The collection is based upon personalities as well as likewise aspects showing up in the books Red Dragon, Hannibal as well as Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris. The collection concentrates on the budding partnership in between FBI Special Agent Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), a criminal offense scene private investigator that holds the capability to feel sorry for psychotics as well as killers, and Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), a forensic psychiatrist and secret cannibal destined to become Graham's most cunning enemy. The FBI staff that supports Graham is headed by Special Agent in Charge Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne), who takes Graham from his teaching job to help investigate only the most gruesome and bizarre of murders, and includes a forensic team consisting of Beverly Katz (Hettienne Park), Brian Zeller (Aaron Abrams) and Jimmy Price (Scott Thompson). While Dr. Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) inadvertently slips deeper into Hannibal's world, clinical psychiatrist Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson) does so purposefully, as does crime blogger Fredricka “Freddie” Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki), who frequently attempts to use Graham, Lecter, and their cases to make a name for herself.
Each episode of the first season is named after an element of French cuisine. The season two titles are named after the different elements of Japanese haute cuisine. The first seven of season three's episodes are named after different courses of Italian cuisine, the subsequent five are named for William Blake's series of The Great Red Dragon Paintings, and the finale's title is a phrase from Revelation 6: 16.
Hannibal is an American psychological horror-thriller television series developed by Bryan Fuller for NBC. The series is based on characters and elements appearing in Thomas Harris' novels Red Dragon, Hannibal, and Hannibal Rising with focus on the relationship between FBI special investigator Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen), a forensic psychiatrist destined to become Graham's most cunning enemy and at the same time, the only person who can understand him.
The series received a 13-episode order for its first season. David Slade executive produced and directed the first episode. The series premiered on NBC on April 4, 2013. On May 9, 2014, NBC renewed Hannibal for a third season, which premiered on June 4, 2015. On June 22, 2015, NBC canceled Hannibal after three seasons because of low ratings. The series finale aired in Canada on City, on August 27, 2015, and aired two days later in the U.S. on NBC.
The series received critical acclaim, with the performances of the lead actors and the visual style of the show being singled out for praise. The first two seasons won the Saturn Awards for Best Network Television Series and Best Actor for Mikkelsen and Dancy respectively, with Laurence Fishburne winning Best Supporting Actor for season two. The third and final season won the inaugural Best Action-Thriller Television Series, while guest star Richard Armitage won Best Supporting Actor. The show has garnered a cult following and is considered by critics and audiences as one of the best series of the horror genre, and one of the best TV series of all time.
FBI profiler Will Graham is recruited by Jack Crawford, the head of Behavioral Sciences of the FBI, to help investigate a serial killer in Minnesota. With the investigation weighing heavily on Graham, Crawford decides to have him supervised by forensic psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Initially, Lecter – who is secretly a cannibalistic serial killer – works to manipulate the FBI from within, but the bond he builds with Graham begins to threaten his longevity. Lecter is fascinated by Graham's ability to empathize with psychopathic killers as well as tries to push the boundaries of Graham's fragile sanity in order to turn him into a killer himself.
- Hugh Dancy as Will Graham, a gifted criminal profiler as well as hunter of serial killers. He visualizes himself committing the murders he investigates to understand the killers' behaviors; throughout the series, Graham's involvement with the investigations takes a toll on his psyche. The emotional relationship between Graham and Lecter forms the foundation of the series.
- Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter, a brilliant forensic psychoanalyst as well as gourmand, that is also secretly a cannibalistic serial killer known as the Chesapeake Ripper; Lecter develops a keen interest in Graham.
- Caroline Dhavernas as Alana Bloom, a professor of psychology, and consultant profiler for the FBI, who has professional relationships with both Graham and Lecter.
- Hettienne Park as Beverly Katz, a crime scene investigator specializing in fiber analysis. (seasons 1–2)
- Laurence Fishburne as Jack Crawford, head of Behavioral Sciences at the FBI and Graham's boss.
- Scott Thompson as Jimmy Price, a crime scene investigator specializing in latent fingerprints. (recurring season 1; also starring seasons 2–3)
- Aaron Abrams as Brian Zeller, a crime scene investigator. (recurring season 1; also starring seasons 2–3)
- Gillian Anderson as Bedelia Du Maurier, Lecter's psychotherapist, that was once attacked by one of Lecter's former patients. (recurring seasons 1–2; regular season 3)
- Raúl Esparza as Frederick Chilton, administrator of Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.
