PaleyFest NY 2014: Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Laurence Fishburne and Show Creator Bryan Fuller Talk HANNIBAL

     October 19, 2014


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 after the wild Season 2 finale that left everyone in a state of peril, the anticipation for Season 3 and answers for where it will all go next is growing, as fannibals wait for the show’s return.

As part of PaleyFest NY, which is considered the ultimate TV fan festival, co-stars Hugh Dancy (“Will Graham”), Mads Mikkelsen (“Dr. Hannibal Lecter”) and Laurence Fishburne (“Jack Crawford”), along with show creator Bryan Fuller, talked about their first encounter with the Hannibal Lecter mythos, how the undercurrent of love between Hannibal and Will shapes their understanding of their characters, that Season 3 will show how much everyone has been changed by the events of the finale, what Hannibal will be wearing now, learning more about the relationship between Hannibal and Bedelia (Gillian Anderson), casting Tao Okamoto as Lady Murasaki’s attendant Chiyo, getting back into the lab in the second half of the season, the possibility of the appearance of Clarice Starling, and why the original seven-season plan is now a six-season plan.  Check out what they had to say after the jump.

hannibal-hugh-dancy-mads-mikkelsenQuestion:  What was your first encounter with the Hannibal Lecter mythos?

LAURENCE FISHBURNE:  It was Brian Cox in Manhunter.  “I’m sorry, operator.  I haven’t the use of my arms.”  Ooh, okay.  Smart guy. 

MADS MIKKELSEN:  I saw The Silence of the Lambs when it came out.  I was way too old to be scared that much, but it was a fantastic film.  We owe Anthony Hopkins a lot.

HUGH DANCY:  I also saw The Silence of the Lambs.  What I remember thinking was how beautiful it was, specifically in that crime scene that he creates when he slaughters the two police officers, and they come in to see it splayed out like an angel.  I thought, “Oh, my god, that’s beautiful!”  And then, I thought, “What’s wrong with me!”  It did that very well.

BRYAN FULLER:  I saw Manhunter and thought Brian Cox was amazing.  He gets eclipsed by Anthony Hopkins ‘cause it’s an Oscar-winning performance, but I think Brian Cox is just as good.  I think they’re two fantastic performances.  And then, I went and read the book, and that blew me away. 

Bryan, why is it important to you to change the gender of some of these characters and add that female energy to the story?

FULLER:  Well, if we didn’t change some of the genders of the characters, it would be a sausage party.  There would just be a lot of guys.  I think we need female energy in all entertainment.  What’s exciting about Season 3 is that we have a lot more female energy.

Hugh and Mads, there’s an interesting undercurrent of love between Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham.

FULLER:  He’s penetrated him.  It’s true!

How does that shape your own portrayals, and your understanding of the characters?

DANCY:  They love each other.  That’s unquestionable.  I think it’s a platonic love, but it’s rich.  They recognize each other as unique in the world.  They reflect each other, in that way.  It’s a profound recognition and relief that comes with it.   

MIKKELSEN:  Going through what Hannibal did with Will, in the two seasons, is probably the closest he’s ever been to loving anyone.  What love means in his universe, we’ll have to see, later on.  Everything heartbreaking that happens to poor Will is also heartbreaking to Hannibal.   

hannibal-ko-no-mono-mads-mikkelsenFULLER:  One of the reasons that I was really excited about this project was to explore heterosexual male friendship, not just between Will and Hannibal, but also Jack.  I feel like there is a three-way between those men.  I think Jack has a friendship with these two guys, as well.  It’s a very interesting exploration of male friendships.

MIKKELSEN:  I think there’s an honesty to what Bryan writes, and there’s an honesty in how we try to give the scenes justice.  That mean that there is never the big plan from Hannibal.  When I’m with Jack, it’s honest.  There’s no lie.  It’s an honest relationship.  We’ve become strong friends, as I have with his wife.  What I did with Alana was honest.  It might change tomorrow.  We don’t know.  But, it’s always honest.  That’s one of the reasons she can walk in that door without the audience going, “No!”  There’s an honesty in the whole project.  We’re not trying to be behind the characters going, “Gotcha!”  Honesty is one of the keynotes that allows us to get away with some of these things. 

Mads and Laurence, how was it to shoot your fight scene that opened Season 2?

