‘Hannibal’ producer: ‘Maybe a 50/50 chance’ of surviving cancellation

“Hannibal” showrunner Bryan Fuller has been making the media rounds this evening to discuss the show’s potential future in the wake of NBC’s decision to not order a fourth season. Fuller’s had beloved shows canceled out from under him before (“Wonderfalls,” “Pushing Daisies”), but in this case, he has a distributor in Gaumont International with a desire to keep the show going, both here and abroad, and that has in the past shown a willingness to make creative deals to keep “Hannibal” in fine cuisine. (Earlier this week, EW reported that Gaumont had slashed this season’s license fee to a piddling $185,000 per episode, or roughly the wig budget for “Peter Pan Live!” That’s why the remaining 10 episodes will air: NBC has no more cost-effective alternative.)

Both The Hollywood Reporter and Variety had published their Fuller interviews by the time Fuller and I spoke, and since his time was limited (like Will Graham, he has dogs that need walking), I decided not to rehash a lot of what was discussed there. So to sum up a few things from those interviews:

* NBC announced the decision now rather than at the end of the season due to the language of their contract with Gaumont.

* If the show is saved, his work on Starz’s “American Gods” wouldn’t prevent him from working on “Hannibal” season 4.

* Access, or the lack thereof, to the “Silence of the Lambs” characters (who are owned by MGM) wasn’t a factor in continuing the show at NBC, especially since he wasn’t planning on doing a “Silence” adaptation (whether with the actual Clarice Starling or a stand-in character) until a hypothetical fifth season. The ratings were just too low, even at the drastically reduced price NBC was paying.

* For many reasons – not least because they have the streaming rights to the first two seasons – Amazon seems the most probable destination for the series if it can survive this.

With that out of the way, here’s what Fuller and I discussed:

You’ve been here before with cancellations. How does this one feel?

Bryan Fuller: If anything, it doesn’t feel as abrupt, as unexpected, as distraught as previous cancellations have felt.

What would you say the chances are that you can find a new home?

Bryan Fuller: You know? I think there’s probably, it feels like maybe a 50/50 chance. There’s certain places that can’t do it for various reasons. There’s other places that are interested in doing a fourth season. I’m very curious which way it will go. I honestly have no idea. With “Wonderfalls” in particular, when that was canceled, it was a sense of seeing the back 9 so clearly, and being surprised at the hopelessness of it all. I guess because the show had been about hope in a strange way. So that one was probably the one that stung the most, and then “Pushing Daisies,” that stung, but it felt like was a tale left to be told with it. “Wonderfalls,” I felt like I can’t imagine this quirky show finding life beyond the television show.

In terms of the various foreign distribution deals Gaumont would seek for a fourth season, does it matter in 2015 whether your American home is on a broadcast network, as opposed to cable or something streaming like Amazon?

Bryan Fuller: Yes, absolutely. International broadcasters are often dependent on an American home broadcasting network, so it changes the game entirely.

At the end of season 1, after you had already been renewed, you told me that you weren’t worried about the future because there was another interested party who would have picked you up.

Bryan Fuller: There’s usually a few people who are like, “Say… what would that look like on our channel?” Interest can be expressed without directly expressing interest.

Is that one of the players who’s involved in your potential future home?

Bryan Fuller: Yes. There are discussions with a similar party.

You’ve talked about how the Italy portion of the season, which is turning out to be a loose adaptation of the “Hannibal” novel, got collapsed so that it’s only going to take up half the season. Then you’re doing the bulk of “Red Dragon” with Richard Armitage. If you’re not doing “Silence” for season 4, and you’ve used up most of the books you do have the rights for, what would be left to fuel that season?

Bryan Fuller: There’s actually, if I told you, you’d be like, “Oh, yeah, that’s right!” But I don’t want to give any hints about it, because it would betray the finale of this season. But it’s based on something from one of the books, where we would do what we usually do, which is subvert it, starting with the radical differences in the relationships on the show versus how they were written in the novels.

You said before that interested parties would ask how the show would change on their air. You’ve done three seasons of the show for NBC, and they have let you do some sick, bizarre, esoteric stuff. If you land on cable or a streaming platform, would the show change very much at this point? Or is it the show that NBC has somehow let you make?

Bryan Fuller: I think it’s the show in many ways. I think we would probably say “fuck” or “shit” more often, or at all. But in terms of the psychological content and the storytelling, NBC is not preventing us from exploring any of that territory. I think it would just be in terms of nudity and strong language, but I don’t necessarily see those things as vital tools in the toolbox. We wouldn’t be blurring Botticelli anymore.

Getting back to your prior brushes with cancellation, those shows ended at a time when it was rare to see shows resurrected. Now it happens a lot, and you have the situation with Gaumont on top of that.

Bryan Fuller: Oh, absolutely. To varying degrees. It absolutely feels different, but it’s also not my first time at this particular rodeo. I’m less traumatized than I have been in the past.

Instead, the only people traumatized are the ones watching the show.

Bryan Fuller: Yes. Maybe that has built up my resistance to trauma.

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com