventually becomes his psychiatrist, and he does not appear to despise her as much as some of the other characters he encounters.
Katherine Isabelle plays Margot, who is Mason’s twin sister. Their father did not grant Margot inheritance of any of the family fortune because he only required a male heir. Margot is calculating and clever, coming to Hannibal for advice in inflicting revenge upon her brother, who has been abusive to her all her life. Margot is an extremely ambitious and driven individual who is not afraid to seek her goals.
Margot is a lesbian who eventually enters a passionate and loving relationship with Alana Bloom.
Dr. Frederick Chilton
Chilton, who is played by Raúl Esparza, serves as the administrator of the Baltimore Hospital for the Criminally Insane. He is a narcissistic, arrogant man who is focused on gaining himself higher reputation. He does not like to be told that he is wrong, and he actively seeks out ways to make himself look better. However, though Chilton is sometimes perceived as an incompetent doctor, he is actually quite clever despite his stubbornness. Chilton uses unethical methods in his hospital, including psychotherapy and spying upon patients and their conversations. These methods are frowned upon in particular by Alana Bloom. Even though he is shown as an unethical man, he is also a decent psychiatrist, listening to his patients. Bad luck and lies make Chilton susceptible to abuse and harm, and he overcomes tragedy each season. His constant survival proves a strong nature and a fighting soul, though he may not outwardly display these traits. Chilton can be very dedicated and passionate about what he wants, and he is not afraid to lie if it means he will be better off. Chilton is also quite witty, serving as comic relief especially in the second season.
It is implied that Chilton is jealous of Hannibal’s status as a renowned psychiatrist, especially at first, and he even alters his own clothing to match Hannibal’s style. However, Chilton eventually becomes suspicious of Hannibal. Chilton exhibits a deep interest in Will and is particularly enthused about having opportunities to study him. His main enemies are Abel Gideon, Hannibal himself, and Francis Dolarhyde. He and Alana are colleagues, yet she does not particularly respect him and the two usually never see eye to eye.
Bella is played by Gina Torres. A kind, intelligent woman, she is married to Jack Crawford and is a patient of Hannibal. She is battling stage four lung cancer during the show, and maintains a strong spirit despite questioning and even seeking the comfort of death. She and Jack share a healthy, loving relationship. The two met in Italy. Her real name is Phyllis, but Jack calls her Bella because the people in Italy used the name to speak of her beauty.
Laurence Fishburne and Gina Torres are married in real life.
Dr. Abel Gideon
Abel, played by Eddie Izzard, is a transplant surgeon who is accused of the crimes committed by the Chesapeake Ripper. Gideon suffers from conflicts of identity, and is susceptible to adopting the persona whatever people tell him he is, something that is influenced even more heavily by psychotherapy administered by Frederick Chilton. It is questioned whether Gideon is a true psychopath because he does not seem sure of his own identity. However, Gideon is also quite hung up on revenge. He is a cool, calculating man with a witty and dry sense of humor. He is able to crack jokes even in the most horrid of situations, and he seems to enjoy playing taunting games with words. He is both a victim and an abuser.
Francis Dolarhyde is played by Richard Armitage. Dolarhyde is the main antagonist of the novel Red Dragon, and appears in the NBC show in the latter half of the third season. He is nicknamed “The Tooth Fairy” by the FBI because he often bites his victims; however, Dolarhyde himself possesses a great hatred for the name. Dolarhyde was raised by his grandmother, and the false teeth he uses for killing are based off her molars.
Dolarhyde became obsessed with the Great Red Dragon paintings after seeing an article about them in a magazine. He devotes his life to this dragon, getting a large tattoo of it across the canvas of his back. He attempts to become the dragon, which is an alternate personality for him that he uses to kill and transform people at full moons.
He possesses skill in processing film, which is useful for him because he utilizes home movies of the victims he kills.
Dolarhyde admires Hannibal’s skill as a killer and his aptitude at hiding for so long. He is very interested in Hannibal and begins contacting him while the cannibal is imprisoned. He becomes an enemy of Will and his family as well as Frederick Chilton. He is romantically interested in and intrigued by Reba McClane.
Reba, played by Rutina Wesley, is Francis Dolarhyde’s girlfriend. She is a blind woman who does not initially know that her romantic lover is actually the Tooth Fairy killer. Reba is a gentle woman who comes to trust Dolarhyde because of his compassion for her. In return, her love for him helps Dolarhyde with his lust for murder, but the dragon aspect of his psyche still has the desire to kill.
Chiyoh is brought to life by Tao Okomato, and served as the maid of Hannibal’s aunt, Lady Murasaki. Chiyoh is a bit mysterious because her motives are never exactly clear. She lives in Lithuania and tends to a prisoner responsible for eating Hannibal’s sister many years ago. When she meets Will, the two have a brief and casual relationship that is slightly romantic. Though she knows about Hannibal and his nature, she protects him. She also protects those in danger of him rather than simply letting him kill them.
Kade Prurnell is played by Cynthia Nixon. She investigates for the Office of the Inspector General and is extremely suspicious of Jack Crawford’s methods of authority. She comes across as cold and emotionless, but this is because she is dedicated to her job and performing what she feels is right.
Kade Prurnell is an anagram of “Paul Krendler,” a similar character who appeared in The Silence of the Lambs. The name was changed because of an issue with copyright.
