The series, about a pre-"Silence of the Lambs" Hannibal Lecter (played by Mads Mikkelsen) and his cat and mouse dance with FBI profiler Will Graham (Dancy), is back for its third season on June 4. The premier finds the tenuously sane Graham recovering from being gutted physically — as Hannibal was emotionally — after betraying his secret to the FBI. Meanwhile, the Hannibal himself is enjoying a new lease on life as a professor in Italy, with his accomplice/hostage Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson) posing as his wife.
We caught up with Dancy about why Will just can’t quit Hannibal, filming in Florence, and what wine he’s drinking with dinner.
How much of the events of Season 2 were real for Will versus setting Hannibal up to be caught?
My understanding of it was always that both of those things were happening simultaneously and Will, to a certain extent, had bifurcated himself. Because there were two possible outcomes: one would be that Will assisted in apprehending Hannibal, and one would be that Will ran off with Hannibal into the sunset in some kind of murder duo. And neither of those would’ve been a satisfactory outcome for Will — he was already too split. So I think he was just postponing the inevitable.
If Will had known surrogate daughter Abigail had survived her apparent demise at the end of Season 1, would that have changed anything?
I think it would have only confused him further, because in a sense it was an answer to his prayer to see her brought back to life. In another sense, it’s the darkest thing that Hannibal had ever done.
In Season 3, Will is still pursuing Hannibal despite nearly being killed by him. Is he still working with the FBI, or is this personal?
By the end of Season 2, Will has proven that he has no scrap of self-preservation whatsoever. Will is certainly cut off from the FBI, but more to the point he’s cut off from the people who would’ve been his allies — he doesn’t trust them, and they don’t necessarily trust him.
Hannibal loves Will — but how does Will feel about him?
There is an involuntary quality to each of their feelings of the other. Both have gone against their normal nature. Hannibal, the reason his revenge at the end of Season 2 was so brutal is because he showed himself to will, he made himself vulnerable, and he felt vulnerable. Will, obviously, has gone extremely dark and dangerous places, not just literally dangerous but dangerous in the sense that he allowed himself to go to the brink, go beyond the brink for Hannibal.
The way I think about it is they’ve been alone in the world until they recognized something in the other that made them feel not alone, which is as good a description of love as you can have, I suppose.
It is, and enough to get him to chase Hannibal all the way to the other side of world.
Yes — whether that’s out of love is not a moot point.
Speaking of this season's new setting, how was Florence?
Pretty much anywhere compared to Toronto, with respect to Toronto, being there exclusively over the winter for the last three years made Florence even more beautiful than it already is.
Had you been there before?
No, never. We were [filming] during the day and just a lot of big dinners at night, family style. It was very convivial.
So the opposite of the dinners at Hannibal’s house.
Yes, there was no veiled hostility.
In one of the new trailers, Will tells Hannibal that he forgives him. How is that possible?
[Laughs] Going back to what exactly draws Will to Hannibal, my feeling was that certainly, the audience initially I don’t think will know what he’s in pursuit of other than Hannibal the man, whether it’s vengeance or reconciliation or something else.
The way I think about it is that Will doesn’t necessarily know the answer to that question himself — he’s achieved a zen-like state that he has to go on his quest, and whatever he finds at the end of it, literally and emotionally, that’s OK, that’s the road he needs to travel. So he’s almost clearer than we’ve seen him before, and that’s where that possibility of forgiveness comes from.
The dinners on the show are lavish, gourmet affairs. Are you a fancy food guy or do you like more casual meals?
Once in a blue moon, who doesn’t like a big lavish dinner with white tablecloths? But on the whole, I prefer that medium: great cooking but a bit more informal, and good company. I’m more of a wine guy than a food guy, though you can’t have one without the other.
What’s in your glass these days?
Right now I’m in Germany, so Riesling.
You had two scenes with Gillian Anderson in Season 2 — will you have any more?
I have a few scenes with Gillian, mostly towards the second half, which should serve to tell you that she maintains her presence in the show after we go into the Red Dragon storyline.
Are they in the presence of Hannibal, or will they get to speak more candidly again?
Dodging that question to a certain degree, it’s fair to say that no conversation between Will and Bedelia, or really anybody and Bedelia, is completely candid, or at least certainly not totally transparent; she’s pretty opaque.
And she’s a psychiatrist, so she knows how to move the conversation where she wants.
That’s right, and particularly in Will’s conversations with her, much as in his conversations with Hannibal, there is always that blurred line between friend-antagonist-patient-doctor.
This show has a lot of blurred lines — I don’t think we’ve gotten a straight answer so far.
Tell me about it.
One of the things that fans have really connected with about the show is Will Graham’s dogs. Do you know how that character decision was made?
I don’t know except that [series creator] Bryan Fuller is an animal lover and a dog lover in particular. That, to some extent, like most things originates in “Red Dragon,” the novel, and he took a smaller thing and elaborated on it. I think also that it was basically about the only way of humanizing Will in the beginning because you have this guy who’s socially awkward, borderline hostile and then, in his head, he’s killing people all the time. If you had Will without the murder and also without the dogs, you’d just have a really antisocial guy you didn’t want to spend much time with.