The twistedly haunting, creepy and unexpected NBC series Hannibal is one of the best shows currently on television. With shocking revelations, psychological cat-and-mouse games, and intricately detailed murders, it certainly stays with you, long after it airs. And with everyone’s lives in peril by the end of the Season 2 finale, there’s no telling who will still be a part of the show, when it returns for a very differently structured Season 3.
After a recent screening of the finale, held for Emmy nomination consideration and proving that this show is so cinematically beautiful that it should always be watched on the big screen, Collider was invited to chat with actor Hugh Dancy, who plays Will Graham. During the interview, he talked about how he learned about the events of the Season 2 finale, how he viewed the ultimate outcome for his character as the peak of the Hannibal/Will romance, why the whole last kitchen sequence was so challenging to shoot, and finding some way for Hannibal and Will to communicate in Hannibal Season 3, with Hannibal on the run. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are spoilers.
HUGH DANCY: I think it fully came into shape for Bryan about half-way through the season. He had so little time to prepare the full season that he pretty much approached the first seven episodes as a separate entity. When we broke over the Christmas holiday, I spoke to Bryan and that was when he told me, “Look, I think we’re gonna have Hannibal cut you open.” At that point, I wasn’t clear about the full extent of the carnage for the other characters, but I knew that he was going to cut me open, as he does in Red Dragon, the novel. And I thought, “Okay, great.”
At that point, I realized that the emotional arc of the show, for the second half, was geared towards that cutting. It was not just a horrible, nasty, “Oh, no, my guts are falling out,” but it was a type of consummation that was like and embrace and a connection between the two of them. So, that was what I clung onto. It had to be horrific, also because it was the peak of their romance, in a way. Bryan really laid it all out there. I don’t know if part of him was thinking about coming back for a third season. But to be fair, I’ve had that feeling all the way through, that he’s constantly just throwing it all out there. The number of characters that either meet a very gruesome end, or at least get shot in the head in the second season, there’s never a sense that Bryan is trying to hold something back. He’s very generous in his storytelling.
Did you confirm with Bryan Fuller that Will Graham would survive Hannibal Lecter’s attack?
DANCY: No, I was confident that Will would survive. Of all the characters that are bleeding out in that house, Will is the only one who we know from Thomas Harris’ novel that that actually happened to in the source material, and he comes back from it. And I just know that the story between the two of them isn’t finished. At the very least, there’s a third act there. We know that Hannibal has to be behind bars, at some point, and we know that Will has to get him there. It wouldn’t make sense, any other way. So, I feel like I have a few more months in me.
DANCY: To be honest, I think that’s still up in the air. I’ve had one or two really interesting conversations with Bryan about it. It would be odd, at this point in the show, having built up the rich stew that we have, to suddenly no longer have Hannibal and Will together, at all. I’m interested to see Hannibal gallivanting around the world, wherever he is, and I’m interested to see Will gallivanting around the world. But, there’s gotta be some form of communication. There’s the idea that Hannibal, in whatever terrible things he’s doing in his travels, is deliberately leaving a trail and even somehow communicating with Will, and maybe Will is responding. Who knows?
Are you surprised at the reaction the Hannibal/Will relationship has gotten, and how it’s been romanticized by some of the fans?
DANCY: No, because I think Bryan is fully engaged in romanticizing it. I think it comes from #1, in that respect. I don’t think that Bryan set out to write that. I don’t think that he necessarily envisioned it. Whether it came from his subconscious, or whether it’s there, sitting in the novels, or whether it’s something we created when we came together to make the first episode, but he ran with it, and we all ran with it. It is now about these two men who are completely alone in a big, bleak world, and then see, coming across the horizon, the other person who reminds them of themselves, somehow. That, to me, is endlessly fascinating.
DANCY: Right. And then, when Hannibal goes out onto his doorstep and is being washed away by the rain, it’s a beautiful moment. It’s relief, but it’s also desperately lonely. That’s what’s so great about Mads’ performance. He has managed to create a version of Hannibal who can conceivably be distraught and vulnerable and can cry in a therapy session, and yet is an utter monster.
Because it was such a massive finale, were any of the sequences particularly challenging for you?
DANCY: That whole last sequence in the kitchen. We shot a 20-hour day, or something like that. We did two scenes before it, and then had to go into that. It was midnight or one in the morning and we’d worked a full day, and then I had to get cut open and witness Abigail getting her throat cut, 27 times. Surprisingly, because you’ve carried the story through, you almost forget the amount of emotion that’s being freighted along with you. I remember watching what Mads was doing, and also becoming aware that it was going to be much harder for me. We had to jump very high to make that scene work. It was a great day at work, but I wouldn’t want to do it every week.
DANCY: To be honest, I didn’t feel that so much. I guess I knew, in that respect, that the onus was going to be on the character of Hannibal. It moves so fast, even when we’re getting ready for the first episode, let alone half-way through the season. In getting ready for the first episode of the first season, you’re just trying to make decisions about the silly stuff, like which clothes you’re going to wear. And then, you’re into the day-to-day and you’re trying to just make the most of the script you have, and any other considerations go out the window.
When we had finished the first season and we had already gone so deep into what we were doing, it was too late. It was either going to fly or it wasn’t. But, I give Bryan credit for that. He has to work in much more of a vacuum than we do, and he imposed his own imagination onto the source material without the anxiety of influence. I just read his love of Thomas Harris in his writing. He’s not trying to prove himself in an insecure way. He’s just trying to take it to the next level.
Hannibal will return for Season 3 on NBC.