- Kacey Rohl as Abigail Hobbs, daughter and also an accomplice of serial killer Garrett Jacob Hobbs, who develops a complicated father-daughter relationship with Lecter.
- Lara Jean Chorostecki as Fredricka “Freddie” Lounds, a tabloid blogger and also a journalist who runs the true-crime website TattleCrime.
- Katharine Isabelle as Margot Verger, one of Lecter's patients; she has suffered years of abuse at the hands of her twin brother. (seasons 2–3)
- Michael Pitt (season 2) and also Joe Anderson (season 3) as Mason Verger, Margot's sadistic twin brother, who does not quite see eye-to-eye with Dr. Lecter.
- Richard Armitage as Francis Dolarhyde, a serial killer known as The Tooth Fairy due to his unsightly habit of biting the skin of his victims. (season 3)
- Eddie Izzard as Abel Gideon, a transplant surgeon institutionalized for killing his family, who is led to believe that he is the Chesapeake Ripper by Dr. Chilton.
- Gina Torres as Phyllis “Bella” Crawford, Jack Crawford's wife, who is suffering from terminal lung cancer.
- Vladimir Jon Cubrt as Garrett Jacob Hobbs, a serial killer known as the Minnesota Shrike.
- Anna Chlumsky as Miriam Lass, an FBI trainee and Jack Crawford's protégée. She mysteriously disappears while investigating the Chesapeake Ripper. (seasons 1–2)
- Cynthia Nixon as Kade Purnell, an investigator for the Office of the Inspector General. (season 2)
- Fortunato Cerlino as Rinaldo Pazzi, an Italian inspector who teams up with Will to search for Lecter. (season 3)
- Tao Okamoto as Chiyoh, handmaiden to Lecter's aunt, Lady Murasaki. (season 3)
- Glenn Fleshler as Cordell Doemling, the creepy yet gentle and intelligent nurse to Mason Verger. (season 3)
- Nina Arianda as Molly Graham, Will's wife who helped him overcome his dark past. She continues to support Will when he is asked to return to the FBI. (season 3)
- Rutina Wesley as Reba McClane, a blind woman and love interest of Dolarhyde. (season 3)
NBC began developing a Hannibal series in 2011 and former head of drama Katie O'Connell brought in her long-time friend Bryan Fuller (who had previously served as a writer-producer on NBC's Heroes) to write a pilot script in November. NBC gave the series a financial commitment before Fuller had completed his script. On February 14, 2012, NBC bypassed the pilot stage of development by giving the series a 13-episode first season based solely on the strength of Fuller's script. The series went into production quickly thereafter.
David Slade, who had previously directed the pilot for NBC's Awake, directed the first episode and serves as an executive producer. José Andrés is the series' “culinary cannibal consultant” and advises the crew on proper procedure for preparing human flesh for consumption.
Fuller discussed the limited episode order and the continuing story arc he envisions for the series. “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”. Speaking specifically about the Lecter character, Fuller said, “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”. He went on to call the relationship between Graham and Lecter as “really a love story”, saying “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”.
Fuller originally planned for the show to run for seven seasons: the first three consisting of original material, the fourth covering Red Dragon, the fifth The Silence of the Lambs, the sixth Hannibal, and the seventh an original storyline resolving Hannibal's ending. However, after the conclusion of the second season, Fuller stated he later envisioned the show to run six seasons, incorporating the books into the show in a different way than he originally planned. Season 3 would use material from Hannibal Rising as well as Red Dragon and include a different origin story for Dr. Lecter; the season ultimately also adapted Hannibal as well. Fuller had intended to include other characters from the book series (such as Jame Gumb and Clarice Starling) provided he could get the rights from MGM.Franklin Froideveaux and Tobias Budge were created because Fuller could not secure the rights to The Silence of the Lambs characters Benjamin Raspail and Jame Gumb. Fuller added they also tried to get the rights to Barney Matthews, an orderly at the Baltimore State Hospital, but were denied, thus a character based on Barney appeared in the second season, named Matthew Brown, but the character ended up being an antithesis to the original series' Barney. Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier is named after the character in Creepshow and author Daphne du Maurier.
