Axel-In-Charge: Unmasking the "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Mentally unstable FBI special investigator Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) never saw it coming. Throughout Hannibal’s freshman season, a troubled Will confided in his new psychiatrist, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen). The two became chummy, developed a strong bond and even investigated murder cases side-by-side. That dynamic changed when the psychopathic Hannibal killed youngster Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl) and pinned her death on Will. As the season finale came to a close, it seemed the monster had won.
When Season Two kicks off on February 28, Will is locked up at the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane while Hannibal remains at large and free to indulge in his cannibalistic cravings. However, if the premiere’s brutal opening sequence is any indication, Hannibal’s ghoulish deception may finally be over.
Spinoff Online recently caught up with executive producer and showrunner Bryan Fuller to talk about the sophomore season of NBC’s Hannibal and he opens up about Will’s current predicament, the show’s gore factor and whether Hannibal will get away with murder.
Spinoff Onine: Will has hit rock bottom. What is his state of mind when Season Two kicks off?
Bryan Fuller: His state of mind in Season Two is about being scrappy and wanting to right the wrongs. It’s kind of a, “I’m gonna get you sucka” declaration that he makes against Hannibal. Then he quickly realizes he has to take a different tact.
What does having Will incarcerated allow you to do story-wise?
There’s a fun kind of inversion of the Hannibal Lecter story with putting Will Graham in the institution and allowing Hannibal to roam free. There was fun in redefining those dynamics, so they feel a little fresher. We’ve seen Hannibal Lecter incarcerated. We’ve seen him consulting with the FBI on cases. In continuing the promise of inversion at the end of the first season, we get to apply that throughout the second season too. It’s interesting to see Will doing his job, but from behind bars. It’s sort of like he was this wild animal roaming free and now they’ve caged him and still making him do the job he was doing when he was free. There’s a certain indignity to it.
Most of Will’s friends and co-workers assume he’s guilty. Does anyone really have his back?
I think people have Will’s back in that they believe he was not in control of his actions, but they absolutely feel he’s guilty. In that way, there’s an abandonment he feels. You want his allies to be hard won. We see in the second episode, he does get an ally, but then she quickly disappears.
Despite everything, Hannibal visits Will in jail. Is their bromance still alive? How has that relationship changed?
I think the bromance is absolutely still alive. Right now, it’s in the tough love phase because Hannibal essentially wants to evolve Will to the point that he can accept his darker impulses and not be so terrified of them. This is like a necessary step in that evolution. You see it’s so hard for Will to still be on the receiving end of that knowing that this guy is responsible for all of his woes and no one will hear him. It’s a great frustrating place for a character to be in because it leaves only their own wits to get them out of it.
What does Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier’s (Gillian Anderson) presence add to the show?
Gillian’s chemistry with Mads, and now with Hugh, is so distinct. I love that she brings this savvy awareness of the danger, yet she is in a situation where she only has so much information. She can’t necessarily act and then she realizes, “Okay, this is getting dangerous. I don’t have enough information to report anything, so I’m just going to remove myself.”
How is Alana (Caroline Dhavernas) taking this turn of events with Will?
The relationship between Will and Alana starts out very much where she was in the first season, which is, “I believe Will, as a human being, is innocent. I also believe he did commit these murders.” She realizes mental illness is responsible and not the human being she cares deeply for. Then as the season progresses, we see that shift, where she’s thinking, “Oh, maybe there wasn’t as much humanity in Will Graham as I thought there was.”
Some would argue Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) screwed up royally by recruiting Will. What are some of the repercussions of that bad decision?
I think we see the big one right at the beginning of this season. That’s a pretty terrifying repercussion from bringing Will in and then having to bring Hannibal in to maintain Will. Jack has essentially made a deal with Will and Will made a deal with the devil. We’re gonna see that play out with some threats to Jack’s job security and his standing at the FBI. Clearly, it’s a lapse of judgement.
Will teetered on the edge of sanity throughout the first season, and then there’s this damaging evidence that he snapped and killed Abigail. What makes Jack re-examine what is right in front of him?
It is Will’s persistence. Will keeps on driving at Jack. Then when he can’t get through to Jack, he tries to get through to those around Jack. There are repercussions for all of the characters whenever Will is trying to get someone to listen to him. It’s always dangerous for everybody involved because you don’t know how much they will discover.
You mentioned Hannibal is aiding the FBI again. Most killers would distance themselves from the authorities. Is he engaging in a game of cat and mouse or simply admiring his handiwork?
This is a guy with a huge ego and who is very impressed with himself. He’s bold, and the curiosity and whimsy are in the literature. We have author Thomas Harris talking about what got Hannibal Lecter caught, which was his whimsy. There’s his curiosity of, “I wonder what will happen if I do this? What will happen if I set this in motion?” He is so fascinated with human behavior and pushing those buttons that he’s adaptable to whatever comes his way.
Can you talk about the talented group of guest stars you have lined up including Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City), Michael Pitt (Boardwalk Empire) and Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps)?
Cynthia is playing Kade Prurnell, who is the head of FBI Oversight. She is coming in over Jack because of all the events of the first season. We set her up at the beginning of Season Two and then we have a fun payoff at the end in terms of just how involved she will be with Jack. Is she Jack’s ally? Is she Jack’s enemy? How far will she go for justice?
Michael Pitt is such an interesting actor and has done a lot of these really intriguing roles. We were talking about who our ideal Mason Verger is and when Michael’s name came up, it was like, “That would be really interesting,” because there is a cold psychosis required with Mason, but there’s also an immense charm. Michael embodies all those things so wonderfully that we knew he was going to elevate the show with his performance.
I had worked with Katharine Isabelle on the Carrie remake years ago and she was actually the runner-up for Jaye on Wonderfalls. I have always been a fan of hers and really liked what she brings. What she brings is this sassy Susan Sarandon earthiness to her, at the same time of having a great edge. I loved her in Ginger Snaps. When her name came up for Margot Verger, I was like, “Oh, great.” And she had an amazing audition.
Margot Verger is a character from the books. She is Mason’s sister. The character had not been adapted in any of the translations from page to screen. We know her from the book Hannibal, but these events take place many years before that.
Tease us a little bit. Are you mapping out one season-long arc or will you be switching gears in the second half?
There’s sort of two chapters to the second season. The first half is very focused on one story and culminates in episode 7. Then we start a whole new arc from 8 to 13 that is an extension of the first half, but really a new chapter.
You guys are a little bit warped. Last season, we saw a human mushroom garden and a human cello. How much more gruesome and macabre can things become?
It’s funny because we talk about the episodes by the murder victims. This year we have quite a few that are jaw-dropping. We want to keep surprising people, but also, “What’s that beautiful image?” It really is about finding something so beautiful and then realizing that it’s made of death and then gauging people’s reactions to it.
The series is called Hannibal. Who should we be rooting for? Our resident cannibal? Will? Jack?
The fun is you’re not quite sure who to root for. We were watching scenes and some terrible things happen to many of the characters from the first season. We have three that don’t end so well. The fun of those is just looking at the cuts and going, “Oh my God. This is so horrible for this character.” But, it’s satisfying because it’s Hannibal pulling it off. We’re rooting for Hannibal to get away with it on one hand. Then when you look at poor Will Graham and his plight, you’re rooting for Will. It’s conflicting because it’s Hannibal and he’s so smooth and villainous that you want him to continue. You don’t want Darth Vader to die. That’s the fun of the show. By all means, we should be rooting for Hannibal to get caught, but it’s better for us as audience members if he doesn’t.