With NBC’s awesome “Hannibal” out on Blu-ray this week, I leapt at the chance to speak with writer/producer/showrunner Bryan Fuller about the program. “Hannibal” is such a singular program, erudite and stomach-churning in equal measure, and it’s always interesting to get an insider’s perspective on these things. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve been a fan of Fuller’s for a while, he’s a unique voice in the world of television and his shows always carry a bit of a personal stamp.
We discussed the challenges of getting something as gory as “Hannibal” on Network TV and what fans can expect from the Blu-ray as well as how Season 2 and Season 3 will continue the evolution of the show (and keep viewers on their toes).
Check it out below!
This is an unusually violent show for a network, what are some of the challenges in getting this onscreen?
I think the imagery is disturbing and beautiful at the same time, but we don’t actually have a ton of onscreen violence. We sort of see the aftermath, the art of the kill. I’m not sure if that has anything to do with what we’re able to have air. But very early on in the process of working with NBC, they were adamant they wanted to push the envelope. The reason we went with NBC is because they gave us their word that they’d let us do the show we wanted to do.
I think the show is staying true to Thomas Harris and that was always the goal for me. There’s a purple poetry to that legacy that has to be honored or it’s not a Hannibal Lecter story.
Mads Mikkelsen is such an interesting choice for Lecter. Physically he’s not like anyone we’ve seen play him.
I had been a fan of Mads’ for a while, like most American audiences my first exposure to him was in Casino Royale. And then as I became serious about him and explored his other works, I mean Valhalla Rising is an iconic film and a fantastic performance, but it was really after The Wedding which is this romantic film where he plays this lovelorn man desperate to rekindle this romance that I saw just how broad his range was and that became so insightful in terms of where we could take the character. He can be so inscrutable in some scenes, and then vulnerable in others where he is openly weeping over the death of a character who was close to him. What I love about that is the audience has to wonder how genuine those feelings are. It gives a dimensionality to the character we hadn’t seen before. The incarnations we’d seen of him before were incarcerated so he had nothing left to hide, and now we get to see him in a chapter of his life where he has to be more secretive.
What’s it like being a showrunner on something like this? Is it an overwhelming endeavor most of the time?
Oh yeah, absolutely. It’s such a crazy experience, you are shot out of a cannon. You’re desperate to do good work and you have this Indiana Jones boulder that is rolling right behind your heels and if you stumble you get squashed. So it’s a very nerve wracking experience to do television production, generally you’re writing the show as production is unfolding in front of you. For someone like myself, who is very much a perfectionist and wants to make sure we’re hitting all the notes we possibly can, it’s a tricky process.
Are there any special features on the Blu that take us into that element of production?
There are a couple of special features on food and visual effects and those types of things. One of the things I’m most proud of on the DVD and Blu-ray is the sound design of the show, which is often times compressed for broadcast. You just don’t have the channels available to you to hear the work that’s been done. But on the Blu-ray you get an idea of how much storytelling is happening with the psychology of the music and the psychology of the design of the sound, and the movement of the sound in the space.
Without spoiling things too much, you made a bold choice at the end of Season 1. Going into Season 2 what challenges are being presented by that choice?
One of the exciting things about the second season is that really it’s a whole new show. We saw Will Graham’s arc of the first season landing at, “I’m not the crazy one. He’s the crazy one. How am I going to get out of this mess?”
Going into the second season, all the rules of the first season are broken. We have to find new rules and new dynamics and that’s a very exciting prospect. I fear retreading familiar territory and I don’t want to re-do the first season because we already did it. With the second season being different, in terms of the writing and breaking, I’m starting to look at the potential of the third season. So at the end of Season 2 we’re going to do what we did at the end of Season 1, which is completely reinvent the show again. We’re going to restructure it and tell it in a new way. I love the idea of being able to reinvent the show every season because it keeps it fresh for us as storytellers and it keeps it fresh for the audience.