Regarding the series' influences, Fuller stated: “When I sat down to the script, I was very consciously saying, ‘What would David Lynch do with a Hannibal Lecter character? What sort of strange, unexpected places would he take this world?' I'm a great admirer of his work and his aesthetic and his meticulous sound design. Those were all components that I felt very strongly needed to be part of our Hannibal Lecter story. Between Lynch and Kubrick, there's a lot of inspiration.” Fuller also cited David Cronenberg and Dario Argento as influences on the series. Fuller cited Tony Scott as an influence for the third season.
English actor Hugh Dancy was the first actor to be cast, taking on the lead role of FBI criminal profiler Will Graham, who seeks aid from Lecter in profiling and capturing serial killers. In June 2012, Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen was cast as Lecter. Soon after this, actor Laurence Fishburne was cast as FBI Behavioral Sciences Unit commander Jack Crawford. Caroline Dhavernas was later cast as Dr. Alana Bloom, a former student of Hannibal Lecter, and Hettienne Park was cast as CSI Beverly Katz. Lara Jean Chorostecki, Kacey Rohl, Scott Thompson and Aaron Abrams were cast in recurring roles.
Gina Torres, Laurence Fishburne's then real-life wife, had a recurring role as Phyllis “Bella” Crawford, Jack Crawford's terminally ill wife. Ellen Greene, Raúl Esparza and Gillian Anderson were later cast in recurring roles and appeared later in season one, though Greene actually appeared in just one episode. Molly Shannon, Eddie Izzard as well as Lance Henriksen guest-starred during the first season.
Several of the actors on the series have worked with creator Bryan Fuller previously, including Dhavernas, who played the lead role in Wonderfalls, as well as Torres, Greene, Esparza as well as Shannon, who all appeared in the television series Pushing Daisies. Chelan Simmons reprised her role as Gretchen Speck-Horowitz from Wonderfalls in an episode of Hannibal. Ellen Muth, who starred in Fuller's Dead Like Me, guest-starred as a character named Georgia Madchen, a nod to her original character as well as a “reinterpretation of that character”.
David Bowie was approached for the role of Hannibal's uncle, Robert Lecter, for the second season, but was unavailable for the role. Gillian Anderson returned as Lecter's psychoanalyst, Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier, in multiple episodes for the second season. Eddie Izzard reprised his role as Dr. Abel Gideon for the second season. Cynthia Nixon joined the recurring cast as Kade Purnell, an employee of the Office of the Inspector General, that is investigating Jack Crawford's role in the events of the first season. Katharine Isabelle joined the recurring cast as Margot Verger, who was originally described as a potential love interest for Graham, but Fuller later clarified that, as in the novel Hannibal, Margot “… is a member of the LGBT community!”Michael Pitt joined the recurring cast in the role of Mason Verger, Margot's abusive twin brother. Amanda Plummer guest-starred in the second season, playing Katherine Pimms, an acupuncturist. Jeremy Davies as well as Chris Diamantopoulos appear in two episodes.
Fuller stated in June 2014 after winning the Saturn Award for Best Network Television Series that they were told by Bowie's management to ask again for his availability for the third season. He also went on to list David Thewlis, Brad Dourif, Kristin Chenoweth, Lee Pace, and Anna Friel as actors he would like to appear on the series. For the third season, Anderson was promoted to series regular after recurring throughout the initial two seasons. Tao Okamoto was announced to play Lady Murasaki, Hannibal's enigmatic aunt, in period three, however, Fuller later confirmed at a PaleyFest panel in New York that Okamoto would, in fact, be playing the role of Chiyoh, Lady Murasaki's handmaid. For the third period, Joe Anderson replaced Michael Pitt as Mason Verger, as Pitt decided not to return to the role. In December 2014, Fortunato Cerlino was announced as portraying Rinaldo Pazzi. In January 2015, several recurring roles were cast, including Richard Armitage as Francis Dolarhyde; Nina Arianda as Molly Graham, Will's wife; Rutina Wesley as Reba McClane; and also Glenn Fleshler as Dr. Cordell Doemling. In March 2015, Zachary Quinto was cast in a guest-starring role as one of Dr. Du Maurier's patients. Izzard reprised the role of Gideon for the period 3 premiere, although he was initially hesitant about returning.
Fuller stated that should the collection continue, whether for a fourth season or feature film, as well as should they obtain rights to adapt The Silence of the Lambs, Ellen Page would certainly be his outstanding spreading for Clarice Starling.