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Return of the Dragon: Bryan Fuller, Martha De Laurentiis & Steven Lightfoot on “HANNIBAL”, Part One!

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With Bryan Fuller taking his shot at editing FANGORIA #343, the wait for HANNIBAL to return has become an even more difficult endeavor for fright fans. However, Fuller was able to sneak FANGORIA onto the set of HANNIBAL last month, and we were able to catch up with the brilliant cast of the surreal series. Next up was a massive chat with Fuller himself, as well as producers Martha De Laurentiis and Steven Lightfoot, who dished out some salacious secrets about HANNIBAL’s third season…

FANGORIA: Has Thomas Harris been involved in the show at all?

BRYAN FULLER: I’ve never talked to Thomas Harris. Martha is our Thomas Harris gateway, so I don’t know.

MARTHA DE LAURENTIIS: I’m very close with [Thomas] and his partner, and they love the show. In fact, I’ve sent them several sets of DVDs because they have two homes and they want one set for each home. They’re very thrilled with the evolution of the character and the rebirth of the character as well as with where Bryan has taken him, and it’s obviously gorgeous to watch. It’s also shocking for them to be on the wild ride of where it’s going. Like, the Wendigo is a new element, so often times I explain what the Wendigo’s purpose is to him.

FULLER: We all assume that he’s just a head in a box.

DE LAURENTIIS: Well I think it works best that way.

FANGORIA: There was a rumor that Guillermo del Toro would be directing an episode this season that has since been dispelled. Was his involvement ever a consideration?

DE LAURENTIIS: Can I take responsibility for that faux pas? What happened was I was doing a newsletter for the fans that once a month updates them on certain things that are going on, and I was talking about what we had done. We had talked about the directors this season, and then there was a possibility of doing a “post-mortem” talk segment. Bryan and everyone up here have been talking about this season andrecording a show that airs the hour after the episode on what went on in the episode. We were excited Guillermo del Toro is up here [with THE STRAIN] while his longtime DP Guillermo Navarro was directing [for HANNIBAL], and we talked about how could we possibly could get the two of the Guillermo’s together to talk about the show because Guillermo del Toro is a fan.

When somebody asked me, “Is there something new going on?”, I said, “Well with the post-mortem, it would be really fantastic for Guillermo del Toro, who directed an episode.” So, del Toro got mentioned there when I meant to say Navarro and because I didn’t proofread that final thing before it went out, I didn’t realize it until all of this stuff started coming back. It’s my responsibility. Always proofread what goes out with your name on it!

FULLER: Richard Armitage called me up, and he was like, “Oh my god, I love Guillermo del Toro; is that the one that I’m in?” I was like, “No… It’s Guillermo Navarro; you’ve worked with him, and you said that you loved him.” He was like, “There’s no del Toro?” And I was like, “I wish there was del Toro.” I mean, I would love to work with del Toro.

STEVEN LIGHTFOOT: But we’ve got Navarro, which is great.

FANGORIA: What is this season like compared to the first two seasons?

FULLER: It’s such a shift in tone from what we had been doing. The first season particularly was very procedural. Every week, we had a different killer who’s doing a different wild thing. That gave us kind of a backbone for stories, because we knew everything had to come back and relate to the human cello, or what was happening with Georgia Madchen.We got away from the procedural this season so it’s much more of a soap opera.

Really, this season was about unpacking the events of that finale that were like huge and traumatic, and you see Will Graham, laying in thirty gallons of blood with poor Abigail Hobbs and Alana’s out the window lying in the rain. Jack’s got the gash in his throat, bleeding out. The first three episodes start a new chapter, and then on our fourth episode, we actually go back and tell events immediately after the finale.

The first three episodes are eight months later, essentially. We get little glimpses of what happened afterwards that help us sell the trauma of what Will went through, and is going through to find this guy who’s had such influence in his life. Then, the soap opera takes over and it’s all about the characters.

Taking that off of our burden and really telling a story that is about the characters first and foremost and how events have affected them is the big difference for us; we are much more a character show in the third season than we have ever been. The assets that we have with this show is the cast: Gillian Anderson, Mads Mikkelsen, Laurence Fishburne, Hugh Dancy; we got Zach Quinto coming in to play with us. We’ve got a lot of fantastic actors, so we don’t want to overburden it with a killer of the week.

We really want to get into the psychology of the story line, so it’s actually been liberating in many ways. Part of it is, when we’re breaking stories in the writers room, if we only had a killer of the week, we could break this so much easier because a soap opera is harder to break than “We find a body!” “How do you open act two?” “Well, we find a body!” Those crutches have been taking away from us in a great way, I think.

