I recently sat in on a press conference call about the NBC television series, “Hannibal,” with show creator Bryan Fuller and star Hugh Dancy, who plays criminal profiler Will Graham. Mads Mikkelsen provides the new characterization of Hannibal Lecter.
The two men are clearly passionate about their new venture, which premiered on April 4, 2013 and airs Thursday nights at 10/9c. Here are some of my favorite moments from the call:
Fuller on why he wanted to do a “Hannibal” TV series:
Given what’s already been written, I thought there was a lot that existed that hadn’t been explored yet. So, I was really excited at the opportunity to explore things that didn’t make it into any of the movies….
We’re doing a television series that gets you 13 hours a season. We were able to get into much more specifics with the character, particularly Will Graham’s character, who Hugh Dancy plays so magnificently and wonderfully neurotically…. Because of the really complex psychology of the character that’s in the literature, we get to explore that in a way that nobody has before.
Fuller on whether Hugh Dancy is at all like his character:
What I love with Hugh as a human being is that he’s one of the most intelligent actors that I’ve ever worked with in my entire life and someone I consider to be a creative partner in this show and the crafting of this character.
So, it’s hard for me to think how Hugh is socially dysfunctional because I see him as somebody who is so insightful, has the philosopher’s soul and a wonderful vocabulary and incredible wit.
But he is very much an observer and a very thoughtful human being. So, you can hear the cogs turn. And the observations and the insights that he makes about the world around him and those around him are as insightful as some of the things that Will Graham would say.
Dancy on whether the subject matter makes him feel down at the end of the day:
I’m going to work every day with Laurence [Fishburne] and Mads [Mikkelsen], and I mean all the way down the cast, it really gives me so much pleasure that that tends to be the feeling I come away with at the end of the day.
Fuller on the fact that NBC has restricted the amount of gore on the show:
They should, because I think as an artist in the role of executive producing the show, I want to please the core audience more than anyone. And it’s NBC’s responsibility that we don’t go so far that we alienate members of the audience who are willing to stick through some of the horror elements.
Dancy on a gory scene that got to him:
There was one prosthetic – which I don’t think I can really describe to you because it would be such a big spoiler – but it came as a surprise to me having this so near the end of the season. So, it’s a few months in of work, acting opposite the various creations of the prosthetic team and being completely unmoved by it because it’s a very technical process usually. Then, walking onto the set one day, and I actually had to walk off the set and take a moment and come back. And I guess it was nice to realize that I could still be affected by that kind of thing.
Fuller on Mads Mikkelsen, who plays Hannibal Lecter:
I do believe that Mads Mikkelsen provides an iconography in and of himself and his approach to this role. One of the very first meetings that I had with Mads, he was talking less about portraying Hannibal Lecter in terms of how he’s been played before and more about playing Lucifer and this very dark fallen angel who had an admiration for the beauty and art of the human spirit so much so that if you were not respectful of that beauty, he could be quite punitive and send you to hell in his own very distinct way.
So, right off the bat, I knew that Mads was going to bring something totally new to this character that was approaching it from an angle that it hadn’t been approached from before.
Fuller on casting Molly Shannon in a guest role:
Molly is a trained dramatic actress so it was fun to see her in a dramatic role. And she is infectious as a human being and as a spirit. So, I was just excited to be able to work with her and also see her do something that she doesn’t usually do.
Fuller on his “obsession” with death in shows like “Hannibal” and “Pushing Daisies”:
There’s a very dark comedy at the heart of the Hannibal Lecter character as a man who refers to his victims as “free range rude.” There’s a wit about it. And for me, my obsession with death is primarily an obsession with life, and death is just the punctuation of that sentence….
Is it an exclamation mark? Is it a question mark? Is it a period? So, I think the obsession with death is actually healthier than most would assume. And I think exploring a serial killer’s story not just through the deaths but actually through the really complex psychology of the protagonist Will Graham – I felt like it was an opportunity to explore those issues…. What is our role in the universe? What is our responsibility in society? Where do we belong? And particularly what is our perception of reality and it coming to various ends?
Fuller on the “food styling” on “Hannibal”:
One of the first calls I made to my agent was how do I get in contact with Jose Andres because I want the food world of Hannibal Lecter to be very specific and distinct and respectful to someone as a chef.
And so, “How do I get in contact with Jose Andres?” And they’re like, “Well, we actually represent him, and he just got the James Beard Award. He’s having a reception next Wednesday. Why don’t you come as my date?” So, I did. And I was introduced to Jose and said, “So, I’m working on this Hannibal Lecter project….”
And he started doing Anthony Hopkins impressions and was very excited. He’s like, “Please, can I be your consultant?” And I was like, “Well, I was actually just about to ask you or beg or whatever I needed to do to get you to do the job.”
…One of my first questions [was], “What can you eat on the human body?” And he said, “Everything. You can eat everything. You can grind the bones into gelatin to use in Jell-O molds.”
Fuller on whether author Thomas Harris offered a critique of the show:
He very wisely said, “I want to be an audience member, and I don’t want to critique or be critical because, invariably, I would be. If you ask my opinion, then you would have to take it or not take it, and then there would be conflict or not conflict.”