Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daises, Heroes) is taking five pages of backstory about the infamous cannibal psychiatrist from Thomas Harris’ book Red Dragon and using it as the basis for the first couple seasons of his planned drama.
Hannibal, which has received a 13-episode series order, features Lecter solving crimes with empathic FBI profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy). For the first time, viewers will spend quality time with Lecter while he’s at large and before the world knows his secrets, working side by side with a similarly brilliant man who is destined to catch him.
“It’s before he was incarcerated, so he’s more of a peacock,” Fuller tells EW.com. “There is a cheery disposition to our Hannibal. He’s not being telegraphed as a villain. If the audience didn’t know who he was, they wouldn’t see him coming. What we have is Alfred Hitchcock’s principle of suspense — show the audience the bomb under the table and let them sweat when it’s going to go boom. So the audience knows who Hannibal is so we don’t have to overplay his villainy. We get to subvert his legacy and give the audience twists and turns.”
So Hannibal almost plays like a crime procedural featuring two very smart investigators — but one of them is a serial killer. It’s also a highly unusual plan in broadcast series TV to start out a drama with one format, while planning from the very beginning to dramatically shake up the story once Hannibal is outed.
“It really is a love story, for lack of a better description, between these two characters,” Fuller says. “As Hannibal has said [to Graham] in a couple of the movies, ‘You’re a lot more like me than you realize.’ We’ll get to the bottom of exactly what that means over the course of the first two seasons. But we’re taking our sweet precious time.”
Hannibal will also be unusual because it’s planned as a 13-episode-per-season show. So though the drama won’t rush Hannibal’s story, it also won’t feel like its padded with throwaway episodes either.
“Doing a cable model on network television gives us the opportunity not to dally in our storytelling because we have a lot of real estate to cover,” Fuller says. “I pitched a seven-season arc including stories from various [Thomas Harris] books.”
The show will include familiar characters from Harris’ novels, though he’s “Starbucking” the genders of a couple of them. FBI boss Jack Crawford will remain male, but Dr. Alan Bloom is becoming Dr. Alana Bloom, and tabloid journalist Freddy Lounds is becoming tabloid blogger Fredricka Lounds.
Between Hannibal and Fuller’s Munsters reboot pilot Mockingbird Lane, the writer certainly has his hands full. Still, there’s one other TV series idea that we’re all hoping eventually gets off the ground — the return of Star Trek.
Fuller has previously spoken to director-producer Bryan Singer about teaming to reboot the TV franchise, though any movement depends on rights-holder Paramount and Trek’s current creative kingpin, J.J. Abrams (who, of course, knows a thing or two about making TV shows too). The consensus has been that there is unlikely to be a Trek TV show while the current movie franchise is still regularly hitting theaters.
“Bryan and I are big fans of Trek and have discussed a take on what we would do, and we would love to do it,” Fuller says. “I don’t think anything is going to happen in any official capacity until after the next movie comes out. And I’m sure it would be wisely under J.J. Abrams’ purview of what happens. He’s the guardian of Trek right now.”