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Return of the Dragon: Bryan Fuller and Steven Lightfoot on “HANNIBAL”, Part Two

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With Bryan Fuller taking his shot at editing FANGORIA #343, the wait for HANNIBAL to return has become an even more difficult endeavor for fright fans. However, Fuller was able to sneak FANGORIA onto the set of HANNIBAL last month, and we were able to catch up with the brilliant cast of the surreal series. Next up is the conclusion to our chat with Fuller along with producer Steven Lightfoot, who reveal even more secrets about HANNIBAL’s third season, and talk upon the mysterious role inhabited by Zachary Quinto…

FANGORIA: Considering how intense and involved fans can become on social media, has that ever influenced your decisions as a showrunner?

BRYAN FULLER: I care a little bit to a point, because last year when we killed off Beverly Katz, I was accused of being a racist and a misogynist for killing off an Asian character. It got a lot of vitriol online, and it was hard for me to take personally because if anybody knows me at all, they would know that I’m not racist or misogynistic in the least. But because we killed off a female character that as Asian, that was the interpretation.

That was the rage, but I didn’t really react to that as much as I thought. I remember when I was a kid and going to college, and somebody said “Merry Christmas,” and I was like, “What if I was Jewish?!” But that was just because I was hormonal, and only because I was hormonal; it wasn’t because I was Jewish or anything else. It was just a rush to be pissed off about something.

But where we did take the criticism to mind is was when I read some feedback about Alana Bloom’s character being just a girlfriend in the beginning of last season. People said we didn’t really service the actress, or the character in a spectacular way since she was sort of a leg in the triangle and everything kind of rotated between Hannibal and Will.

One of the first things we did when we sat down for the writer’s room in the third season was say “We have to make Alana one of the most interesting characters on the show. We have to undo that criticism.” I heard that criticism and I thought it was a valid criticism. I took it to heart and wanted to make a change based on it. That was sort of one exception to a lot of things where I’m like “Hmmm.” Some things I’ll wave off, and other things I’ll say like, “Oh, you have a really good point, and we should correct that.”

FANGORIA: Can you talk about the dynamics of the third season? How have Jack and Alana changed now that they know what Hannibal is? Should we expect more surreal imagery this season?

FULLER: We have quite a bit of surreal imagery in the show. I think it’s part of how we tell stories and we want to make sure that’s pretty active. Alana and Jack knowing who Hannibal is actually allows us a fresh point of view from those characters because they’ve had near death experiences. One of the things that we talked about in going into this season is how everybody is different. Everybody has to be changed by that night at Hannibal’s house where they all were eviscerated.

If we ignored that, we wouldn’t be true to the characters. It really was about “How do we keep things fresh?” We’ve had scenes with Will, and Alana, and Jack before where Alana’s like “No, you can’t do that because Hannibal is a human being,” and now she’s like, “Fuck that guy, he’s a killer.” It helps us to keep the characters fresh.

FANGORIA: With the Gothic look of HANNIBAL season 3, there’s definitely a classic feel to the the first half of this season that is reminiscent of Hammer Horror and DON’T LOOK NOW. Were there any other major influences on the style of this season?

STEVEN LIGHTFOOT: We have a bit of TALENTED MISTER RIPLEY, we have a bit of ‘50s crime caper, we have a bit of DON’T LOOK NOW, we have whatever episode seven is…

FULLER: It’s bananas.

LIGHTFOOT: It’s pretty crazy, like DELICATESSEN crazy. We had a lot of fun. I mean the first six or seven felt like mini-movies which was so tough to break and write, but it was fantastic fun to do. Then the second half is this mini-series. We would very consciously say, “Okay what’s this episode? What’s the type of movie we want to play with?” I think that freshened the show up a lot. There’s a lot less of, as you say, “We find a body. We investigate the body.” We had a lot of fun with the genre this season.

FANGORIA: You’ve previously referenced the importance of the memory palace in this season. Can you talk a little bit about the challenges of bringing that to the screen? What elements it plays?

LIGHTFOOT: Well, one challenge is Hannibal remembers everywhere he’s ever been, just in terms of shooting locations and scenes. And what we’ve always had in the show was the surreal grammar and the surreal world where we could do that. In many ways, whenever we’d go to the mind palace, it’s this chapel, or, so they become representative of that power, rather than a version where you end up just doing a whole bunch of flashbacks. That is sort of less interesting than making it representational.

We made a very conscious stylistic choice to choose a stage that represented the mind palace and do those things there. It plays a very strong part in Hannibal’s interactions early on, but we sort of stylized the representation as opposed to just saying, “Oh, well he’s remembering this, so we’ll go there.” Flashbacks would have actually become a really easy crutch to kind of lazy storytelling.

