Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen — best known for his skillful and distinctly human portrayal of dark characters in films like “The Hunt” and “Casino Royale,” as well as the television series “Hannibal” — started his acting career by dancing.

“I loved every second of it. But I found out that I was a little more in love with the drama of dancing than the aesthetics of dancing, and so it was a natural step for me to try to go that way,” Mikkelsen told Variety film critic Peter Debruge.

During a master class in the Variety Streaming Room presented by Sarajevo Film Festival, Mikkelsen reflected on his nearly 25 years in the entertainment industry, touching on topics ranging from character complexity to preparing for roles and beyond.

Mikkelsen had a relatively late start to his acting career, making his film debut in Nicolas Winding Refn’s 1996 crime thriller “Pusher” at the age of 30. The role launched Mikkelsen to the forefront of Danish cinema, and he went on to work with acclaimed Danish directors such as Anders Thomas Jensen and Susanne Bier. However, it was not until 2006 that he truly broke through in the U.S. as antagonist Le Chiffre in the James Bond movie “Casino Royale.”

As Le Chiffre, Mikkelsen proved his ability to humanize villains in a way that often makes them much more sinister.

“He’s not taking over the world, and he becomes fragile in a couple situations. He’s just another person that owes a lot of people a lot of money. And so that becomes humanizing to a degree, right?” Mikkelsen said. “That’s been the key word with the new era that Bond has stepped into because we love all the bad guys from the ’70s and the ’60s. They’re iconic. But time is changing and we want to see something a little more realistic in a character.”