Meet The Man Behind Our Current Favourite TV Show Hannibal

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The Q&A | Hannibal Screenwriter Bryan Fuller
Meet Bryan Fuller, the man who puts words (among other things) in Dr Hannibal Lecter’s mouth.
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He’s the brains behind Pushing Daisies, won awards for his hand in Heroes, and got his foot in the door scripting Star Trek. But with Hannibal, his deliciously dark new series fleshing out the backstory of Thomas Harris’s cannibalistic psychologist, the writer and producer Bryan Fuller (above) really got to sink his teeth in. Here, he gives Esquire a taste of the show.

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ESQUIRE: Is it difficult to write about Hannibal Lecter when the audience knows what happens to him?

Bryan Fuller: It’s Hitchcockian suspense — the audience gets to see the bomb before it goes off. This is an untold chapter of Lecter’s story: we haven’t seen him when he’s practicing psychiatry and cannibalism. And if you don’t bring something to the table, you’re going to end up on the menu.

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ESQ: You’ve said that the relationship between Lecter and Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), his partner in this series and eventual captor, is like a love story…

BF: Yes, and if the first season is the bromance, the second season is the break up; Lecter is the spurned lover.

ESQ: Lecter has been played by a Scot, a Welshman, a Frenchman and now a Dane (Mads Mikkelsen). Do Americans consider Europeans intellectually superior or creepy?

BF: Both. There is a fear of The Other in American culture, someone who is smarter than us. But it wasn’t our agenda to cast a foreigner and freak everybody out. We’re being true to the source material — Lecter is an East European dandy. It was exciting to work with someone of Mads’s quality who has this international profile and who adds such gravity to the role. He has these fantastic micro-expressions — they just draw you in.

ESQ: You had chef José Andrés as a culinary adviser on the show…

BF: I realised this would take a culinary skillset above and beyond my own. My first question to José was what on the human body can we eat. He said that there’s not a single morsel on our frames that cannot be digested — even the bones can be ground up to make gravy. I would love to do a Lecter cookbook, but the more responsible bit of my brain says that it’s all fun and games until somebody kills their neighbour and eats them. Those crazy people keep ruining everything.

ESQ: Was the show a real crash-course in forensics for you?

BF: We briefly had an FBI consultant; we were asking a lot of crazy questions and I think he got very frustrated with us. He said, why don’t you call us when you have a question about something that might actually happen in reality. So, if it wasn’t on Wikipedia, we just made it up.

ESQ: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen at a comic convention?

BF: In my late twenties, I went to a panel on writing for Star Trek, around the time of the Northridge earthquake [1994]. After the class, I was walking out of the hall when an aftershock hit. I looked up at all the shaking tiers of the building and there were people in Star Trek uniforms running about, and I thought: “This is just like the show — we’re under Romulan attack!”

Hannibal starts on 7 May on Sky Living HD