FANGORIA: Of course the core of the show is this dysfunctional relationship between Will and Hannibal. Can you talk about how it evolves this season, and maybe tease a little bit about how their reunion plays out?

FULLER: The evolution is really out of the shock of what Will experienced, and the mystery of the first three episodes into the fourth episode is really, “How has this changed Will Graham, and how does it change his approach to Hannibal Lecter and the nature of that friendship?” At a certain point, you can either say, “I need to eradicate the monster,” or you say, “That’s the monsters condition; I’m not gonna go hunt a great white shark doing what a great white shark does.”

There’s sort of an acceptance at the same time, so it does allow us to further explore the intimacy between Hannibal and Will in a way that feels organic to the finale. The finale keeps on getting unpacked in a way; We get to see it from different views, and different character interpretations of what exactly happened. So, over the course of the first four episodes, we really take certain traumatic elements of that, and we tell how that traumatized each individual character is who survived the bloody day.

FANGORIA: Can you tease about how their first reunion plays out?

LIGHTFOOT: Well, because we’re playing with what Will wants, I think we’re saying to the audience, “What does Will want to do when he finds HANNIBAL? Is he going to embrace him? Is he going to kill him?” Will doesn’t know, and the journey takes him there, and in the end, they’re really pleased to see each other. Whatever else there is, it feels to me like there’s part of those guys feel better when they’re together, even if it’s wrong.  The problem is, there are so many other people with other agendas that, after they meet, those agendas come crashing in and the story spirals off into crazy places.

DE LAURENTIIS: We do get to hear, “Hello Will.” I love that.

FANGORIA: With such a great cast, it’s a bit disappointing that Michael Pitt won’t be returning to the role of Mason Verger. What happened as to that decision?

FULLER: Ultimately, Michael didn’t want to do the show, so we tried very hard and we negotiated for a long time to try to get him back, and he didn’t want to come back. But wait until you see what Joe Anderson does with the role.

I remember the very first conversation I was having with Joe and he was like, “So who is it that I’m playing? I know Michael Pitt played him, but who is he?” I was like, “Did you see HANNIBAL, the Gary Oldman character?” And he was like, “That guy?! I’m gonna play that guy?! I’m in. I’ll totally do it.” He does more twisted things in this season than he did in the previous season.

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FANGORIA: Considering how much character development there was in seasons one and two, will it be difficult for new fans who haven’t seen the other seasons to come aboard and watch season three?

FULLER: It’s interesting to start with the first episode [of the third season] because looking at it now with fresh eyes, it does reframe the show in a very specific way where, if you understand that Hannibal is a cannibal and that he’s on the loose, you’ll plop right in and you’ll figure it out, It’s actually a good entry point.

If you haven’t seen the first two seasons, you’ll figure it out pretty quickly. Because we reset, we give you all the information that you need to understand where the characters have been. Of course, it helps to see the first two seasons, but just looking at this season from that point of view as if we just started here, it’s an interesting place to start.

FANGORIA: There are a lot of new female characters joining the show this season. What informed that decision?

FULLER: We really wanted to make sure most of the new characters on the show are female characters. At it’s heart, HANNIBAL is Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter’s story and whenever we are a little outside of that orbit, we want to make sure we have as much female energy as possible because it’s an interesting perspective into this world.

Gillian Anderson is a series regular, and our first episode is so much her episode and so much her point of view of “how did I get into this situation?” We tell their story, and it exists in four different timelines: We go into her past relationship with Hannibal Lecter to the night that everything went down at the house, to where they are now in Italy and how they function as a couple and to who she is as his doctor at the same time as his accomplice.

I remember when we first turned in the script for a particularly horrifying sequence where we really make one female character a master of her own story. The network said it was their favorite sequence that we’ve ever done on the show, and it was with a supporting character in the second half of the season. We really wanted to make sure that if we are bringing a character into the world, that we give them something fantastic to do. That’s how we attract great cast.

LIGHTFOOT: We talked a lot about fairy tales this year because we were in Europe and that is sort of European storytelling tradition. Actually the hero, or rather heroine, of most fairy tales is the female character. So we talk a lot about how Bedelia is Bluebeard’s wife, and Chiyo, when we meet her, is Rapunzel, essentially. Reba is a beauty and the beast story with Dolarhyde, which I love.

Just stretching on that, [Reba] is a catalyst for so much of that story because I think its a tragic love story that Hannibal screws up as it suits him. That was one of the joys, and being able to do RED DRAGON over six hours so that you can give Dolarhyde’s world an equal point of view to Will’s really gets under the skin. Generally on the show, bodies have turned up and the killer might get a scene at the end, so it’s been brilliant to give the killer equal weight in the show and really tell his story. It’s sad; I’m kind of rooting for Dolarhyde half the time, personally.

