NBC's “Hannibal” at Comic-Con: A Feast for Fans

Fans of NBC’s thriller series “Hannibal” were in for a real treat Thursday when the cast and crew of the show hosted a lively panel at San Diego Comic-Con.

It’s safe to say not a single fan of the show – or “Fannibal,” as they’re known in the world of pop culture fandom – left the panel unsatisfied, as the hour-long Q&A session served up plenty of juicy tidbits about the show.

The NBC drama, which just wrapped its freshman season, centers on psychiatrist-turned-serial-killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter (played by Mads Mikkelsen) and William Graham (played by Hugh Dancy), a criminal profiler who’s on the hunt for a serial killer with the FBI.

Dancy, along with “Hannibal” creator and executive producer Bryan Fuller, took the spotlight at the Comic-Con panel Thursday. They were joined by executive producers Matha De Laurentis and David Slade.

Actor Aaron Abrams, who plays Brian Zeller on the series, introduced the panel to a packed house and set the tone for an hour full of laughs and thoughtful questions from die-hard fans.

At once, Abrams began with the “Hannibal” puns, saying he was merely an “appetizer” before the main course. He thanked Fannibals for being deeply devoted and downright “ravenous.”

The panel was then introduced – to loud cheering – as the cast and crew of the “best damn cooking show on TV.”

What followed was an interesting conversation about the show – both where it came from and where it’s headed.

Creator Bryan Fuller spoke often of “Hannibal” siblings, such as Thomas Harris’ novel, “Red Dragon,” and the Academy Award-winning film, “The Silence of the Lambs.”

Though inspired by both cult classics, Fuller said he considers the “Hannibal” TV series a “re-imagining” of the Dr. Hannibal Lecter story.

He credited much of the show’s fresh take on a classic story to Mikkelsen’s portrayal of Hannibal Lecter. The cast and crew agreed that Mikkelsen plays sick and sinister extremely well on television.

“Mads really owns the role now,” said Fuller, as fans screamed reassuringly.

After a clip of the show and a few moderated questions, it was the fans’ turn to take the spotlight and address the cast with more questions.

One fan asked Dancy what he does to clear his head of the sick and twisted storylines he reads and acts out at work.

To that, Dancy simply and honestly replied: “I find a beer helps. That’s it.”

Fuller later reassured fans that season two is well underway, saying the story arc has already been crafted and, in his words, “It’s a doozey.”

He said fans can look forward to a “scrappy, feisty” Will Graham leading the second season, which is slated to premiere on NBC in 2014.

The cast and crew were delighted by fan questions, and the many “Hannibal” inspired costumes in the crowd.

Many panel attendees wore flower crowns on their heads – a symbol synonymous with the show. One fan even gave Fuller her pretty pink flower crown, which he happily wore for the remainder of the panel.

Another fan -- Meg Downey of Toledo, Ohio (pictured right) – thoroughly impressed the panel with her elaborate costume. She showed up dressed as the recurring stag, or “ravenstag,” that often shows up in the show.

Fuller asked Downey if he could take a photo with her after the panel, to which she happily obliged.

After the panel, Downey told NBC 7 that meeting Fuller and Dancy was the ultimate fan experience. She said she’s been traveling to San Diego for Comic-Con for the past five years, and her moment at the “Hannibal” panel was unforgettable.

After many questions, the panel wrapped up with an exclusive “Gag Reel” featuring outtakes from the series. Watching the actors break character in the middle of gruesome and extremely serious scenes was the cherry on top for fans, whose laughter shook the room.

After the panel, Fuller and Abrams took the time to show their appreciation by signing autographs and taking dozens of photos with Fannibals.

It was the perfect end to a scrumptious panel that undoubtedly left Fannibals hungry for next season.

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