If "Hannibal" gives you nightmares, you're not alone. Executive producer Bryan Fuller, the man responsible for bringing the psychological crime thriller to the small screen, is pretty disturbed himself.
"For me, with crime and crime stories, I'm sensitive," he told reporters Sunday at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, Calif. "I look at dog videos all day to put me in a happy place."
Few other crime dramas are as twisted as "Hannibal" — the titular cannibalistic serial killer (Mads Mikkelsen) who serves up his victims to his dinner party guests — but Fuller says he counters the depravity by "stylizing the violence" and making it "purple and operatic. We're borderline fantasy with what we do on the show."
Still, he told TODAY after the press conference: "We want to find what's cool for the episode. We have some stuff coming up that's so over the top … so the conversations with the directors are , 'This could be ridiculous, so we need to find a way to make it elegant and beautiful at the same time to sort of combat how over the top it is.'
That said, he couldn't help giggling when he teased, "There's some stuff... coming up that is just so crazy!"
One particularly gruesome crime scene, which features a "human mural" of dismembered bodies, even troubled Laurence Fishburne. Fuller told TODAY after the panel that the veteran actor told him, "This the second-most disturbing thing I've ever filmed — the first being some stuff from 'Apocalypse Now.'"
"That was sort of a badge of honor," beamed Fuller.
Fans of the macabre can also look forward to "guest psychopath" Amanda Plummer ("Pulp Fiction"), playing a character who "will make you think twice about getting acupuncture," Fuller warned reporters with a laugh.
"We have a lot of fun with the guest psychopaths," said Fuller, noting that Jeremy Davies ("Justified"), and Jonathan Tucker ("Parenthood") are joining returning guest stars Eddie Izzard (Dr. Abel Gideon), Raul Esparza (Dr. Frederick Chilton), and Gillian Anderson (Dr. Du Maurier) this season.
"Every time we do have a guest psychopath on the show it's serving as a metaphor for what's going on with everything with the other characters, so we're just not a freewheeling soap opera."
Tortured profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) will continue to spin out of control in the second season, which returns to NBC's lineup on Feb. 28 at 10 p.m.
"He's not the happiest character I've ever played," Dancy deadpanned. "Dark as it may be, it was incredibly fun and rewarding. And this season, he gets even worse, so I've been very happy."
Much of Will's anguish is embodied by the stag present in some of the show's most gorgeous imagery. Fuller explained, "It's his first exposure to what Hannibal is capable of as an artist and a murderer."
"It's his Patronus," he quipped, referring to Harry Potter's magical guardian.
At least Will can count on a few happy moments. Caroline Dhavernas promised that his "handler," Dr. Alana Bloom, "will continue to be really focused on making sure that Will is OK." And that includes "a little more kissing too. "
"Lots more kissing this season!" Fuller amplified.
"With the wrong people!" laughed Mikkelsen.