FULLER: You want the audience to be confused about Francis Dolarhyde, and for me, that’s the romance between Frances Dolarhyde and Reba in the literature. You have this guy who takes a blind woman to the zoo who can’t see any of the animals, and who’s arranged for her to touch them, which is one of the most romantic things I’ve ever read in literature. I think it’s incredibly elegant and eloquent, as it says in the book. To really be able to get underneath the skin of that story, we have to understand Reba as more than just the girlfriend in that situation, which is always a trap when you’re telling a male oriented, or male centered story.

LIGHTFOOT: Yeah, they’re never just saved by the guy in the last second. Actually, we put them in some pretty horrible positions and they all save themselves, which is always way more interesting.

FULLER: When we were talking out certain scenes, I was always like, “Nobody better fall. Nobody better twist their ankle. We’re not doing that.” When we’ve done that in the past, like last year when we had Will trying to kill Freddie Lounds, she fell and struggled to get up, and I just cut it all out. Women can run. They don’t slip and fall. We wanted to make sure that we’re three dimensionalizing everyone as much as we possibly can.

FANGORIA: Television has become a real space for stories about anti-heroes. Do you think it’s difficult for modern series to tell traditional heroic stories and still make the heroes interesting?

FULLER: Well, look at Superman. That’s one of the big problems with telling a Superman story is that the guy is so pure of heart and that makes it difficult. It works with Superman since you do rally around that person, and purity of soul is something that can be interesting, but I think because we’ve had that so long, we’ve had the white hat cowboy for so long, that in order to start shaking it up and adding a different ingredient to the dish, we have to start looking to stories from a different point of view and sometimes that’s the anti-hero’s point of view.

I think what’s going to happen is that anti-heroes are going to be another tool in the toolbox for storytellers to use. You’ll be able to drift from the focus of the anti-hero to more of a traditional protagonist, and by juxtaposing those two against each other, you’ll be able to find fresh ways into story. Steve and I both have been working in television a while. You’re constantly looking at, we’ll break stories, and we’ll just be like, “I feel like I’ve seen this episode before on something.” We have to figure out how to undermine it, how to subvert it and how to make it different and fresh because we are in a golden age of television right now.

LIGHTFOOT: I also think we live in such a time where now’s anti-hero in twenty years will just be the hero. That’s the truth of it. Things just get greyer, and greyer. We live in such a high-wound time; there are so many rules about everything and anyone who works in anywhere. How do people justify themselves these days? It’s by coming up with more shit we all have to conform to.

I want to go break those guys legs. I’m just not gonna take any shit. I think that’s also why anti-heroes are so popular now because the world is getting ever more constraining and less individual. You’ve got to go through so many things; just doing our job, I get more memo’s about health and safety and discrimination. If I read it all, we wouldn’t get anything done. Apparently, you sanction all this stuff to be a functioning human being in society, and it’s a lot of fun vicariously watching someone who ignores all that.

FULLER: It’s the age of outrage, the age of the internet where you do something small and everybody’s like, “How dare you! You can’t do that!” Yeah, you can, because you’re a human being and there’s all sorts of colors on the spectrum and we don’t have to be all alike. The fact is that everybody is looking for the rush of being pissed off at something, and taking personal offense because that reaction is totally neurological.

I read stuff online and go, “Oh, well that’s unfortunate,” and then, I’ll read somebody else’s reaction and how pissed off that thing made them, and I’m like, “Should I be more pissed off?” Look at THE DAILY SHOW when they changed over John Stewart to the new guy [Trevor Noah] who had some tweets that were offensive to some people, but purely within the parameters of comedy.

LIGHTFOOT: Their biggest crime was not being that funny.

FULLER: Right, yeah. Exactly.

HANNIBAL returns on Thursday, June 4th at 10 p.m. EST on NBC. HANNIBAL creator/writer Bryan Fuller will be serving as FANGORIA’s first Special Guest Editor for Issue #343; you can subscribe to FANGORIA here. Keep an eye out for more HANNIBAL coverage here at FANGORIA.com!

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About the author
Jessie Robbins
Jessie Robbins is a three-time college dropout with a taste for the macabre. Hailing from Southern Ontario, Jessie spends all of her free time watching horror films and writing about them at Ashes and Rashes (www.ashesandrashes.com) or talking about them on the Land of the Creeps podcast (www.landofthecreeps.blogspot.ca).
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