Interview: Hugh Dancy Sets the Table for 'Hannibal'

Interview: Hugh Dancy Sets the Table for ‘Hannibal’

Hannibal - Season 2

Hannibal hasn’t even completed its second season, but with good ratings and a strong critical response, NBC has shown the good taste (pun intended) to pick it up for a third. The show has produced enough twists and turns and a few WTF moments to keep any audience satisfied.

Hugh Dancy plays FBI profiler Will Graham, who is entrapped in the serial killer’s games. This is good drama and the byplay between Graham and Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) is worth the time and effort.

Hugh Dancy reflects on his character and the challenges of doing Hannibal.

The Flickcast: Can you talk about getting into the head space of Will because he’s a terribly troubled character?

HUGH DANCY: Yes. He’s not the happiest character I’ve ever played. Well, there’s obviously – other than Bryan’s [Fuller/Executive Producer] scripts, there’s Thomas Harris’s book, Red Dragon, that I went to before we started filming the first season, and that’s been the template ever since.

It was just, as a description of a character from the inside of his head, the most rich material that you can hope for as an actor.

TFC: Do you have different ways of approaching Will’s various phases of depression?

HD: Well, it was a slow, steady buildup, just starting from a place of basic depression. I felt last season that the spiral, that progression over the course of the thirteen episodes, was so well-charted-out, and Bryan had described it to me. He basically said when we started, “At the end of the season, you are going to vomit up an ear.”

And I thought, okay, that’s all I need to know. That gives me the trajectory that I need. And then in the relationship with Hannibal and working with Mads and kind of going further down that rabbit hole it all actually fell into place in a very straightforward way. And dark as it may be, it was incredibly fun and rewarding. In fact, the worse it got for him, the more I enjoyed it, which may be to do with me. I don’t know. But this season, it’s even worse. So I’ve been very happy.

TFC: The 2nd season started with Will being in a very precarious place being framed for Hannibal’s crimes – so how is your character handling this major setback?

HD: Well, I think we have to play out where we left off at the end of the first season, meaning that at the beginning of this season, Will is still in the position of trying to convince people of what’s happened. He’s still putting up his hand and saying, “Hey, this wasn’t me –Hannibal did it.” Ultimately, the set-up, that Hannibal’s framed him so successfully, he realizes, “Okay, that’s a dead end. I’ve got to find a different route.”

And that’s what happens. He tries various maneuvers. Will is a very smart guy and one of the interesting things, I think, is seeing him embrace a side of himself that can be manipulative.

Hannibal - Season 2

TFC: With a TV series you’re always discovering new things about your character. Is it easier to do that or do you prefer as in a film to see the entire character laid out in front of you?

HD: Well, I mean, I have a pretty good sense, I think, of the basis, of the underpinnings of who Will is. One of the facts about him is that he’s incredibly elastic. He can go off in any direction, so I don’t exactly get surprised. Plus, of course, by virtue of being a prequel of sorts, we kind of know where we’re headed. There’s only so far we can veer off track.

TFC: What’s it like working with all of the dogs that Will has?

HD: It’s kind of great. I love that side of Will. I think that he’s such a, superficially at least, an unsympathetic character, that seeing him in his home with his dogs instantly lets you understand who he is for real. It’s basically what makes him likable. I always thought that the twin poles of the character were seeing him in his head kill other people – understanding that that’s where he goes – but then to balance that out, seeing him go home and go back to this lovely little place of security and pet his dogs.

Hannibal - Season 2

TFC: How are things on the set? Do you joke around very much?

HD: Yeah. There are a lot of jokes. Look, we’re making a show about really well-dressed cannibals, so the comedy comes pretty easily. I mean, I’m trying to think of something anecdotal (laughing). Well, you know that amazing mural, with the bodies?

Well, the reality of that is, you’ve got thirty-five or forty naked, sweaty, farty people lying on a floor. So we’d be doing those scenes, and then you’d hear – I’m not exaggerating this – a stomach rumble here and at least four of them were asleep. So it’s takes some of the edge off the horror.

HANNIBAL – NBC – Friday, May 16 10 PM – “Tome-wan”
HANNIBAL – NBC – Friday, May 23 10 PM – “Mizumono” SEASON FINALE