MIKKELSEN:  That was a really long day. 

FISHBURNE:  We felt really long and we looked really young, while we were doing it.  But the day after, we really felt our age.

MIKKELSEN:  We shot that for 14 hours.

FISHBURNE:  No, we did 21 hours.  You just blocked out the other seven. 

MIKKELSEN:  That was a beautiful day. 

FISHBURNE:  It was great. 

Bryan, what can you tell us about Season 3?

FULLER:  It’s radically different than the previous two seasons.  I feel like we had such a blow-out at the end of the second season that everybody has to be so changed by what they’ve experienced.  We painted ourselves into a corner, creatively, and the only way out of it is to start knocking down walls.  So, we’re doing something completely different in the third season.

hannibal-ko-no-mono-hugh-dancy-mads-mikkelsenHugh, in terms of character development, what new aspects of Will are you most looking forward to portraying in Season 3?

DANCY:  He’s come out of that kitchen like he’s gone through a furnace, in a way.  There’s some balance now, between his sanity and his insanity.  He’s still going to have to face up to it, at some point, but he’s carrying that with some kind of poise and equanimity.  A slightly lighter, on the surface, Will Graham will be interesting. 

Mads, what will Hannibal be wearing in Season 3?

MIKKELSEN:  Not a lot.  Hannibal is on the run, but when he’s running, he’s not necessarily hiding.  So, it might be strangely flashy, what he’s going to wear.

FULLER:  Also, there will be a greater variety of looks, as he adopts different personalities.

DANCY:  “Maybe no waistcoat today.” 

Hugh, you worked with Mads Mikkelsen on King Arthur together.  Did you recommend him for this role?

DANCY:  Only in so far as whenever I had heard Mads’ named being mentioned, I whooped and hollered and was enthusiastic, to say the least.  Maybe the very first time that I met Bryan, I was in New York doing a play, so we met for lunch with Martha De Laurentiis, one of the producers, and inevitably that question came up.  Bryan mentioned Mads’ name in that conversation, and for me, from that point on, it was set.  It turns out that I don’t run NBC, so it took a little longer for everybody to agree. 

When you realized that you’d be working together again, what did you both think? 

DANCY:  I was in the theater, in my dressing room, when I got a call from Bryan, just before I went on stage.  And thank god because for all great parts that are fantastically acted, there are multiple bad versions.  Most good acting is brilliantly navigating your way through many, many potential pitfalls.  I had foreseen what a good experience this might be. 

MIKKELSEN:  We spent six months together on a horse. 

DANCY:  Two horses. 

hannibal-tome-wan-mikkelsen-dancyMIKKELSEN:  As you can imagine, we got quite close.  We became friends.  Since then, every time I was in London, I always called him and we’d see each other.  We never really dreamt that one day we might do something together again. 

DANCY:  Actually, that’s not true.  When we did King Arthur, maybe after a few beers, Mads was like, “You should make a movie in Denmark.” 

FISHBURNE:  He said that to me, too, so it doesn’t really mean anything. 

MIKKELSEN:  It was just a fantastic gift.  These are big shoes, not only for the guy who’s playing Hannibal, but for everyone who’s involved in it because it’s such an iconic film and book.  So, spending that much time with a fellow actor, as I knew I would do with Hugh, it was just a fantastic gift that we knew each other.  We are not only in the room, but to a degree, we have to be emotionally naked in certain situations.  It’s just nice to feel comfortable.  I think we were all smitten that we knew each other.  Everybody became really close, really fast.  That is a gift. 

What does Brian Reitzell bring to the show, with the music?

FULLER:  What Brian does is score and sound design.  When we go to the mixing stage, we usually bury all of the foley.  The music carries things.  Inside the music is a lot of sound design.  I love film scores.  I’ve collected film scores since I was seven or eight.  I’m obsessed with them.  On Pushing Daisies, we had a traditional film score that was very melodic.  It was easier to talk about that, with my background.  When I first sat down and talked about the show with Brian, I was like, “It’s psychological, and I don’t know how to tell you how to do that, so I have to trust you completely to develop your own soundscape.”  It’s the first time I’ve worked with a composer where I just trust him to do whatever he wants, and it’s always amazing.

