Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Chat with “Hannibal” Creator and EP Bryan Fuller

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Let’s get this warning out of the way, shall we? “Hannibal” creator and executive producer Bryan Fuller is a man who doesn’t unnecessarily stretch out storylines or hoard nail-biting thrills in the bottom of the freezer. Like his main character, Dr. Lecter, Fuller would rather serve up his stories fresh, pulsing and rare enough to bleed.
So if you don’t want to be spoiled regarding any twist coming this season on “Hannibal”… well, we hope you haven’t seen any of the ads for it on NBC, and you’d better stop reading this story now.
Consider yourself warned.
Those who have seen commercials for the drama, returning at 10pm Friday, February 28 on NBC, already know that Hannibal’s mask is going to drop, forcing at least two key characters to fight for their lives. Even if you’ve somehow managed to avoid those ads, Fuller won’t make you wait to witness one of the season’s most brutal conflicts: Friday’s premiere opens with a grueling fight scene previewed in the trailer, with Dr. Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) viciously attempting to fillet Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) in his kitchen.
Fuller’s decision to kick off this season with that adrenaline-spiking sequence came in part from knowing the show’s fan base could handle it, while also being aware of the wider culture’s familiarity with Hannibal Lecter’s curriculum vitae.
“The audience knows that he’s going to be incarcerated, eventually,” Fuller explained in a recent interview.  “I wanted to see this fight sequence from the get-go. The other part was, it’s kind of good to tell the audience, ‘You’re not going to be jerked around. We have an end game. We’re not just making it up as we go along. We have a plan.’
“It goes back to that idea of, the bomb is under the table,” the executive producer added. “It’s the basics of Hitchcock: Show the audience the bomb. Don’t just have it go ‘boom’. Show the audience the bomb and make them nervous. There’s something very exciting about telling the audience that this is going to be ending horribly for all of these characters in different ways.”
As if anyone believed anything different.
“Hannibal” is one of those surprising television entries that could have vaporized into ratings oblivion in its freshman run. Tough as it is to get any series off the ground, it’s infinitely harder for new shows to find lasting purchase on a broadcast network in the midseason.
But “Hannibal” passed the test with a devoted portion of viewers, whether they were fans of Thomas Harris’s iconic characters or coming in cold.  “There was so much perception of, like, ‘Oh God, another Hannibal Lecter story,’” Fuller recalled. “… I thought there was an opportunity to do something with Hannibal Lecter that hasn’t been done before. There are chapters in his life that we haven’t really seen and explored. That was exciting for me.  What was also exciting was creating a visual vocabulary for the show that was very distinct. I love cinema, and I love beautiful imagery.”
Fuller’s reverence for the cinematic medium and aesthetics is front and center in “Hannibal,” which is presented in a style he’s frequently characterized as operatic and “purple.”
Like Mikkelsen’s impeccably dressed, emotionally cool Lecter, the show itself is a work of elegance, inviting the audience to indulge in lush visuals and not simply consume the story, but digest every morsel of it.  Every moment consciously plays with the juxtaposition of gorgeousness and visceral terror with the effect, at times, of slowly luring the audience into a sense of being in collusion with Hannibal.
“It’s breaking down those moments and trying to make them sensual, and finding ways to tell story purely with cinema,” Fuller explained. “We have an episode where a major character dies, and almost half the act is non-dialogue, with just people reacting. Part of it was, do we really want to write another scene where somebody says, ‘Oh it’s sad’? When those things happen, words aren’t your tools for communication. It is so internalized and traumatized. I just wanted to see people’s devastated reactions, because that’s how you feel. You don’t feel words. That was kind of the impetus there.”
Taken in concert, the vision realized by “Hannibal’s” production staff, as well as nuanced, powerful performances by Fishburne, Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy, Caroline Dhavernas and an array of portrayals by guest stars including Gillian Anderson (returning this season as Lecter’s confidante and fellow therapist Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier) blend perfectly to create a very quiet, thought-provoking show that never drags.
Within the first two episodes of this season, for example, is a scene that is as pleasing to the eye as it is horrendous to see. This is intentional, Fuller explains. When the writers are weaving story, he invites them to be inspired by great filmmakers like David Kronenberg, David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick…as well as other cinematic sources one might not expect.
“Taking inspiration from Busby Berkeley and coming away with a human mural is part of how our brains work in the writers room,” Fuller says with a laugh. “I’m approaching the story from a place of filmmaking and psychology. I always forget that the audience isn’t in on the process of creating it, so they don’t know how we got there. So it is much more abrupt and visceral for the audience than it is for us…I guess that’s my apology.”
Not that any fan is for asking for it. On the contrary, some may wonder why we aren’t getting longer seasons of “Hannibal”.  Season one and season two are each only 13 episodes long, and Fuller is happy to hold to that commitment.
“When I watch a show, you know the episodes that are treading water. You’re like, ‘Okay, nothing really happened in that episode. There’s interesting character development, but where are the big plot points?’ In this season, we were very adamant about…needing to keep things moving, keep things exciting for ourselves.
“I think in terms of chapters,” he added. “Season one was one chapter. Season two is actually two chapters, and season three may be two chapters as well. Originally I was thinking, ‘Season four is going to be Red Dragon.’ But then I thought, ‘Oh gee, how do you spread Red Dragon over 13 episodes and keep it effective and keep the momentum? Wouldn’t it be interesting if we compressed it to seven episodes, to six episodes?’ Then we could…not waste any time or mess around. So it’s really about the gift of doing fewer episodes and being able to strategize what’s going to be the most impactful.”
Fuller was careful to add that NBC hasn’t given the official word that season three is being picked up. There’s no harm in being prepared for that scenario, of course. On the off-chance that – perish the thought – “Hannibal’s” road were to end with the season two finale, however, wouldn’t it be interesting to see Fuller add his signature to the list of producers and directors who brought the character to be big screen? Anything is possible. For the moment, though, Fuller seems content to explore the limits of of television’s palette.
“We’re in the Golden Era of television right now, but we’re kind of in a Tin Era of cinema,” he observed. “Television is kind of running circles around most movies.” - How it works Freelance Jobs

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