Clarice interview: Lucca De Oliveira on Esquivel’s bond with Clarice

EsquivelWe are now three episodes into CBS’ Clarice, and the picture for this series is beginning to get a lot clearer. This is a psychological thriller, a police drama, and a character study all in one!

For Lucca De Oliveira as Tomas Esquivel, he enters the series with a unique challenge: He’s playing a character not established in the Silence of the Lambs universe, but he still finds a way to make him stand out as essential. Esquivel is a skilled sniper, a dedicated agent, and also one of the few people who trusts Clarice Starling (Rebecca Breeds) and has her back amidst great skepticism. On episode 3 we saw his interrogation skills, and there’s almost surely more to be unlocked through the remainder of this season.

We had a chance to speak to Lucca about his experience on the show, Esquivel’s bond with the title character, and what lies ahead from here.

This experience on this show has to be so challenging and unique — it’s iconic source material, but it’s also a new series that you’re filming in the midst of this global health crisis. Have the circumstances of this year brought everyone closer together?

Lucca De Oliveira – The trauma-bonding is so real, man. Me, Rebecca, and Devyn [Tyler] actually came out here (to Toronto, where the show films) in March, before everything hit the fan. Between that time and September, we got shut down and we spent six or seven months at home, waiting around and seeing if this was going to happen.

In that time, we kept in touch — not only the three of us, but the entirety of the cast would get on a Zoom call every couple of weeks and catch up. We’d speak about the material and each other so by the time we showed up in September to get started with shooting, we were already super-close and had a good sense of who we were and what everyone was about. Once we started getting into the material, we all ended up being even closer. We had such a similar energy — it’s been really special. [The virus] is a nightmare, obviously, but I think MGM and CBS created a safe space for us — we feel so supported and cared for and we can really focus on the work. The outstanding circumstances don’t have to impact the material.

Back when you first signed on, how much were you told about Esquivel?

They told me just some bullet points — he was a military sniper, that he was new to the Bureau, and that he was a man of few words. He’s thoughtful and perceptive. He really started to get developed when I got the role and I started speaking with our producers and our writers. My biggest thing when I got the role was making sure Esquivel felt true to the world of Silence of the Lambs. He’s one of the only characters who wasn’t a part of the Thomas Harris novel. With that came so much liberty and freedom to develop this character — that he felt grounded with some sort of truth.

At the same time, I really felt the pressure of delivering. It’s an iconic story with a huge fanbase — I wanted the fans to enjoy this character, this new face alongside Clairce.

This material can be really dark — especially in episode 3 with all of the interrogation scenes and what Esquivel goes through there. How do you get yourself into the place you need to for this?

I try to make everything feel as real as possible. I come from the school of thought that I’ll do whatever I have to do to get the shot and make it feel authentic. These scenes are really complex and it’s hard to not take it home with you or dream about it. You’re talking about shooting a kid or coming across a dead woman. I try my best to not let it become too real and not let it impact my personal life, but the people who know me know that most of the time when I’m working on something, I fall into the work being my whole life. I’m in this quasi-vulnerable, heavy, ‘almost-morbid’ energy.

It’s in line with Esquivel. This is what he does — he kills people. I wanted him to feel human and carry it with him. I wanted him to feel almost guilty for being good at this. It’s a terrible thing to be good at. The plus side is that he saves the lives of the people he cares about or those he works with. The conflicting energies that he’s carrying make it fun to play him, but it is heavy material. There’s nothing I can do but remind myself that I’m pretending! There’s a beauty to bringing that to the forefront. Are we telling stories that are based off of real events? Yes. There are people who do this in the real world. But, we are recreating those scenarios and it’s all imaginary.

Through the first three episodes, we’ve seen Esquivel show more of a sympathetic side to Clarice. He’s believed in her and he’s encouraged her. What is he seeing in her that others aren’t?

I think he recognizes her skill set and that it can only better the outcome of the case they’re confronted with. He’s always a man of efficiency — snipers are efficient, they pay attention to details, and they do what’s best for the greater good. Sometimes that’s hard. I talk about that in the third episode. He sees Clarice as a potential in. Just like Clarice is in the Bureau [as a woman], Esquivel is a minority. He’s trying to find any and all outlets to make himself viable and valuable.

Esquivel knows that he can learn a lot from her, but also stand out if he supports her and contributes to solving these cases. It’s something he needs in his back pocket so he can keep his position. He empathizes with her and reaches out to her for connection — he lacks that with his male colleagues.

I know Clarice is not the sort of show where Clarice and Esquivel are going to just be hanging out and having a bunch of happy moments, but over the season, do the two grow closer?

We definitely start to see them get more comfortable with each other and trust one another more. From our pilot to our third episode, there’s already been a rollercoaster. Esquivel is trying to trust her, but then she does something that raises a flag. Then, she does something else and he comes back around. This give-and-take between the two is going to continue through the season and appeal to the audience.

The story isn’t romantic — that’s not the focus here. It’s more focused on the humanity that we bring to this world — that the jobs are a part of our life but they’re not our entire life. We have more to offer. It’s through other people and connections that we discover more of ourselves. The two find that within each other.

The end of episode 3 was crazy — Wellig is dead and Rebecca seems to be gone. Where do things go from here?

VICAP finds themselves in a really compromising position, and more so Esquivel. He had physical contact with material that took the life of a high-level, really important witness and suspect. So, that guilt is something that he’s going to have to learn to deal with it.

Meanwhile, the team is going to try to work on this case when they have all of these eyes on them. They have to find the right amount of noise and the right amount of information — that’s the team’s top priority. We’ve taken two steps forward and five steps back — they know that everyone is expendable and can be replaced, so the team’s going to move quickly and quietly and continue to follow these leads and find our girl.

Out of everything you’ve filmed so far, is there anything else you’re excited for people to see?

The third episode was one I was really excited about, but we just finished up about episodes 8 and 9. I’m really excited about those — we start to get a sense of what the team is really capable of. They have to navigate a case with complex risks, and on top of that, Clarice and Esquivel follow these leads, recognize who’s responsible for what, and understand what the stakes really are. I think the audience is really going to like seeing these characters getting more comfortable with each other and seeing these team dynamics build — and seeing characters like Ardelia put their foot in the ground and make some noise. It’s going to be good.

Related Get more news on the next Clarice

What do you want to see from Esquivel moving forward on Clarice?

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