What I love about the show is that there is a mythic symbolic thing going on the whole time. I think emotion of the show is incredibly real, but stylistically it’s heightened. It sort of helped us keep that heightened nature rather than just becoming another flashback show.

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FANGORIA: Considering the source material, how far planned out do you have HANNIBAL, especially pertaining to new characters and stories?

FULLER: Right, we’re burning through a lot of stuff in different ways. For us, there’s always been someplace between the middle to the end of a season where the next season starts to become clearer and clearer, and we’re like “Okay, this is what we’re going to do.” From there, what was nebulous becomes, like, “Oh okay, that’s the shape of it, and that’s the story of it, and that’s what we’ll tell.” The idea for the fourth season is probably our wackiest, in terms of going off the rails. We went off the rails in the third season a bit, but if there’s a fourth season, it will probably go off the rails even further.

FANGORIA: Vincenzo Natali returns to direct this season, including the premiere. How do you think his style fits in the world of HANNIBAL?

FULLER: Beautifully. We’re all big fans of Vincenzo Natali. I remember seeing CUBE twenty years ago because it had like, Nicole de Boer who was in STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE, and I was doing STAR TREK at the time. I was very excited about him as a filmmaker, and then SPLICE took it to a different level where he became so elegant and refined.

SPLICE was really the thing that made me want to work with Vincenzo, and he did such beautiful work for us last season that he took on a gargantuan task this season. He was triple boarding three episodes, all mixed up. Our first three episodes are all filmed by him, and we started with stuff from three, and then we went into stuff from two; it was very confusing for the actors, and very confusing for us as the storytellers.

Vincenzo started as a storyboard artist. He sees life through the frame, and when he finished his last episode, he gave me his sketchbook where he storyboarded everything and it’s gorgeous. I want to publish it because it’s all of these great sequences. He just brings that eye, and has a natural elegance to him. he doesn’t overplay the black humor, but he lets audience come to the black humor, rather than be like, “We’re eatin’ people!”

That aesthetic that he brings is very much in our world is speaks to a different kind of touchstones. The first episode is a little bit like THE HUNGER. I’m a huge fan of that movie, and Tony Scott’s direction was beautiful and brilliant, and also kind of buttressed with all these interesting closeups that we started doing as a vocabulary for our show.

He also just brought in a cinematic quality that felt like this is a movie. In production meetings, we don’t say the episode starts; we say the movie starts, and the movie ends, and this part of the movie because we want everybody to just sort of shed off the idea that we’re making television, and every episode should be treated with the same respect of a movie. Vincenzo brings that.

FANGORIA: Can you introduce us to Zachary Quinto’s character, and maybe where he fits in or throws these characters off balance?

FULLER: Zach Quinto plays a patient of du Maurier, and it was so much fun to get Zach into the show. We had tried to cast Zach a couple of times in different roles and his schedule wasn’t permitting it. I’ve been friends with him since we did HEROES together, so we’ve kept on talking about how do we get in each other’s orbit again? One of the roles that he wasn’t available for had scenes with Gillian and Mads, and he was like like, “Ugh, I’m dying to work with Gillian Anderson! I’m obsessed with her!” I was like, “Well, let’s just write you a role with her and if you’re not available for this role, let’s create one.” So it actually came out of his unavailability for other roles and his obsession with Gillian Anderson, and wanting to work with her. We just made it work and came up with something out of that inspiration.

FANGORIA: How do you think HANNIBAL will be remembered in the years to come?

FULLER: I think it’ll be remembered for Mads Mikkelsen performance, and I think every Hannibal is remembered for that actor, whether it’s Brian Cox, who I thought was brilliant in MANHUNTER, where there’s such comedy to him when he’s talking about, “Just run that dial down and give me the name.” He was so witty, and was aware of the black comedy. Then Anthony Hopkins was a little bit more banal with his interpretation, really making a meal of it, and heightened but also accessible, particularly when he goes to his stillness.

HANNIBAL returns on tonight at 10 p.m. EST on NBC. HANNIBAL creator/writer Bryan Fuller will be serving as FANGORIA’s first Special Guest Editor for Issue #343; you can subscribe to FANGORIA here. Keep an eye out for more HANNIBAL coverage here at FANGORIA.com!

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About the author
Jessie Robbins
Jessie Robbins is a three-time college dropout with a taste for the macabre. Hailing from Southern Ontario, Jessie spends all of her free time watching horror films and writing about them at Ashes and Rashes (www.ashesandrashes.com) or talking about them on the Land of the Creeps podcast (www.landofthecreeps.blogspot.ca).
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