It’s enjoyable to be one of the shiny new parts of a revival.
Just ask Lucca De Oliveira, who plays Tomas Esquivel on Clarice, airing at 10 p.m. Thursdays on CBS.
Actually, Clarice, from executive producers Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet, should be considered a continuation rather than a revival.
It answers the question of what happened to fledgling FBI Agent Claire Starling after the events of the 1991 film “The Silence of the Lambs.”
Hint: She remains more than a little messed up, even though Attorney-General Ruth Martin, whose daughter Clarice saved Catherine in the film, has forced her onto her new serial killer-hunting ViCAP (Violent Criminal Apprehension Program) task force.
But Clarice isn’t the only rookie on ViCAP. De Oliveira’s character Esquivel, a former Army sniper, is still finding his way as well.
“We’re in the ’90s.” explained De Oliveira from Toronto, where the series is almost done filming its first season, “The opportunities he’s given are rare. He’s incredibly fortunate to be a part of this team. He’s still finding his feet.
“On top of that, he’s not an agent at heart,” he continued. “He’s a soldier at heart, now readjusting to his surroundings and learning new skill sets, learning how to be a detective in a sense and lean into these behavioral science traits. He’s much more comfortable in the field.”
Characters including Clarice, Martin, and ViCAP team leader Paul Krendler are all carried over from the film. But Esquivel is brand new, and this appeals to De Oliveira.
“I felt freedom and liberty in really developing this character with our writers and our producers and making sure that he stands out just so and yet fits the mold of the Thomas Harris world so that we have something new and fresh for the audience and the fans to watch,” he said.
“The beauty of being a co-star is that I’m more involved with the story and the character,” he said.
“When you work as a recurring, you’re coming into someone else’s family. You’re figuring out the dynamic, which they have already established, and trying to do the best you can to serve the story that they’ve already started creating.
“Being a regular on Clarice has been an incredible experience, to speak creatively with our writers, our producers, our showrunner about how I feel about the character and how I feel about this world and what they think.”
De Oliveira got into the mind of a sniper through research and talking with consultants on set.
“He’s in a sense the eyes in the sky, the angel looking after everybody,” he explained. “Unfortunately, he’s burdened with guilt whenever he can’t save someone or even when he does but unfortunately has to take the life of another. The life of a sniper is one that takes tremendous mental fortitude.”
Why exactly does ViCAP need a sniper?
“Now, having Clarice on the team, that means we’ll have more interaction with our suspects,” De Oliveira said. “With her doing that, our team needs some sort of support, some sort of fallback plan. So Esquivel really comes in handy when the team is out, completely vulnerable, no backup in the snake’s den.”
Esquivel is an outsider, and so is Claire. It was only natural that he be more welcoming to her than his other teammates.
“He recognizes that, just as he is a minority in this world, so is Clarice, and so is Ardelia,” De Oliveira said.
“He flocks to the people he can feel most comfortable with, those most capable of relating to his situation. If he can learn something from Clarice, it can only better his ability on the team and what he can contribute to the safety of ViCAP.”
He and Clarice will grow closer.
“Clarice starts to shed light on him,” De Oliveira explained.
“She asks him questions that make him really think and look at himself and develop a more solidified opinion of himself. In return, he’s showing Clarice she can trust some people and that trust, when it’s mutual, can be a really useful tool in a world so full of mistrust and doubt.”
ViCAP is coming together slowly.
“Chemistry and comfort take time,” De Oliveira said. “By the time we get closer to the end of the first season, we start to see the dynamic that they’re developing. This is the team that can get to the bottom of things, they can find truth, and they can stand up for these victims that we care so much about.”
Filming in the age of Covid has been an adjustment.
“Oh, man! It’s a trip,” De Oliveira exclaimed.
“It’s such an interesting obstacle to be faced within an industry that’s so reliant on human connection. How do we express ourselves when we don’t have physical touch, when we can’t get close to one another, when we can’t spend time with each other outside of work?”
The isolation has been a challenge.
“Most of us are out here alone,” De Oliveira said.
“Our loved ones are back home. For the most part, we’re quarantined. We go to our prospective homes then come back and work, and that’s really our schedule. In some ways, it’s been a blessing because it allows us to focus so deeply on the work that every else falls secondary to it.”
De Oliveria has most enjoyed the camaraderie of Clarice.
“We all get along so, so well,” he emphasized.
“There is such love on our set, such care and attention to detail. We all support each other so heavily. We know what we’re doing with Clarice. We’re revamping. We’re bringing this iconic hero back into the world at a time when it so needs of a hero like Clarice.”
Return to TV Fanatic on Thursday nights for reviews of Clarice, and watch Clarice online if you need to catch up.
Dale McGarrigle is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.