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The Return of The Dragon: Hugh Dancy talks Season Three of “HANNIBAL”

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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. First up was Will Graham himself, Chainsaw Award-nominee Hugh Dancy, who spoke to FANGORIA about the transition between seasons and the peculiarities of Will and Hannibal’s flawed friendship…

FANGORIA: When you first boarded the series, did you ever entertain the notion of wanting to play Hannibal yourself?

HUGH DANCY: No, I never wanted to play Hannibal; I just wanted Mads to play Hannibal. Obviously, when I met Bryan Fuller, at that point they hadn’t cast anybody. He explained how he saw the show and we talked about Will, obviously. The natural next question was, “Well, who’s going to be crazy enough to play Hannibal?” Mads’ name came up very quickly. I worked with Mads ten years ago now. That was very clear to me that that was the best possible outcome. I was fixated on that.

I liked Will. I was very happy to play Will. As a character, yeah, I think Will lives in terror, but he’s going to embrace that side of himself. He’s still kind of navigating that.

FANGORIA: How is Will different after last season’s events?

DANCY: I think he flirted as closely as he’s ever going to with the idea of joining Hannibal in some kind of buddy comedy. Whatever the dream was- that they would go off over the horizon together- that was the closest he came to allowing that dream to blossom in his own mind. Now, it’s a different kind of parody that he’s got, which is that he has to see it through. He’s got to see it through. The purpose of it is almost moot, whether it’s revenge, whether it’s reconciliation, whether it’s forgiveness.

I guess you maybe saw that trailer, which obviously comes from the scene in the kitchen at the end of the second season. Whatever it is, it’s A) maybe not the primary question in Will’s mind and B) something that I guess we’re holding back until the two of them reconverge somewhere further down into the season.

FANGORIA: Whether or not Will is attracted to or fascinated by Hannibal, it’s certain that he’s certainly mutated into Hannibal’s expectations. Was that something that interested you as you prepared for the character?

DANCY: I think that I was always interested by the idea of influence. This is obviously taken to a huge extreme and Hannibal is highly manipulative and very interested in, as it were, going inside somebody and lifting up the rug and seeing what’s underneath. It’s a little surprising in seeing how everybody in the show has the capacity to be a psychopath. Maybe there’s a fair point there about us all.

I think, just on a more human level, when I was thinking about it before we started the show, I think that we all walk around, we have the capacity to be influenced by the people, to let them into our bubble. We try and preserve our own sense of who we are but at the same time, you don’t want to go through life cut off. Great, I know exactly who I am. You need some sway. I personally find that very interesting: the blurry edges of personality. That’s where I was coming from.

FANGORIA: When you read the script for the third season, did you have something that you wanted to find out specifically?

DANCY: I think that the first four episodes of the season are really interesting. When I first read them, I was thinking, “What’s he doing here?” Then it dawned on me that he is playing with time because what happened in that situation, where Hannibal slaughtered everybody almost, is still circulating for all of them. Right there, it’s present in the way a traumatic event is present.

The first episode where, as I think Bryan has already said, we’re off with him and Bedelia, they’re away and are having a fine time. Then suddenly, we’re back with Will and we’re back in the second episode, we’re back into this kind of circling dream world, where he’s back in the kitchen, he’s coming up to Hannibal. He’s with Abigail, he’s not with Abigail. It’s not moving forward in the normal way. The third episode is something else, and in the fourth episode, it circles back. I think that is a very bold and really provocative way to write television.

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FANGORIA: Let’s talk a little bit about your research? Is it different in any way than what you research for a movie or do you have several seasons of HANNIBAL to go back to for research?

DANCY: It’s not like, for me anyway; I did the work that I did before it started. You film the first season. You come back for the second season. You have this whole body of understanding behind you. Obviously, the conversation between myself and Mads, and myself and Bryan, and all of us is much easier to tap back into. Even if, of course, what you hope is that it’s going to take a sudden different direction just so you get interested and you’ve got something to play with. When I started, before we shot the first season, obviously the place to start was with RED DRAGON, the novel, which I hadn’t read before. There’s so much to take from that.

