Hannibal fans were left hanging at the end of season 2 with the aftermath of the Red Dinner. OHSOGRAY recently participated on a press call with Executive Producer Bryan Fuller who talked about what’s coming in season 3, what challenges Bedelia will face now that she’s Hannibal’s wife, how everyone stateside is going to pick up the pieces, and the arrival of the Red Dragon (Richard Armitage). Below is part 1 of all the juicy news Fuller shared.
There are *Spoilers* below, so if you don’t want to know anything about season 3, stop reading.
Gillian Anderson’s character, Bedelia, is Hannibal’s wife this season. Is she also his accomplice?
Well, really it kind of boils down to this fabulousness of Gillian Anderson and more of her is always a good thing. And we had so much fun working together in the first two seasons and she’s such an iconic actress and brings such a specific energy to the show that it seems like a really logical next step for the series to flush out that relationship expanded and get more of the chemistry between Mads Mikkelsen and Gillian Anderson.
Do you have a favorite scene that’s coming up that you’re waiting for people to see (without spoiling too much)?
Oh. Oh boy, there’s quite a few in this season. One of the most fun things about this season is the departure from the crime procedural storytelling and this first chapter of Season 3 was really designed to do the show as a pure character-driven story. In adopting these books, there are so many lines that Thomas Harris has written that I’ve better sized and put into actors’ mouths and I’m always surprised that how they elevate them and ground them and make them their own in context of the story.
So far as the favorite scene with that, there’s a dinner scene in Episode 7. There are many scenes before that I adore but there is a particularly fun dinner scene in Episode 7 that Mason Verger is hosting that I’m excited for people to see because it’s laugh out loud funny and Joe Anderson is so infectious in his portrayal of Mason Verger stepping in for Michael Pitt and he has brought so much of his own energy to the role but also marking the interpretation by Gary Oldman in Ridley Scott film. So I’m excited for people to see that scene in particular because I think it’s one of our best dinner scenes that we’ve ever filmed.
Would you say those are underneath it all, there are genuine feelings between Bedelia and Hannibal?
Well, the – there is a genuine connection between Bedelia and Hannibal. It’s different than the connection between Will and Hannibal as Bedelia states at one point in the season that Will’s relationship with Hannibal is a much more passionate one than her relationship with Hannibal. Yet, they have an intimacy that goes beyond the psychiatrist-patient relationship, yet I would say at its core Bedelia will always be Hannibal’s therapist first. I wanted to make sure with her portrayal in the role that she did not all of a sudden become one of those women who write to serial killers in prison thinking that they can change the man and make him a better person because of their love. She is absolutely not on that course and she knows exactly who she’s dealing with. I love the turns in this season where we see Bedelia, particularly in Episode 6, on what she’s done and also illustrate that she’s had a plan all along and she’s no dummy.
Are the lives of any of our main characters in peril this season?
I think it’s always wise to be concerned about the main characters in the show. If not for the immortality, for their psychological well-being and one of the fun things in developing this season is that everyone who survived the Red Dinner of the finale of Season 2 has been broken and reborn in a way that has shifted their perspective. So there’s certain things with key characters where we get to see them transformed into new versions of themselves and – but yes, you should absolutely be worried for Will Graham always and the steps that he takes to resolve his relationship with Hannibal. If the first season was the bromance and the second season was the nasty breakup, the third season is really that point in the relationship where you’re looking back at what you’ve lost and still needing a point of closure for that relationship and how drastic that point of closure is will be major part of Will Graham’s arc in this season.
What can you tell us about Richard Armitage’s portrayal of the infamous Francis Dolarhyde and how is that different from the version we’ve seen Ray Fiennes portray in Red Dragon?
There have been a couple of great performances as Francis Dolarhyde. Tom Noonan in “Manhunter” is a strange man who breaks your heart because you really get a feel for how desperately he actually needed this human connection and how it may have actually saved him from himself and the great Red Dragon.
The shocking – I guess it’s not shocking or surprising but a wonderful confirmation of Richard Armitage’s ability as an actor and he’s so thoroughly trained, excuse me, that he approached the character with such gravitas and earnestness that the tragedy of the story is really one that we wanted to bring to the forefront because the arc in the Red Dragon chapter of the season is very much a trouble between Hannibal and Will and Francis Dolarhyde because Dolarhyde represents something unique in the triangulation of Hannibal and Will and that he provides Will Graham a version of Hannibal that he may be able to save and provides Hannibal a version of Will Graham that he may be able to corrupt. So each of them is getting something dynamic out of that relationship and we get to see how the triangulation through Dolarhyde changes the relationship between Will and Hannibal in a drastic way.
I can’t talk enough about Richard’s presence on this production and how masterful he was, how he surprised the crew, how he elevated the material, how we brought that sense of tragedy to Francis Dolarhyde in a way that was both accessible and sheer madness. You know, in editing the different episodes, I’ve been in the post suite with an editor and watching scenes between Richard and Rutina Wesley, who plays Reba McClane, his – the object of his affection, and we were both wiping tears out of the corners of our eyes because he is just so heartbreaking.
