Hannibal's Bryan Fuller and Hugh Dancy on Will's Journey in Season 2, That Epic Fight, and More
NBC's visually stunning drama Hannibal finally returns this Friday, February 28 for another round of the most unsettling and hauntingly beautiful murders that've ever been committed in the name of entertainment. Over the course of the first season, Mads Mikkelsen's delightfully disturbing Hannibal Lecter masterfully chipped away at the psyche of Hugh Dancy's Will Graham, eventually setting Graham up to take the fall for Lecter's own handiwork, and as our own Noel Kirkpatrick said in his review of the finale, it was the little things—the vomiting of an ear, some planted fishing lures—that elevated Lecter's frame job from good to excellent.
When Season 2 begins, Graham is behind bars at his local psychiatric hospital, where he's insisting that he's innocent just as aggressively as he's pointing the finger at Dr. Lecter. I recently chatted with Dancy, as well as series creator Bryan Fuller, about what's next for Will, which familiar faces we might see this season, and how the series plans to integrate the characters of Mason Verger and his sister.
Warning: There are slight spoilers ahead, though I've tried to limit them to only what's been revealed in the Season 2 trailers. If you're attempting to remain completely unspoiled for the new season, you might want to retreat now. You might also want to just stay off the internet forever.
On longer arcs and the importance of cases of the week:
In the premiere, we're introduced to a new murder investigation when several bodies end up in a beaver dam, which then leads to an even larger mystery. The case plays out over the course of the first two episodes of the season, and Fuller says that while the show isn't abandoning the single-episode case-of-the-week format, it will definitely be playing with longer arcs this season. "There's several arcs that are sustained over multiple episodes in that we set up a killer in one episode, and then we don't pay him off until three episodes later," said Fuller. "We have several episodes where the cases are much more about our characters and their experience and we make our characters the case in several episodes. But we do still engage in the standalone episodes."
Dancy added that Season 2's stories blend together even better than they did even in Season 1, because they reverberate down the line. "It's interesting because the show becomes a bit of a morality play," continued Fuller. "When we do have that case of the week—for lack of a better way to say it—it always serves as a deeper metaphor for what's happening between Hannibal and Will, so it has that heightened sense of storytelling... If they were realistic, they would have nothing to do with what Hannibal and Will are going through, but because we are in this morality tale and telling a heightened reality of events, we get to embrace all sorts of fun storytelling and narrative structures."
On Will's personal journey this season:
While most of his friends and former coworkers are still wavering on the status of his mental health and therefore his proclaimed innocence, there's at least one person in Will's life who admits within the first few episodes of the season that they believe him, which Dancy calls a "ray of light" for Will. "[He's] initially trying to convince people still of what in fact has happened and of Hannibal's guilt, and then secondarily coming to terms with the fact that absolutely nobody believes him," Dancy said. "When [spoiler] makes that trip to visit him, it's a ray of light, which makes sense to me when you're in an entirely hopeless situation. Just a drop of belief can probably do wonders."
On what's next for Will and Hannibal's relationship:
According to Dancy, when the season begins, Will is playing with a "full deck of cards" and "knows exactly what is happening to him," unlike in Season 1. "He's rid of the terror that he was losing his mind," and he'll try to use this to his advantage while still behind bars at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. "The relationship with Hannibal is reignited," Dancy said, "[And] Hannibal is kind of nominally providing him with therapy. The two of them are circling each other, if you like. [Will's] partially looking for weakness; I think Hannibal is looking for signs of friendship from Will. And in turn that's something that Will thinks maybe he can exploit."
But it's not going to be very easy for Will. According to Dancy, Hannibal is "like a virus," and "when he returns to Hannibal's circle, he is at least 50 percent at risk of being drawn back in, because it's a place as comfortable to him—that darkness—as the other life he forged himself. Will's problem is he can't be quite as objective as Hannibal can. But over the course of the season, as he moves closer and closer in his orbit of Hannibal, he's putting himself more and more at risk."
