Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith, played by George Peppard , is one of the four protagonists of the television series The A-Team. The producers originally had James Coburn in mind to play the part of Hannibal, but it eventually ended up going to Peppard. The character—which was based loosely on former United States Army Special Forces officer Bo Gritz—appeared on The A-Team from its beginning in 1983 until its end in 1987. The character was played by Liam Neeson in the 2010 film adaptation.
In the pilot episode ("Mexican Slayride: Part 1"), Hannibal is described by a reporter colleague of Amy Allen as follows: "The leader [of the A-Team] is a Colonel named John Smith. But everybody calls him Hannibal. The guy has a very unorthodox style." Smith takes his name from the famous military commander and strategist, as alluded to by B. A. Baracus in the same episode; various items of tie-in literature for the series commented that just as the original Hannibal had led the elephants over the alps, this Hannibal had led his men over the wall of Fort Bragg after they were wrongly convicted. He is distinguished by his unflappable demeanor, even when in peril, his constant cigar-smoking, his black leather gloves, and his many disguises. He is a master tactician (although his plans rarely turn out as they are supposed to; when asked if she thought this was going to work, Amy Allen summed it up by saying, "Hannibal's plans never work right. They just work.") and seems to have a plan for getting the team out of any situation they get into. His favorite catchphrase is, "I love it when a plan comes together"; he is often heard to remark "Nice" after part of his plan has succeeded - sometimes with destructive or explosive results.
He fought in both the Korean and Vietnam wars, serving in the 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam. His rank is inconsistent: throughout the first four seasons, he is referred to as possessing the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, though in keeping with US Army tradition, he is most often referred to simply as "Colonel". In the fifth-season episodes "Trial by Fire" and "Firing Line", however, he is wearing the eagle insignia of a full Colonel. (His medals in these episodes are also different from those on display the last time he wore his Class A uniform in the first-season finale, "A Nice Place to Visit".) Thriving on adventure and the adrenaline rush of life-threatening situations (or being "on the jazz", as the rest of the team refers to it), he seems to genuinely enjoy every challenge they encounter. He is renowned by both allies and enemies for being cool-headed and extremely clever. There is rarely a situation where he is not able to smile in the face of adversity. He will usually light up a cigar when he needs to do some thinking—often when coming up with a plan, and in the heat of a dangerous or exciting moment. He is also often seen putting on his gloves when he senses the action is about to pick up (such as a fist fight breaking out). When captured by their enemies, he will deliver flippant or sarcastic remarks. He regularly dispenses aphorisms, especially to their foes, upon defeating them. He also has some medical skills which he picked up when in Vietnam.
He styles himself a "master of disguise", though his skill lies not so much in how convincing his disguise is, but in his ability to assume any role and convince others that his role is genuine. Most episodes begin with the prospective clients coming to meet the A-Team, and instead, being introduced to one of Hannibal's comic aliases. Hannibal uses his various disguises to screen all the A-Team's potential clients to assure they were not fronts for the military—sometimes playing more than one at a time. Clients often make reference to a "Mr. Lee", the owner of a Chinese laundromat who tells them where to meet the team.
Hannibal is also an aspiring actor, playing monsters in low-budget horror movies (being a fugitive, he can only choose roles in which his face cannot be seen). His many roles include "Gatorella", "Killgator" and his most famous, "The Aquamaniac". Naturally, Hannibal secures his roles playing his own agent; somehow always 'eluding' the Producer of his true identity.