One of the things that I wanted to challenge the audience with is, yes, this is a horrible killer of families, yet he is so tortured by his madness that I wanted to confuse people with their sympathy for him and the revulsion by him and really deliver a different kind of serial killer story that you don’t see on television that often.
Where does the Red Dragon arc come within this season? Is it at the start, the finish, in the middle book ended by original?
Well, it is – there’s two chapters in Season 3. There’s kind of the “Hannibal,” the novel, mashed up with “Hannibal Rising,” the novel, first chapter, that set primarily in Italy. And then the second chapter that begins with Episode 8 starts the Red Dragon story. And that is using six episodes to tell a broader, more in-depth version of the story than we’ve been allowed to see previously on – in the film adaptation just simply because of the real estate that we have in six hours that they didn’t have in two hours.
The fun for us is really making that last – it’s almost like a Red Dragon miniseries in the last half of the season and we tell that story to completion and find ways to weave in our existing characters and change up some of the dynamics that you may have been familiar with in the novels or the films and shifting them around so they feel fresh. And once again, the approach with this show has always been provide some familiarity and then shake it up, so the audience that may be familiar with the previous adaptations is getting a new experience that is somewhat familiar mashed up with the new incarnations of characters that we’ve developed on the show. So that’s – you’ll get a nice, fat six-hour Red Dragon miniseries at the end of Season 3.
Is Bedelia essentially Clarice from “Hannibal?”
No. That’s an interesting question because in that novel, we see Clarice being brainwashed and partially hopefully but the big question is how much is she in control of her own actions but she surrenders to the troll of Hannibal Lecter in the novel. And for our purposes, I always wanted Bedelia to be driving her own story. So it would have been very easy for us to say Bedelia has been brainwashed and this is why she has gone off into this adventure with Hannibal Lecter but the more interesting route for me as a storyteller is for that character who is a strong female character being in charge of her own story with her own drive, with her own curiosities about the human condition and a lot of what she’s doing is for her own edification. And that was a very important point for us to make with that storyline because I feel like we would be doing the actress and the character to service if we just made her a drug-induced pawn of Hannibal Lecter’s plot. So we very much did not want to tell that story even though we were looking at telling that story in a different way in this series eventually. But he’s absolutely in control.
Are you having any conversations with Broadcast Standards at this point?
No, actually I – Joanna Jameson, who is our Standards and Practices executive at NBC, is one of my favorite people. She has been such a doll with the show and her support of the show. She knows exactly what we’re trying to do artistically and also narratively with the franchise that we’re exploring in Hannibal the Cannibal.
I always make a point to reach out to her whether it’s a sex scene and we have some very beautiful sex scenes in the show with Margot Verger, who is in the second season. We have this kaleidoscopic lesbian love scene that is beautiful. And I actually got a note from Joanna afterwards where she said the Standards and Practices Team all applauded this sex scene because it was so sensual and erotic but played within the parameters of what we could broadcast.
It’s absolutely a partnership. And we know that we are pushing the envelope and they know that we’re pushing the envelope and they want to facilitate us telling as rich and complex an adult story as possible but there are parameters because we’re living in a country that has some really backward views on how we can do terrible things to the human body but we can’t do beautiful things to the human body and that is not NBC or any broadcast network’s role. Their role is to enforce those rules to the best of their ability and also allow for creative expression.
I can’t thank Joanna Jameson enough for how she’s allowed us to navigate these issues and actually has led us in on the process and told us “This is how you can get away with more,” “This is where we have to draw the line,” and there are things where I’m – you know, I always deliver a cut to the network that is reasonable but leaning towards assertive in its depiction of adult content. And I’m always met with a glad desire to make whatever we can work. And so whatever notes that we do get from Standards and Practices we’re very eager to do them because it’s been such a collaboration, though it’s such a unique experience for me working in television. There were things in Pushing Daisies that didn’t even breach the content that we do on “Hannibal” that would get shot down by ABC because of the Disney ownership of the network and the parameters were much more restrictive.
The thing that I love about working with NBC, particularly Jen Salke, who has supported the show above and beyond meager ratings and has allowed us to continue to tell the story that we want to tell and we would not be able to do this show on any other broadcast networks and it’s big thanks to Jen Salke for allowing us to tell the story and the way that we want to tell the story.
You mentioned earlier how we’re transitioning away from the procedural approach of the show. How is that transition going to work in terms of incorporating your cast of characters from the FBI? What kind of challenges or opportunities did that give you for this year’s storytelling?
Well, the challenges were to keep our FBI personnel integrated into the story. And the first half of the season it was really about finding ways for this story to be personal to Jack Crawford and how he is functioning outside of the FBI. And there’s – once we tether that to a personal agenda with his connection to Will Graham and his connection to Hannibal Lecter and understand that he is operating outside of the law and his appearance in Italy, which I’m speaking ahead, all that will become clear in the fourth episode. So spoilers.