Molly Graham, played by Nina Arianda, is the mother of Wally and the wife of Will Graham in the third season. She is loving and supportive of Will, supporting his love for dogs and nature, although she is slightly wary of his desires to return to life as a criminal profiler.
Miriam is portrayed by Anna Chlumsky and is an FBI trainee who Jack assigns to the Chesapeake Ripper case despite her inexperience in the FBI. She is educated, with degrees in psychology and criminology. Miriam is a passionate young woman who has wanted to work for Jack for years, and she dedicates herself fully to the Ripper case. Unfortunately for her, she falls in a bit over her head. Nevertheless, Miriam is a brave woman with a heart full of energy and a mind seeking knowledge. It seems that Jack Crawford cares deeply for her.
Miriam has strong parallels to Clarice Starling from The Silence of the Lambs. She is also a reimagining of Reggie Lass from Fuller’s Dead Like Me.
Played by Jonathan Tucker, Matthew is an orderly who works at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Believing that Will is the Chesapeake Ripper, he admires him greatly and attempts to recreate the murders he believes are Will’s. This is, to Matthew, a sign of great respect. He hides as an orderly because he learned how to imitate and act like them when he spent time in a mental institution himself. He is skilled at reading people’s true intentions by analyzing their eyes to determine answers to “yes” or “no” questions. He seeks to help Will go free so they can commit murders together, although he does not know that Will is innocent.
Franklyn, who is portrayed by Dan Fogler, is a patient of Hannibal who suffers from neurosis. He is extremely interested in Hannibal, and seems to have a deep desire to connect with him on a personal level rather than as his patient. He follows him so that the two will have more to talk about. Franklyn, though his futile attempts are almost pathetic, provides some comic energy. He is friends with Tobias Budge, and Hannibal states that it is possible Franklyn is attracted to serial killers, whether that be in a personal or sexual manner.
Demore Barnes plays Tobias, a cello instructor who owns a string shop. He is a serial killer who uses gut pieces of his victims to make his cello strings. He is friends with Franklyn, although the friendship is emphasized heavily on Franklyn’s part, as Tobias does not seem to care much for him. Tobias comes to respect Hannibal and even reaches out an offering of friendship, although Hannibal does not reciprocate these actions.
Nicholas Boyle is played by Mark Rendell. He is the brother of Cassie Boyle, a victim of the Copycat Killer. It was originally suspected that Nicholas was a killer himself.
Played by Ellen Muth, Georgia is a woman suffering from a disease, Cotard’s Syndrome, that does not allow her to recognize faces. Because of this, she is under investigation for the murder of her best friend. She ends up in an isolation chamber, where she has brief encounters with Will, who is kind to her and visits her upon several occasions.
Georgia is a reimagining of George Lass from Dead Like Me. The two characters are both played by Ellen Muth.
Dr. Donald Sutcliffe
John Benjamin Hickey portrays Donald Sutcliffe, a colleague of Hannibal’s who examines Will upon recommendation. He is a neurologist who works at Noble Hills Care Center. It is implied that he and Hannibal have trust in each other because he immediately lies to Will at Hannibal’s suggestion.
Gretchen Speck, played by Chelan Simmons, is a very minor character in the first season. She is significant because she also appears in Fuller’s Wonderfalls. Unlike several other characters, Gretchen is not exactly reimagined, but is thought to be the same character as she was in Wonderfalls. She becomes a victim of Eldon Stammetts, but survives.
James Gray is played by Patrick Garrow and is a serial killer who desires to create a human mural using victims of many ages and ethnicities. Hannibal, upon finding the mural, tells James Gray that he admires the work he is doing.
James Gray has slight implications of Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs as seen by his fascination with human skin.
Amanda Plummer portrays the serial killer Katherine Pimms, an acupuncturist who loves bees. She kills elderly patients and fills their heads with bees.
In Pushing Daisies, Kitty Pimms is an alias Chuck Charles uses when she visits a company that is heavily involved with bees.
Jeremy Davies plays Peter Bernardone, a quiet, disturbed man who loves animals. He seeks to kill his social worker for revenge since the social worker is a murderer himself. Will and Peter share a small bond, presumably partially because of their shared love for animals. Peter helps Will identify attacks by animals.
Randall Tier is played by Mark O’Brien. He is a serial killer who wants to become an animal and creates skulls and claws which he uses to kill his victims. He works at a museum and was, when younger, a patient of Hannibal Lecter. He attempts to attack Will Graham.
Inspector Pazzi, hired by Mason Verger, seeks to find Hannibal in Mason’s revenge plot. He is interested in Hannibal’s killing methods and looks for him throughout Italy, even questioning and speaking to Will about this plan. He is played by Fortunato Cerlino.
Anthony Dimmond, portrayed by Tom Wisdom, is a colleague of Roman Fell, which is Hannibal’s disguise an alias. He attends social gatherings and eventually ends up dining with Hannibal and Bedelia in Italy.
Cordell is played by Glenn Fleshler. He is Mason Verger’s caretaker and seemingly possesses as little of a moral compass as he does. Cordell obeys Mason’s commands and is not afraid to step over into the immoral and unethical on Mason’s behalf. His purpose is to serve Mason, a task which he goes to great lengths to fulfill.
Neal Frank, played by Zachary Quinto, is an ex-patient of both Hannibal Lecter and Bedelia DuMaurier. He tells Bedelia that he is not comfortable with Hannibal’s form of therapy and believes that what Hannibal provided was the opposite of help. He is extremely emotional and seems to have an ability to anger easily.