Hannibal Lecter. The one man you never want to see at the dinner table. Named the #1 Villain in film history by the American Film Institute. Since first appearing in author Thomas Harris’ novel, “Red Dragon,” the cannibal with the PhD has appeared in five feature films, including the Oscar winning Best Picture, “Silence of the Lambs.” Now, thanks to Executive Producer Bryan Fuller, Dr. Lecter makes his television debut in the new original series, “Hannibal.” The show features Mads Mikkelsen as the good doctor, Hugh Dancy as FBI agent Will Graham and Laurence Fishburne as Graham’s superior, Jack Crawford. The show debuts tonight (April 4) at 10:00 pm EST on NBC.
To get the word out about the show, Executive Producer Bryan Fuller and co-star Hugh Dancy sat down with Media Mikes to talk about the new show, fans of the films and exactly how much is TOO much?
Media Mikes: In going deeper into Hannibal Lecter, how much new territory did you feel there was to explore given what’s already been written?
Bryan Fuller: Well 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 really explore things that didn’t make it to any of the movies. They’ve made a handful of films and because of the limited real estate that you have in doing a movie that 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. He was traditionally played as a stoic leading man. And what we get 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. So that was very exciting.
MM: Hugh, since Will was already established in the books, what was the biggest challenge for you to make him unique to you?
Hugh Dancy: Well I think the challenge laid is just in the fact that Thomas Harris created, and then Bryan interpreted, such a complicated character. I wasn’t worried about the fact that he already existed on the page. If anything I think that’s helpful to have a blueprint for your performance written by a great writer. You have something to turn to. And I certainly went to the first place after I met with Bryan and we spoke, the first place I went to is back to the novel and really tried to use that as a launch pad.
MM: Bryan, can you talk a little bit about the casting and finding the perfect cast? Why you felt that Hugh was perfect for Will and especially why Mads was perfect for Hannibal?
BF: One of the reasons that Hugh was so ideal for the role is that Will Graham, who is kind of burdened by his own neuroses and personality disorders, could come off as unlikable unless you have an actor who kind of invites you into his vulnerability with those neuroses and with those personality disorders that actually gives you permission to care for them as opposed to being pushed away. And Will Graham is a character who pushes people away and has barriers that he throws up as social defenses. So we needed somebody who had a vulnerability that kind of transcends any sort of barriers that he throws up and takes you into the world and allows you to care for him even though he is so buttoned up and damaged. That was the main reason. And Hugh was unanimous. When we all sat down and we talked about who was our Will Graham. Hugh Dancy’s name came up and it was very easy for all of us to say like “oh yeah, he’s the one. Let’s meet with him and see if we can hook him.”
MM: As far as being visually graphic, is there anything that NBC has told you that you can’t do?
BF: Oh yeah. There’s lots. What’s been really great about working with NBC on this project is that they recognize that they are doing a horror show and the show is called “Hannibal Lecter.” And they have, you know, put us on at 10 o’clock for a reason – so we can maximize what we can show to honor the genre and also provide fans of the genre certain ingredients that they are expecting to see. But there’s absolutely places where they won’t allow us to go. And that’s too far and you need to come back from that. It’s always a push/pull because it’s like “ooh, can we do this” and we show it to them and they’re like “ooh, not that one.” So it’s definitely collaboration and they’re taking it very seriously. They’re aware that they are presenting a horror show and they have to honor that audience. But we’re not necessarily – I would love to be going a lot further. But NBC keeps on reminding me where the line is. And that’s the responsibility as a broadcast network. But they have been very, very supportive in terms of what we can do and going as far as we can without being X rated.
MM: Can you give an example or two? What are some of the things that they said no to?
BF: Arterial spray. There are some episodes where going back through I was like “ooh, you know, I hope we get to release the DVD version of the “Unsuitable for Broadcast Television” collection of the show.” So eye gouging, seeing people’s intestines being removed from their bodies in great, you know, noodly clumps. Those types of things they tend to say, ummm… no.” Which 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 but we can’t, you know, drop a bucket of blood on them and expect them to have a good time.