CBS’ new crime drama Clarice is a deep dive into the untold personal story of FBI agent Clarice Starling as she returns to the field in 1993, just one year after the events that took place during the film The Silence of the Lambs. Clarice’s bravery gives her an inner light that draws monsters and madmen to her, and her complex psychological makeup that comes from a challenging childhood empowers her to begin to find her voice while working in a man’s world.
With a brand new show and backstory of Starling also comes new characters such as FBI agent Tomas Esquivel, who is portrayed by actor and native New Yorker Lucca De Oliveira, who was inspired to became an actor because of his father’s influence.
“I grew up in New York, born and raised in Manhattan, and my dad started doing some light acting when I was young,” De Oliveria recalled. “He was on a Verzion commercial awhile back and I never forget seeing him on TV one day pretending to be someone else’s dad and I would think that was the funniest thing ever that he could fool people like that. Later down the line, I would see him in a play, and he was really the source on why I wanted to get involved in acting. On top of that, I loved the idea of being able to step into other people’s shoes and pretend and play, and dive into these other worlds. I find them sometimes more satisfying than the real world, which can be toxic at times. I just have as much fun as I can with it. It makes me more empathetic as a human and more understanding of where people come from.”
So how would De Oliveira describe his character Esquivel?
“He knows what he’s good at and he knows what he’s not good at,” De Oliveira said. “He knows when to speak and when not to. I think he is a man of integrity and respect, and he knows how the world works and he knows who he is and how he has to move in this world to get further and continue to serve the purpose that he serves. I think he also has this tremendous skill set that he doesn’t entirely feel proud of. He finally found a place where he can finally be put to the test and be used. He’s almost like a loyal dog—he loves to take direction and get the job done, but at the same time he has these strong morals. He has this real good head on his shoulders and he knows how to speak to his superiors, and how to contain his anger and his potential rage.”
And as the show progresses throughout its first season, viewers will get to know more about Esquivel as well as the other agents.
“We’re going to get to see very much how a man of his background—a Latin man—navigates through this bureau in the ’90s,” De Oliveira explained. “The times were very different and opportunities for Latin men were very scarce. He knows that he’s fortunate to be in this position and he knows how valuable he is and how many people would kill to be in that position. I don’t think he takes it very lightly. We’re going to continue to discover more about who he is and a little bit more about his personality. Clarice brings out the side of him that he’s not potentially accustomed to. I think behind closed doors when he leaves the office, he has a side of himself that we don’t see yet, but Clarice really brings it out of him within the work. He’s getting accustomed to becoming a full man.”
Since Clarice is indeed a crime drama, there is some physicality that De Oliveira had to learn in order to portray an FBI agent, but lucky for him, he had a slight advantage.
“Fortunately my previous work was quite physical, so I had some weapons training in the past,” De Oliveira said, who also appeared in Animal Kingdom, CBS’ SEAL Team and other shows. “Specifically for this show, I had a few sessions of training with the sniper rifle that we get to use on the show and with our handguns, our badges, how to move and how to stand when approaching. We definitely worked with our consultants and we did a lot of research. I asked a lot of questions because I care about the small details. I was tentative to not do too much training in the FBI department specifically because Esquivel is a military man and he’s coming into this bureau, and he’s new to this. I didn’t want him to feel like he was accustomed to this lifestyle just yet. He’s still getting used to it. He’s been in the bureau for a couple years now. He’s more familiar with the life of a military man than that of an FBI agent.”
So how familiar was De Oliveria with the film and books that Clarice is based off of?
“Silence of the Lambs was such an iconic story and the book as well,” he said. “Once finding out about this opportunity, I dove head first into everything and anything Thomas Harris. I read every one of his books and I watched all the movies and commentary. They’re so dense and full of variety, direction and detail, that I felt the more I forget the style of this world the better I could fit Esquivel into this world because he’s a new character. The main thing I knew going into this was that Esquivel was not a part of Thomas Harris’ world and I wanted to make sure that he could fit and that there was a certain vibration of this character that was within line of the stories of Thomas Harris and Silence of the Lambs. Fortunately for me, there was a huge liberty with the fact that I could kind of create the character with our writers, showrunners and producers because he’s not a part or affiliated yet with the world—in hopes that he will be now.”
Clarice airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on CBS.