On the significance of the Japanese episode titles this season:
During Hannibal's first season, the episodes were titled after French meal courses. In Season 2, the episode titles will refer to Japanese cuisine. According to Fuller, those have a particular significance to Hannibal's own history. "There is a little bit of Hannibal backstory which has considerable Japanese influence with his Uncle Robert and his Aunt Murasaki," Fuller said. "As we were [entering] a chapter of his story that was starting to get toward the conclusion of his life as a practicing psychiatrist, it felt like it would be nice to start introducing elements of Hannibal's past in a subtle way that would set up further exploration of that in Season 3." And speaking of Hannibal's uncle, Fuller confirmed the rumor that producers wanted David Bowie to play Robert, but that Bowie was unavailable to do it this year. There's still hope for Season 3, though!
On whether we'll see any familiar faces in Season 2:
Much like Joss Whedon, Fuller is famous for repurposing actors. Caroline Dhavernas, who plays Dr. Alana Bloom, starred in Wonderfalls. Lee Pace starred in both Wonderfalls and Pushing Daisies. Ellen Muth starred in Dead Like Me before appearing in a two-episode arc during Hannibal's first season as Georgia Madchen, a woman who thought she was dead (in Dead Like Me, Muth's character died and came back as a reaper). When asked who we might see in Season 2, Fuller said there are a few familiar faces scheduled to appear, but none who are definitely instantly recognizable as Fullerverse alums (which means that my dream of watching Kristin Chenoweth play a murderer is still just a dream).
Both Jonathan Tucker and Chris Diamantopoulos, who starred in Fuller's High Moon pilot for Syfy, will guest-star in Season 2. "It was fun to see them come do the show and to get a new influx of actors that I just adore and love working with," said Fuller. Joining Tucker and Diamantopoulos is Katherine Isabelle, who plays Margot Verger. Fun fact: Fuller worked with her on an NBC remake of Carrie over ten years ago, and she was also the runner-up for the role of Jaye on Wonderfalls. As Dancy joked, "Actors who've auditioned for Bryan Fuller, never lose hope."
On integrating Mason Verger and his sister:
As previously announced, Boardwalk Empire's Michael Pitt has joined Hannibal's second season as Mason Verger, a character from the novels. According to Dancy, Mason is introduced in the same way he's introduced in the book: He's a patient of Hannibal's.
On the epic fight in the season premiere:
By now you've probably already watched the trailers and the opening scene from the premiere, so you know there's a tense fight between Hannibal and Laurence Fishburne's Jack Crawford early on. You might think that showing viewers the fight so early will take the wind out of Hannibal's sails, but Fuller promises that won't be the case. "There were a couple of reasons to start this season with that clash of the titans," he said. "One was that I simply couldn't wait to see it. I knew that's where we were going for the end of the second season, but I was greedy and impatient and needed to see it much sooner than that. I'm confident that we have a lot of spoilers and reveals yet to be told that go above and beyond that opening, so I [don't] feel like we were giving away the story as much as we were saying, "Oh my God, there's so much more to this story, you should come inside."
On how far NBC is willing to go in the name of Hannibal's graphic nature:
More so than any other drama on TV, Hannibal is 100 percent not for the squeamish. If you gag at even the slightest mention of Will vomiting up an ear, or at the memory of the naked angels in the hotel room in "Coquilles," you're probably going to want to invest in some heavy-duty blinders prior to settling in for Season 2. There's a particular arc in the first couple episodes of the season that Fuller refers to as a "human mural," and it includes a scene in which flesh is ripped from someone's body. Fuller said NBC's Standards & Practices department had absolutely no problem with the flesh-ripping, but that later in the season, the network took issue with a sterilized needle approaching someone's eye. "That got dinged in terms of having to trim frames because it was too upsetting. So I think if you mess with anybody's eye, there's this kind of primal response of 'Don't go near my eyes!' but when you're tearing flesh from somebody, I don't think that's as big of an issue." NBC, you crazy.
Hannibal Season 2 premieres Friday, February 28 at 10pm on NBC.
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