Hannibal returned two weeks ago for another incredibly creative and fascinating season. I sat down with the show's executive producer, Bryan Fuller, to discuss the approach he took in Season 2 and the big role reversal for Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter. We also talked about the conception of last week's oh-so memorable sequence involving those bodies inside that silo, the fate of Gillian Anderson's Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier and more... including the novelizations for the Friday the 13th movies!
IGN TV: Obviously one big aspect of this season is the role reversal - the idea that not only is Will Graham locked up, but that he's the behind-bars consultant that we're used to Hannibal being.
Bryan Fuller: Yeah, I think there was fun in subverting what people would expect from a Hannibal Lecter show. Because Will's the first person who figured it out in the first season, we've kind of had to deal with him. You don't just get knowledge without consequence. So Will being put into Hannibal Lecter's shoes, where he is consulting unofficially on FBI cases, was exciting, because it gets us to shift the dynamic around. We're still doing interesting murder cases that you don't get to see on a traditional procedural. It was really about subverting expectations, shaking things up, keeping them interesting, not only for us, but for the audience who has seen five Hannibal Lecter movies. So we have to put up orange cones of where everybody else has gone to make sure that we're valid; because if we're just doing the same thing, there's no point. There's a great Judy Garland quote, "You don't want to be the second best version of somebody else. You want to be the best version of yourself." So we want our version to be unique.
IGN: Meanwhile, you have Jack and Alana both reacting to what’s happened in different ways - but neither is declaring, “Will didn’t do it!” While we want someone to just outright believe him, was it important to have Will's closest confidants both be in completely different places as far as his guilt is concerned?
Fuller: Yeah, and I think there something with Jack, particularly early on in the season, there is the concern of "This is really complicated work for somebody to do. That is insane." So Jack is actually savvy enough to know that this doesn't make sense. This doesn't fit with how psychopaths work or think. So he knows that there is this dead zone, this discrepancy of a blind spot in his investigation that he can't fill in. That's unsettling for him. Then for Alana, she is absolutely convinced that Will did do these things, but just not of his own free will. So Jack doesn't know still, and he's struggling with that, but Alana does know -- but she's wrong. So there are two different things happening, and I think it's, no two character can have the same point of view, because then you just need one of those characters to tell the story.
IGN: Now, that opening scene of the season was amazing. We've seen "in medias res" on other shows, the idea of that flashback technique, but this was such an impactful way to do it. So for you, was it just like, "I'm going to put my cards on the table," as far as where this season is heading?
Fuller: Yes. It's also because there have been so many different versions of the story and, also, there could very easily be a complacency with the audience in watching it and thinking, "Oh, they're just going to be doing this." We want to make sure [people get], “No, you need to watch the whole thing," because this is where we're going, and there's a lot of steps to get there. So we wanted to make sure that the audience was engaged from the get-go and knew that were going to be consequences this season that were going to be huge and dramatic. It was essentially blackmailing the audience into watching the whole season, because this is where we're ending up, and you have to dig in.
IGN: So it would be correct to assume, as I did, that 12 weeks, that's the timeframe of the entire season, heading towards that big event?
Fuller: Yeah, so we're seeing the end before we see the beginning. For me, I love that device. I love it. It's an old cliche of a narrative device, but I thought, "I don't want to wait." So this was very satisfying. Otherwise, we'd be starting with a lot of talk, a lot of people's feelings, and it was a great way to energize the season and also just tell the audience, "We're gonna put you on a ride."
IGN: Should we make any assumptions about how Jack is left off at the end of that sequence?
Fuller: Well, three characters have terrible fates, and there are three characters that you know and love. So I don't think you should make any assumptions. I think everybody's in danger.
IGN: Now, talking about the role reversal, we see that with Hannibal, there's the whole "You're the new Will Graham" thing. Will that continue, with him going out on cases as a consultant?
Fuller: Yes. That's sort of the fun, because we wanted to make sure, particularly in the second episode… I was like, "Okay, what does Hannibal bring to an investigation?" So for him to be able to smell a body and get a clue that nobody else would was sort of fun for me. Then to actually be able to visually communicate that process and how that works in his mind if he smells something -- then what does he see? Our senses are so heightened and effective that I thought, like, Hannibal using smell to solve a crime and get ahead of the FBI was a really fun device for me.
IGN: My wife is a huge fan of the show. We watched the episodes together.
Bryan Fuller: [Laughs] Did she like 'em?
IGN: She loved them. But she had a question for you. It was regarding the conception of people being stitched together and someone ripping themselves free, and her question was, "What the f**k!?”
