If you’re a fan of TV creator/writer Bryan Fuller than you are well aware that his storytelling tastes run eclectic, character-centric, darkly humorous and almost always explore some facet of death. Fuller’s shows Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies and now Hannibal, NBC’s dark take on novelist Thomas Harris’ iconic cannibal killer, all focus on how death creates major challenges for the living in unique ways. Some have been ahead of their time and lasted briefly, like Wonderfalls and Pushing Daisies, but Dead Like Me and now Hannibal – if the solid ratings for the pilot suggest - seem to have captured the audience’s own morbid curiosity with the topic and Fuller’s take on it.
In a recent conference call with reporters, Fuller talked with us about his death predilections saying, “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; just the punctuation of that sentence.”
A prequel to all of the Harris novel adaptations done for film, Hannibal will explore the origin relationship of the good doctor (Mads Mikkelsen) and Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), a brilliant FBI profiler who in this story has a form of Aspergers that gives him empathetic insight into a killer’s motivations. With 13 episodes already in the can, Fuller and Hugh Dancy tease us with some important things to know as we embark on their dark journey.
Fuller on Thomas Harris’ involvement in Hannibal
“Thomas Harris, who [executive producer] Martha De Laurentiishas a very close relationship with, and I as a fan of his work, were very eager to have a conversation to get his feedback on the scripts because we were really trying to honor the world that he created and the tone of the characters that he crafted. 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. The best way to maintain the dignity of the relationship is to be in the audience and then advise you after the first season if I saw fit.”
Dancy on his initial concerns with joining Hannibal:
“I read the first script - the script of the first episode that is. I wondered to myself again as I think most people would well why do this? A lot of fascinating questions seemed to be raised in that script. And I wanted to know where they were going to go and sat down with Bryan and also Martha De Laurentiis, and he potentially answered all those questions for me and painted a picture of not just this season that we just finished developing but potential future seasons. I realized that he had an enormous and expansive imagining of this world and his characters. And really from the point of that conversation on with those I was hooked.”
Dancy on Will’s two main influences – Dr. Lecter and Dr. Crawford (Laurence Fishburne)
“I think it is interesting that he's got these two mentors of a sort, the angel and devil on his shoulder. But it's actually a little bit more complicated and interesting than that because I think certainly Hannibal perhaps even more than Jack feels that he has Will's best interest at heart. Whether Will would agree with what Hannibal thinks are in his best interest is a different matter.”
Fuller on his stable of familiar guest star faces coming this season
“it was fun for me creatively and it was also just an opportunity to work with people that I adore and enjoy not only their company but their craft. With Ellen Muth (George on Dead Like Me), there was actually an opportunity to deconstruct our previous collaboration in a very unexpected way. I mean her character has the same name and is a reinterpretation of that character and in fashion that was sort of the Mulholland driving of Dead Like Me. And Molly Shannon is a trained dramatic actress so it was fun to see her in a dramatic role. 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 the authentic cuisine of Lecter’s victim meals
“As someone who loves adventurous eating, the idea of working with [chef] Jose Andres as our culinary consultant on the show was one that I had very early on in the process, almost before I had even written the script. Once I got the job and sort of pitched my take to Martha De Laurentiis and got her stamp of approval to proceed, 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. I asked 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 and he's having a reception next Wednesday. Why don't you come as my date and so I did. And I was introduced to Jose and said, “I'm working on this Hannibal Lecter project. And he was like, "Oh, Hannibal!” He was so enthusiastic and the lungs in the pilot, those were his ideas. One of the things that I thought was really interesting about his approach to cannibalism was my question of what can you eat on the human body? He said, "Everything. You can eat everything. You can grind the bones into gelatin to use in Jell-O molds" and had very specific suggestions on what body parts to use and how to prepare them in a way that had no judgment whatsoever in terms of this is a human being as opposed to a pig or a cow or a duck. I have great respect for that because as an animal lover and as somebody who mainly eats fish and rice, I appreciated that he was treating human beings as equally as animals without any kind of preciousness.”