It’s kind of been odd now that in this season will actually go back into RED DRAGON; it feels like a strange deja vu for me. There was a huge amount to take from that. Then the next stage from that was there were a lot of people that Thomas Harris had spoken to when he was thinking about profiling and so on. Then, of course. when the books became a success, they were both books about profiling. That was great so we have that resource as well. That’s what I started with.

I don’t know. I never really think about it. I think the show is risqué. In America, it’s on network rather than cable. That seems to be the distinction. If we’re on cable, they’d probably ask us to kill more people to make it a bit more racy. I just don’t worry about it. You think about the integrity of this show in it’s own world that collectively we’ve all created and try not to just swerve outside of the rules that we’ve made up. That’s it. You can’t take a bit of one show and add it to another. The best you can hope for is that people understand and recognize the world that you’re in.

FANGORIA: Can we expect to see any other specific genres, elements introduced, maybe in the new season?

DANCY: The travel genre; A road trip. There’s always been a dash of the cooking show in there obviously. Clearly, we’re in the second hour of the show, we’re in full on literary adaptation but with the bearing in mind if we’re suddenly, just slavishly faithful to the novel, having spent two and a half years trying to create something new, it would be a bit odd with our own twist.

The first season was a bit more procedural. I think that was made mostly because we were just starting out and you kind of people order it, like a network or whatever order a TV show. They want something they vaguely recognize. That’s kind of what we got.

Then everybody relaxes a bit and the show took on its own shape a bit more. I think by virtue, as I said, the structure, the time, all of that, the trauma that’s washing around, the fact that we’re all on the road and the fact that all these characters who’ve been shoved together for two seasons in Baltimore, in basically Hannibal’s kitchen or whatever. There’s a very different feeling to it and new characters that come along with that as well.

FANGORIA: There is no Sherlock without Moriarty. Can we have Hannibal without Will?

DANCY: I think probably, but he’d be very bored.

FANGORIA: With the dark subject matter and Will’s messed up psyche, how does that affect you as an actor or a person?

DANCY: It’s all great fun. You want to work with good people on good material. If anything, it’s been interesting to take part in that because that wasn’t as first written. I guess it was there in the first episode you saw. I think in the second season, Bryan really started to stir the pot and particularly in that dream symbolism, even more so with this season I think. That’s interesting because you can go, “Oh, I see. We’re going in this direction. Well, how can I serve that?” It’s fun. I’ve never gone home and had trouble sleeping, at least not because of that.

FANGORIA: In the show we see different kind of pleasures, such as food and killing, but sex is underneath it all. Do you think there’s sexual tension between your character and Hannibal sometimes?

DANCY: That’s interesting. I never thought about it that way. Whatever it is between them is there from the beginning. I think it’s platonic but I think at a certain point, it’s bigger than either of them. Hannibal wants to be more in control, but he’s willing to burn everything down to have contact with Will. At a certain point, that covers your whole world. I don’t think it’s sexual but I think it’s bigger than that to be honest.

FANGORIA: Now, in the third season when you’re trying to find Hannibal again, does Will try to express a new relationship or dialogue with someone else to replace the role that Hannibal held for him?

DANCY: He’s not looking for a replacement for Hannibal, no. I don’t think there is a replacement for Hannibal. There’s a sense that he has various companions along the way, real or otherwise. I’m not even sure that he knows precisely what he’s looking for. Again, as I say, going back to that trailer when he discovers in himself, running through that corridor that they’re both in, he finds himself the ability to forgive Hannibal.

I don’t know if you’ve been there but I’ve been there in a relationship where you kind of think maybe I’m the person who’s been wronged but even so I have to find the humility to be forgiving. It’s not planned. It’s like something breaks inside you. That’s not really an answer to your question, but I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I think Will doesn’t know where this quest is going. It’s somewhat epic in a sense of going back to Hannibal’s place of origin. I don’t think he knows where it’s going to take him. He just has to go on it to see who he is going to become at the other end.

HANNIBAL returns on Thursday, June 4th 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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