How ‘Clarice’ Will Face Her Demons, Plus a Tease About a Season-Long Mystery

Rebecca Breeds Clarice Starling
Brooke Palmer/CBS

How would you cope if, at 25, you’d already survived run-ins with two monstrous killers? How would that shape the way you see the world? CBS’s psychological crime drama aims to answer those questions (and many others) as it delves into the post–Silence of the Lambs life of behavioral science specialist Clarice Starling (Rebecca Breeds).

Though the characters from the 1991 film (and Thomas Harris’ 1988 bestselling novel) have appeared in other projects, “no one’s told this part of the story,” says Breeds.

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Wrestling With Demons

The series picks up in the early ’90s, after newly minted FBI agent Starling rescued Catherine Martin (Marnee Carpenter) from serial killer Buffalo Bill’s basement. Starling is in FBI-mandated therapy but has mostly avoided dealing with the trauma of that near-death experience — not to mention the probing conversations about her past with then-imprioned madman Dr. Hannibal Lecter, who advised her on the Buffalo Bill investigation.

“She is a very resilient human,” Clarice executive producer and cocreator Jenny Lumet says. “But there’s no way you don’t come out of these experiences with a changed perspective.”

Anthony Hopkins Jodie Foster Silence of the Lambs

Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs (Everett Collection)

For all the coolheaded bravery Starling projects, Breeds says the Fed is really trying to hold it together. “I describe Clarice as the pot boiling on the stove,” she says. “She’s just keeping the lid on, and you can see it rattling around.”

On the Job

Catherine’s mother, Attorney General Ruth Martin (Jayne Atkinson), drafts Starling for the FBI’s roving Violent Criminal Apprehension Unit. “They don’t have a state jurisdiction,” Breeds explains. “They’re sent anywhere, to anything the AG [asks] them to deal with.”

That means we’ll see Starling taking on a variety of crimes, from kidnapping to murder. But both Lumet and cocreator–executive producer Alex Kurtzman make it clear that Clarice won’t be a case-of-the-week show. The story focuses as much on Clarice’s internal struggles as it does on the crimes she’s investigating.

And there’s a season-long mystery to be solved: “What she discovers in the pilot is that the murders she’s brought in to [handle] are part of a much bigger puzzle,” Kurtzman explains.

Marnee Carpenter Clarice Catherine Martin

(Brooke Palmer/CBS)

The Doctor Is Out

As far as Lumet and Kurtzman are concerned, Lecter (and his fava beans and Chianti) have had the spotlight for long enough. Will there be anyone on hand to push Starling to address her painful past the way the cannibalistic shrink did? Breeds points to Catherine Martin, the kidnap victim.

“Once they learn to face each other,” she teases, “it’s interesting how their shared experience can help unravel their trauma.”

Clarice, Series Premiere, Thursday, February 11, 10/9c, CBS