By Joshua Rivera
Updated October 19, 2014 at 03:00 PM EDT
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All week long, the Paley Center for Media has been hosting PaleyFest New York, its annual East Coast TV extravaganza celebrating a number of notable shows. Its penultimate night featured a panel celebrating an EW reader favorite: the beautiful, macabre psychological thriller Hannibal.

The panel included showrunner Bryan Fuller, as well as cast members Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Laurence Fishburne, and Caroline Dhavernas. Amid plenty of jokes directed at both each other and the audience, the Hannibal panel spoke pretty openly about the show and what’s in store for next season. Here’s what we learned.

Gender-bending was necessary. One of the earliest and most notable changes to the Thomas Harris canon was the sex of several characters like Freddie Lounds and Alana Bloom. (In Harris’ novels, both are men, with Bloom’s given name being Alan.) According to Fuller, the change was needed for the show to have any sort of gender balance. “I think if we didn’t change genders it would be a sausage party,” he said. As for season 3, expect it to boast significantly “more feminine energy,” as more women like Tao Okamato join the cast in prominent roles.

Similarly, deviations from the source material are a must. “The book has been adapted twice,” said Fuller, when asked about how he balances expectations from those who’ve read Red Dragon. “If we do the same thing, we’re a–holes.”

Everyone has been changed. The emotional, blood-soaked final moments of season 2 were a crucible of sorts for every member of the main cast. “I know that we all have to be changed, because everything that happened will either make or break [these characters],” said Dhavernas, who plays Alana Bloom. “I know that, for Alana, she’s going to have to move away from this madness, or fall into it even deeper and be changed by it again.”

Hannibal’s outfits are only getting better. While his dining habits make your skin crawl, Hannibal Lecter’s taste in everything else is exquisite—particularly his wardrobe. One fan asked what Hannibal will be wearing in season 3. “Not a lot,” Mikkelsen quipped, before answering seriously. “He’s on the run, but he’s not necessarily hiding,” he said of his character. The actor suggested that Hannibal could take on an ever-flashier look, with different sartorial choices reflecting different aliases he takes on as he galavants through Europe.

The soundtrack is a surprise to everyone. Fuller gives complete credit to composer and sound designer Brian Reitzell for the show’s uniquely unsettling soundscapes and music, admitting that the only real direction he gave Reitzell was “psychological.”

Laurence Fishburne has a TV binging problem. During the panel, the actor mentioned that he has a huge backlog of shows he hasn’t gotten to which he prefers over watching himself on screen. And that’s why he hasn’t seen every episode of Hannibal yet—but if he did, he’d be hopelessly hooked.

Fuller is still optimistic about Clarice Starling. One of the great misfortunes facing Hannibal‘s creative team is the fact that they currently don’t have the rights to use characters that first appeared in The Silence of the Lambs—namely, Clarice Starling. Fuller has been very public about his efforts to obtain said rights, and it seems like progress is being made. During the panel, Fuller said they ask every year, and while the first two requests were met with firm rejection, “this time they were like, ‘ask again next year,'” said Fuller.

Don’t expect answers about the extent of Hannibal and Bedelia’s relationship. Of course, one thing everyone wants to know about is that final shot of the good doctor with his good doctor making their getaway. “We’re not going to give the whole truth away,” said Mikkelsen, explaining that a certain level of ambiguity is vital for the tone and tension of the show to work. “If you get an explanation for the whole thing, it falls apart.”

We won’t see as many tableaus in season 3. In many ways, beautifully macabre murder scenes have become Hannibal‘s trademark—but we’ll have to get by with fewer of them in the upcoming season. According to Fuller, season 3 will open with a weird tableau in episode 1 that gets weirder in episode 2, but with the cast in very different places due to the fallout of season 2, Hannibal will become a bit more soap operatic—at least until the first half is over.

Red Dragon will be the second half of season 3. Tying into the discussion of why we won’t have so many artfully crafted murder scenes was this bit about the structure: Fuller is treating the back half of season 3 like a Red Dragon miniseries, one that’s only concerned with a single case.

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