Making it the first ever collaboration between Marvel and Fox, FX’s series Legion will be a co-production between the X-Men movie team of Lauren Shuler Donner, Bryan Singer and Simon Kinberg, and Marvel head of TV Jeph Loeb and Jim Chory.
The eight-episode TV series centers on David Haller, played by Downton Abbey and The Guest star Dan Stevens, the schizophrenic son of X-Men’s Professor Charles Xavier, who, like his father, is also is a mutant. The X-Men spinoff series is actually the brainchild of Fargo showrunner Noah Hawley, who’s tasked with bringing the X-world to the small screen.
In a recent interview with IGN, Hawley explained his approach to the comic book series, comparing it to the one he used in adapting the Coen Bros.’ Fargo for television.
I look at the challenge with Legion as the same challenge [as adapting Fargo], which was here’s this iconic world - the Marvel world, the comics, and the X-Men world. And as with Fargo, my job was not to remake the movie, to sort of retell a story that had already been told, but to try to tell a different story with the same effect, the same impact. So, you know what was important to me was to treat the material with the utmost respect, and yet at a certain point as a writer, you have to tell your own story. So my approach to the Legion material is similar, which is it’s about a respect for the world, but it’s not about telling stories in that world that the reader is familiar with. It’s about taking that character and really exploring, almost on an existential level, what it’s like… What a television show can do that a movie can’t do is it’s not just a plot delivery device. It’s not about action, it’s about character and theme and as we see in Fargo, you can really play with structure and you can deconstruct the story in a big way. Whereas in a two-hour movie, it’s ‘What’s the problem? Where’s the bad guy? Let’s go get him!’
So, I would be remiss, I feel like, if I didn’t deconstruct this, if I didn’t really try to do something for the genre that feels personal and interesting to me and to really explore if you have a character who for his whole life has believed that he’s schizophrenic, and is now starting to think that he may have these powers, but he doesn’t know and he doesn’t know what’s real – well, that’s the experience the audience should have. To be put into his world is to enter something that’s by definition surreal, because he’s hearing things, he’s seeing things… Are these things real or not real? What can you trust that you’re seeing? And he’s stuck in this moment until he meets a girl [Syd, played by Fargo's Rachel Keller] and he falls in love and now he’s got something to hope for and that’s the catalyst that pushes everything forward. And, you know, I can never predict the reaction to the work. With Fargo, I could have done my best work and the reaction could have been the complete opposite. I have no control over that, all I can do is tell the best story that I can tell.
Hawley also explained why he chose Dan Stevens, the man who made women swoon as Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey, to play the role of the title character:
Dan is really accessible. He’s one of those people that is transparent in the best way to an audience. And yet he’s got the ability to close off, and as you saw in The Guest, he can be a very enigmatic character at the same time. But I think what you need in a leading man is their real skill is that you’re able to see what goes on behind their eyes. I’m not a big fan of having characters say their truths out loud, so you have to show them. But still, the audience has to know what’s going on in his head, and Dan is great for that. He’s also a great romantic lead, which I think we’ve seen, and he has a sense of humor, which is important to me. I did ask him, “Are you like a clumsy guy?” Because any version of this show, there’s gonna be some action, there’s gonna be some of that stuff. And I knew from The Guest that he was a physically capable guy but we definitely put him through his paces and he’s great.
Produced by FX Productions and Marvel Television, Legion also stars Rachel Keller (Fargo), Jean Smart (Fargo), Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation), Jeremie Harris (A Walk Among the Tombstones), Amber Midthunder (Hell or High Water), Katie Aselton (The League), Hamish Linklater (Battleship) and Bill Irwin (Interstellar). The series is slated for a 2017 premiere.