Upon hearing that a Hannibal television series was being created, the character I was most excited to see, apart from Hannibal himself, was Dr. Frederick Chilton. As a fan of Thomas Harris’ books and their respective film adaptations, Chilton was always a favourite of mine and Esparza, in my opinion, had big shoes to fill. Those shoes being Anthony Heald’s, who portrayed the inadequate director in two of the Anthony Hopkins films — The Silence of the Lambs (1991) and Red Dragon (2002). Heald was smarmy, pompous and arrogant, and Hannibal frequently choked on his air of superiority. Whilst only appearing in two episodes in Season 1, Esparza quickly proved that he was the perfect successor to play the man who would eventually house one of the greatest villains of all time.
A younger and dandier version of Chilton revealed the character’s hidden depths that the films chose to ignore, giving Esparza a chance to shine. The occasional glint in his eye or half-smile when an opportunity for praise arose, Esparza’s Chilton allowed for subtle glimpses into a young doctor’s mind who would later become the angrier, frustrated and older Heald.
A favourite Chilton moment from the series would be his speech to Jack Crawford in Season 2. His declaration that he believes that Hannibal is the Chesapeake Ripper results in relief that his last few meals at Hannibal’s home “have all been salads”; it is one of the humorous highlights of the season and Esparza’s delivery is perfect as usual.
“It’s nice to have an old friend for dinner.”