Fans of Thomas Harris' Clarice Sterling – hero of both the novel and Academy Award-winning film adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs – found out during CBS's Television Critics Association winter press event on Sunday that the lambs are set to continue screaming. Writers and executive producers Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet are moving forward on sequel series Clarice – which on one hand is great news. On the other hand, it leaves fans of Hannibal a little concerned that the news is the final nail in the season 4 coffin.
Except it doesn't – as series creator and executive producer Bryan Fuller clarified via the following Twitter exchange. While Fuller and fellow executive producer Martha De Laurentiis were interested in working a deal with MGM to have Clarice included in future seasons, the rights to the character were never secured. From Fuller's perspective, he doesn't see CBS's move as impacting a Hannibal return as they never had the rights, so she was never included in future storylines.
[Ed: We're not the only ones who think Hannibal would be a perfect fit for Peacock, are we? Just askin'…]
Martha & I tried many times to work with MGM to include Clarice into our Hannibal story. They ultimately told us they had their own plans for Clarice and they didn't need Hannibal to tell her story. Don't think this impacts a potential #HANNIBAL S4 as we never had Clarice rights.
— Bryan Fuller (@BryanFuller) January 12, 2020
CBS is looking to make a serious commitment to the series. A pilot script has already been penned and will film before a series order is given – but a writers room has already been open in anticipation of a greenlight. The lead role of Starling is expected to be one of the most high-profile roles available during the pilot season.
"After more than 20 years of silence, we're privileged to give voice to one of America's most enduring heroes – Clarice Starling. Clarice's bravery and complexity have always lit the way, even as her personal story remained in the dark. But hers is the very story we need today: her struggle, her resilience, her victory. Her time is now, and always."
– Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet
MGM, CBS Television Studios, and Kurtzman's CBS Studios-based Secret Hideout are set to produce the series, which will be set in 1993 – one year after the events of The Silence of the Lambs. Clarice is being described as a deep dive into the untold personal story of Clarice Starling, as she returns to the field to pursue serial murderers and sexual predators while navigating the high stakes political world of Washington, D.C.
Kurtzman and Lumet will executive produce alongside Secret Hideout's Heather Kadin, with the company's Aaron Baiers serving as co-executive producer. Clarice isn't MGM's first attempt at a series: in 2012, the company was working with Lifetime on a series that would focus on the character after graduating from the FBI Academy – but the project did not move forward. No information was released on if the series will use Harris' 1999 sequel novel Hannibal as source material, or move forward with a new storyline.