But it was really about doing what we were doing with all of the other characters which was finding the personal connection for them to the story that exists outside of their occupation and for Jack, since he had gone down this journey and recruited Will Graham and lost Will Graham and found Will Graham again is now worried has he lost him forever that gave him a very intimate connection to the storyline that we could unpack as opposed to having him in the FBI looking at evidence.
Of course, in the second half of this season, which is a six-hour Red Dragon miniseries, the FBI has woven in more naturally because that is an active investigation and a return to the crime procedural but in a way that you don’t often get on network television and that we are looking at one case over six episodes as opposed to one case per episode and having a killer of the week, which was a bit of our format in the first two seasons which was a lot of fun and we got to do some really wild, dysmorphic things with the human body and are storytelling.
But what a great relief it is to focus solely on characters as somebody who loves to write character, first and foremost, and has always resisted the crime procedural aspects of the story which is why dress them up in this very Lynch-ian stories that allowed us to do something visually dynamic that kind of provided a thematic umbrella under which we told a deeper part of Will Graham’s story.
Yet now with the first chapter in Italy it’s all about the characters and them resolving their issues from the first two seasons, moving on into new issues and new complicated relationships.
Is there any one character that you can look at and say: “It’s this person’s season”?
Oh, that’s a good question. It – in the first half of this season, you know, the story is always going to be about Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter at the center. And I think there are – what I love about this season in particular in the first chapter is how great the ensemble has come together.
This is also spoilery, [but] when we get into Alana Bloom’s story in Episode 4, it was exciting for me to, have listened to some of the reaction to Alana’s story in the second season and there was a significant amount of feedback in terms of frustrations that she had been relegated to the girlfriend role, triangulated between Will and Hannibal and she wasn’t necessarily following her own story. I was determined at the beginning of this season to make Alana as interesting a character as any of the characters in this season and her change is perhaps the greatest from the first two seasons and the link that she goes to deal with her own damage from being in that relationship and finding out new things about herself as a result. So I’m thrilled with what Caroline has done with that character and having, you know, a long history with that actress going back to “Wonderfalls,” it was a delight to see her really shape the character’s arc in a new way, embrace these radical changes in her personality which having survived the Red Dinner gave us the motivation to really make a shift in her character.
So I’m thrilled with what we see of Alana and her story arcing out and – but I do think that Gillian Anderson has a great role in the first half of the season with her arc and better understanding her relationship to Hannibal and we go to places and answer questions in the second half about things that we’ve hinted at in her history and we see those things come to pass in the second half as well as in the first episode.
I’m a big fan of the ladies and I love what Caroline and Gillian and Katie Isabelle have done with their respective roles in the first half of the season and that’s not even get into Tao Okamoto who is the new member of our cast and provides a different perspective on the story as what we’ll discover as the first in a long line of Mischa surrogates that Hannibal has fostered from Chio to Miriam Lass to Abigail Hobbs and his instincts to both foster and corrupt, the young women in his life that remind him of his sister.
What was the hardest part of the creative process for you this season in the writing process?
The writing process is always complicated on this show because it is something that is very hard to guide because I feel like with every – every time I sat down to do a pass at a script, I’m teaching myself how to understand this show and I think that is a good thing in a way because it always feels fresh and challenging and utterly daunting to make significant something that has been thoroughly explored in the past. But I think the key to this show is – and to every scene, something that I’ve – I tell the writers that every scene has three major components.
One is Thomas Harris that we have to honor the literature. We – I scour the novels. If I’m stuck in a scene, I scour the novels for a turn of phrase or quote that we haven’t used and sort of sampling Thomas Harris’s DNA and injecting it into this scene, so it feels true to his vision of the world even though we were taking such radical departures in certain ways that we have 1/3 Thomas Harris.
A third psychology, like some sort of psychological philosophy that we are exploring with the relationship between the characters, I do a tremendous amount of research in psychological journals to see what’s current, what are people exploring in terms of belief, perception, reality, senses of self. All of those issues, I think there’s – it’s exciting for me as somebody who set out to be a psychiatrist before I understood just how much schooling it involves and it scared me away to Hollywood.
So Thomas Harris – 1/3 Thomas Harris, 1/3 of contemporary genuine psychology, and 1/3 of our own magic sauce for what we are exploring in this very complicated world of relationships with a serial killer. And that was one of the things that excited me about doing this series the most, is that we had seen Hannibal in the previous adaptation as very much a lone wolf. And this was an opportunity to see him with friendships and to see him interacting with his fellowmen or actually not his fellowmen because he sees himself as more than a man. But telling a story of the Hannibal Lecter who can actually care about another human being. And even though he’s doing atrocious things to those other human beings, part of him is doing it because he feels that it will access a truer, more honest sense of that person’s self in his dastardly deeds.