Can you talk about lining up such great directors for this show, including Vincenzo Natali for the Season 3 premiere?

hannibal-paleyfestFULLER:  Vincenzo Natali is directing five of the first six episodes.  It really boils down to the template that David Slade created.  I’ve been a fan of David’s since I saw Hard Candy.  It was brilliant, and it was also gorgeous and very subversive and smart.  David really has a rough elegance to him that felt like it matched the world.  So, everyone who’s come in, from Vincenzo Natali to Guillermo Navarro, they continue to elevate and personalize their view of the show.  Everybody who comes in is so inspired by the cast, in different ways, that you can track who is getting the most emotional kick for that director, in terms of the characters.

You’ve had some terrific guest stars over the seasons, like Amanda Plummer, Jeremy Davies, Lance Henriksen.  How do you line them up?

FULLER:  I love actors, and I’ve been very fortunate to work with some amazing ones who will do us a favor and come in and do a part that they normally wouldn’t do because it’s a short burst.  But, the real reason we get all of those actors is this cast.  They’re the bait.  That’s primarily why we get such great guest stars.  The dailies for Amanda Plummer were such a joy to watch because she’s an actress who is so informed by her environment.  And you could see how much fun the actors were having, working with her.

What does Thomas Harris think of the show?

FULLER:  We’re told that he likes it.  I think Martha De Laurentiis keeps him in a zipper mask in a steamer trunk in her basement.

What can you say to preview Bedelia and Hannibal in Season 3?

FULLER:  The first episode is all about that.  What’s interesting about the third season is that every episode is a little movie.  It’s almost like the first episode is a pilot for a show that’s just about Bedelia and Hannibal’s relationship.  In that, we understand the context of that relationship, past, present and where it’s gonna go.

And you just cast Tao Okamoto?

tao-okamoto-hannibalFULLER:  Yes.  Tao Okamoto is an amazing actress who you might know from The Wolverine.  She’s a young woman, and we were very excited when she was interested in the role of Lady Murasaki, but Lady Murasaki is an older woman.  It’s the same story, but the character is Chiyo, who is also from the literature.  She’s Lady Murasaki’s attendant.  So, we’re expanding that character and her history with Hannibal.  There were a lot of things that we needed the character to do, story wise, that didn’t make sense for Lady Murasaki to do.  With Chiyo, we had a greater rein.  I’m very excited to work with her.

The books mention two female lab techs.  Have you considered a new member for the team?

FULLER:  We will be getting back into the lab in the second part of the season, so they may appear.

Will there be more incredibly gorgeous and disturbing murder tableaus in Season 3?

FULLER: We do in the first couple of episodes.  There’s a really weird one, and then it gets even weirder in Episode 2.  So much of the new season is very much a soap opera.  We’re out of the FBI.  Characters who were in the FBI are no longer in the FBI.  It’s all different, so we don’t have that kind of mechanism.  The second half of the season is more about one case.  So, we don’t have as many this season.  Sorry.  But, it will be interesting in other ways.

Will we see much of any interaction, this season, between Hannibal and Will?

FULLER:  Just because they’re separated doesn’t necessarily mean that what they’re experiencing isn’t about each other.

MIKKELSEN:  And there’s a very important area called the Memory Palace.  We might meet each other there, for a little bit.

Will we ever see Clarice Starling?

FULLER:  We’re gonna try.  Every season, we ask them.  With the first season and the second season, it was an annoyed no.  With the third season, they were like, “Not this year, but ask us again next year.”

How might Molly fit in, if we get to see her?

FULLER:  We absolutely are going to be seeing Molly and that relationship, so that will absolutely happen in the third season.

You’ve said that you have a seven-season plan for this show.

FULLER:  It’s getting shorter.

How malleable is that plan?

FULLER:  We deviated a little bit from the plan in the third season.  Originally, it was going to be the season where Hannibal was abroad.  And then, as we started breaking that story out, we realized that, in order to make that last an entire season, we were going to have to tread water for episodes.  If we have 13 episodes, we have no business treading water.  So, I thought, “Let’s wrap Red Dragon into the third season, and then actually do a Red Dragon mini-series.”  That changed a little bit.  So, that seven season plan because a six season plan.  Those seasons collapsed into each other, in a way that actually fuels their own stories and felt organic.

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