Fuller: [Laughs] We needed a really cool case that was the metaphor for what was happening with Hannibal and the other characters. Really, Hannibal is stitching everybody into his own macabre piece of art. But the image of the eye was really inspired by Busby Berkeley, like the way he shoots with the spinning -- it was all about taking the fun of something as charming as a Busby Berkeley and then Hannibal-izing it. So we were doing a Busby Berkeley with corpses. That was the inspiration.
IGN: You spoken about how the show skirts that line in that it's not going for a 100 percent realistic feel. It's a little heightened. For you, is it the macabre fun of coming up with these crazy, left-of-center ways to kill someone?
Fuller: Well, yeah, because if it were too real, there would be no fun. I'm not necessarily a fan of serial killers. I'm a fan of Friday the 13th, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street -- not the remakes -- but there was an iconography for the psychopaths of '80s horror. There was a psychological element to it, you know, like Michael Myers in the first Halloween movie -- more so in the novelization, because I'm obsessed with novelizations of horror movies.
IGN: Same here. I have Friday the 13th, books I through III and VI.
Fuller: Yes, and they should have done IV, because it was one of the best movies!
IGN: It is, it is!
Fuller: I have all of those too -- and even V. I have the novelization of V.
IGN: I didn't know they made a novelization of V! Now I've gotta find it.
Fuller: Yeah! But there was a fun popcorn psychological sensibility to those, where it's, like, you know, Mrs. Voorhees grieving over her child and she did terrible things, which is more interesting than what you get in reality with serial killers. Serial killers are just a**holes who want to control and dominate, and there's not much interesting about them. But with Michael Myers, particularly with the novelization, this whole thing with Samhain and "Is this is a different kind of possession story?" was interesting. Friday the 13th, the traumas of not only Mrs. Voorhees, but Jason seeing his mom get killed. There's always a psychological component to that that made it sort of super-psychos, in a sense. So Hannibal was another version of a psychopath who was so intriguing, because he saw people no differently than he saw animals, which is sort of this god-like complex. As an animal lover, I sort of got like, "Well, yeah, if you're taking about breaking down a cow or in some countries a dog and consuming it, I would be more comfortable with eating a human being than I would a dog." So then you get into those kind of "apples and oranges" -- and we're talking about eating living things. For me, I finally got why religions would often pray before a meal or give thanks. For me, it wasn't to give thanks to God, it was to give thanks to the animal for giving me nourishment and protein and things like that. But I'm also speaking as somebody who is trying not to eat land-based animals now, because I'm working on this show where we're talking about eating people. I make human-animal connections all the time, so it gets really tricky... I don't know if that answers your question.
IGN: Hey, that was all interesting! I know Gillian obviously has another series, but Du Maurier is still out there. Might we see that character again?
Fuller: We're hoping to get her back for the second half of the season, depending on her schedule. She's somebody who's become so iconic to the show and so intimate with Hannibal Lecter, because she's the person who knows.
IGN: You want her to stick around because you want Will to get some help from someone who believes him, but obviously she feels the need to protect herself.
Fuller: She's smarter than everybody else. I love the idea of her being smarter than anybody else, where she's like, "Okay, this is beyond my control. This is something that I can't navigate. I am removing myself from the situation, because that's the only way I can survive." I wanted the audience to think, when they're watching the trailer for the second episode that she was dead. Like, he is going to come and get her, and he's going to end her, and he's going to eat her. What I love about subverting that is, you get to keep Gillian Anderson's iconography as a very intelligent actress playing very intelligent characters, because she does the smart thing. She bests Hannibal. She confronts him, she bests him, she gets out of dodge, and she's the only one that actually gets that freedom, that wherewithal. So I loved giving that to her, because I didn't want that character to die. I think a lot other people would have found it very easy to kill her, because that would have been the easiest way to deal with it -- and probably very realistic, but I was interested in her survival. I like the last woman standing, you know? That's one of the reasons why I love horror movies. I think horror movies can actually be a very feminist genre because the "last girl standing" is so iconic. Even the "second-to-last girl standing" is always often the one that almost gets away with it and nearly does, like in Prom Night -- I can't remember the actress's name -- where she almost survives. There's this big long fight and she's scrappy. Sarah Michelle Gellar in I Know What You Did Last Summer, you think she's going to survive, because she's scrappy, then in that last minute she doesn't. It's always disappointing. I always root for those characters to find a way not to die, because they're scrappy and strong. The universe says, "You can be scrappy and strong and still... get it." But I loved her being able to get away.