Bryan Fuller Reflects on 'Hannibal' S1 & Teases S2
By Jarett Wieselman
Since 2003's Dead Like Me, Bryan Fuller has been doling out delicious TV treats that enriched our minds, bodies and souls. His latest, Hannibal, is undoubtedly Fuller's heaviest project to date, but the EP extraordinaire is elated fans have found moments of levity -- and light -- while dissecting the decadence infused into every incredibly layered episode.
Thankfully the first season is headed to DVD and true Hannibal fans (or, fannibals as they've come to be called) can meticulously now pour over every museum-worthy visual, staging choice and knowing glance between the characters for subliminal meanings.
ETonline recently caught up with Bryan Fuller to talk about Hannibal's sublime first season -- from his favorite kills to biggest lessons -- and find out what we can expect from season two!
ETonline: We have such a long wait until new episodes begin airing, so it's very kind of you to Tweet all those set pics. What's the deal with the flower crowns though?
Bryan Fuller: [laughs] The fannibals really adopted that, and I'm not 100 percent sure of what the derivation is, but the flower crown thing is so fun. I think it's solidarity with Will Graham as a martyr figure. I think it's so adorable that this show, which is so dark and twisted, has such a happy fanbase.
ETonline: Your shows tend to attract a very devoted following. What's the fan experience been like for you with Hannibal?
Fuller: It's been wonderful and unexpected. I was surprised at the demographic that the show was reaching. A significant portion was young, smart, well-read women; they really responded to this show and I typically relate to young, bright ladies [laughs]. It was nice to see how enthusiastic and passionate they were. And, also, happy in the face of the dark material. They found joy and hope in something that is arguably quite bleak. I found that really rewarding and as somebody who is a fan of many things myself, I appreciate and relate to being enthusiastic about a show you love. I think it's wonderful.
ETonline: You're not really creating a passive viewing experience with Hannibal; you have to pay attention to really understand the show, so how excited were you to see people engaging in such a deep way?
Fuller: It's amazing because I'm a fan of these characters, and of Thomas Harris, so I tried to honor the material in the only way I could. I lived in a bit of a vacuum as I was creating what I, as a fannibal, wanted to see. So it was great to see so many people feeling the way I do and picking up on the details that resonated with me. It's a very communal experience; I feel like we're peers and there is a mutual respect and that everybody is coming from a place of admiration for the source material, myself included. It's been a fun, sharing experience with the audience. I think there's often a negative associated with being passionate or geeky about entertainment, but for me, entertainment has always been a greater, psychological escape, so I think it's unfortunate when others don't appreciate the depth of passion entertainment offers.
ETonline: You not only lived with this material before fans did, but also before any actors were cast. How did your perception of Hannibal change after seeing Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen and the rest of the cast bringing these roles to life?
Fuller: As an insecure writer, I'll finish a scene and worry there's a better version of it. Or it could be elevated somehow. It's such a gift to be working with these actors because they take the baton and keep running with it, keep elevating it and keep moving the material beyond my expectations. This really is such a collaborative experience. It helps my neuroses as a writer to know that if I didn't quite nail a scene, the actors will find more levels to play in it. What's incredibly gratifying is to see the audience reaction and know they're getting it and seeing things in the material that I maybe didn't think were as formed as I'd hoped they were. It's a neat experience to go from the blank page to an actor elevating it to the audience understanding it -- the full life of that is why I became a writer.
ETonline: What was the biggest surprise of season one for you?
Fuller: That we made it through [laughs]. Television production is so insane. There's so many moving parts and flying pieces and you're desperate to make it cohesive and artistic and have something to say about the human condition that feels like it has value to its existence. I'm very hard on myself when it comes to writing. I'm always looking for the idea in a scene or the philosophy that makes a scene worth existing beyond exposition. I'm probably harder on myself than I need to be, but it's important to me if I'm going to ask an audience for an hour of their time that I don't waste their time. I want to give them something significant to chew on. I'm not always successful, but I take my job as a storyteller very seriously and want to make sure the audience has as much fun watching it as I am creating it.
ETonline: Is there a season one moment you're the most proud of?
Fuller: There were quite a few I was really excited about -- particularly the last two episodes. They were so satisfying for me because we were writing them as I was filming them; I was frequently getting on the phone with Hugh and telling him where half-written scenes were going. I talked to Hugh quite a bit in the process of making season one, and he had such an understanding of the character and the show that it was incredibly insightful and helpful for me in making the show. Going back to the last question, I was surprised by the investment of the cast. Lawrence Fishburne in particular had such a passion for playing Jack Crawford. He was very careful about how Jack was interpreted by the audience when it comes to his relationship with Hannibal -- he was so invested in making it reasonable that Jack wouldn't suspect Frasier Crane of killing and eating people in the audience's eyes.
ETonline: We know you love to kill people in creative ways on television, but Hannibal's death tableaus took that to the next level. If you had to pick your favorite kill, which one would it be?
Fuller: There are a lot of fun ones. I would say the cello man is pretty cool and the blood eagles were pretty great -- the human totem pole! I got a kick out of that. Over the course of the season, talking to Will through Hugh almost became a therapy session and we would both figure out the character because we were creating somebody in such a state of mental decay. I was walking Hugh through the penultimate episode and talking about poor Georgia Madchen and said, "Then she burns to death in an oxygen tube" and we just started cackling like fiends because we were in this very serious state of mind. That was pretty visually spectacular as well.
ETonline: What season one lessons will you be applying to season two?
Fuller: The gift of season two is that so much happened and snowballed at the end of the first season, and last folly of episodes had a real nice pace to them. So because we start the second season in a place we weren't last year -- with Will Graham knowing who Hannibal Lecter is, but having been discredited as his own witness -- there's a Hitchcock-ian element to the second season that may have been in season one in terms of style, pace and aesthetic, but this year we're really playing with the idea of The Man Who Knew Too Much.
ETonline: Given the fact Will's out of action, will the show maintain its killer of the week format?
Fuller: We want to maintain the element of a signature kill piece in every episode in some way. Those were things that really helped us focus episodes in terms of storytelling in season one and we don't want to lose that. The first two episodes are a two-parter that has such a grand killer at their core it felt like we needed to spread it out over two hours because what he does is so horrific and huge, we needed to give it time to breathe. After that, we have a killer of some kind every week; whether it's one of our characters or a new case.
ETonline: Where's Jack at in season two? Does Cynthia Nixon's character replace him given what he allowed to happen under his watch with Will?
Fuller: Jack is still very much in charge of the team. Cynthia's character is actually with The FBI Oversight Office of the Inspector General. She's coming in and saying, "What happened and how do we do damage control and save face with the bureau?" She's antagonistic to the other characters, but she's not a villain. She's a smart lady who is trying to do a good job. There are some twists with her in terms of how one does that job. But it's such a joy to have her on the show -- I've been a fan of hers since Little Darlings and she brings a welcome new flavor to the show.
ETonline: Lastly, what are you excited for the fans to see in season two?
Fuller: I'm excited to strap them into the rocket and set it off. The first seven episodes have an arc to them that moves very nicely and quickly. We cover a lot of territory. New characters come in, existing characters die horribly and we kind of established this great ensemble of characters; from Gillian Anderson to Gina Torres and Eddie Izzard, I'm thrilled that the world keeps expanding while still very much feeling like the story between Jack Crawford, Will Graham and Hannibal; that bromantic triangle. All of the other pieces around them are accelerants to the drama and I'm excited about that. The first season had a slow boil to it and we have a much more bubbly, frothy pot on the stove in season two.
Hannibal: The Complete First Season hits DVD on September 24, and returns to NBC in 2014.