Legion creator Noah Hawley talks mutant powers and his 'subversive' Marvel approach

Contributed by
May 4, 2017, 11:18 AM EDT (Updated)

From the moment it was announced, the FX superhero series Legion seemed set apart from most of the superhero media on our screens right now. For one thing, it's a co-production between Fox and Marvel Television, which may have seemed unlikely before it actually happened. For another, it's connected to the existing X-Men movie universe (the protagonist is the canonical son of Charles Xavier) without really feeling like a part of it ... at least, not yet. And finally, its creator is Noah Hawley, the writer who took FX's Fargo from unlikely adaptation to prestige TV powerhouse and the writer who, if you'd asked me three years ago, would've been among the last TV creators I would've predicted for a comic book show.

Now, Legion's premiere is less than a month away and Hawley is making the interview rounds to talk about his approach to this "dramatic departure" from Marvel's other superhero shows. In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, he talked about his goals when crafting the series, including a strong desire to given us more than just another hero vs. villain beatdown.

"I did want to be very careful about sending a message that all conflict can only be resolved through battle. There is a sense in a lot of these stories that everything always builds to a big fight," Hawley said. "And certainly, if you’re doing a story about outsiders and empathy, I didn’t want to be drawn into the gravitational pull of that white hat vs black hat. I wanted to find a story that was just as exciting and interesting but doesn’t send the message that in the end that 'might makes right.' That was very much on my mind while making this who [sic]."

When it was pointed out to him that he seems to be straying from Marvel's most successful screen formula, Hawley replied "I guess I'm subversive."

Hawley's approach might differ from the standard superhero movie setup, but he's tapping into a longstanding comic book tradition of examining the lives of super-powered individuals in terms of personal battles, something that's served X-Men writers in particular very well over the past few decades. If you're starting to worry that the show will focus a little too much on non-superhero drama, though, settle down for a minute. These characters still have powers to work with.

"David (Dan Stevens) has psychic abilities — telepathy and telekinesis among other things. He’s an omega mutant, he’s very powerful. Syd who’s played by Rachel Keller doesn’t like to be touched. If she touches your skin she trades places with you, her mind goes into your body and the other way around. We have an actor, Jeremy Harris, who plays a character named Ptonomy. He’s a memory artist. He remembers everything, and has the ability to take people back into their own memories, and helps David get into his mind. And there are other characters with other powers, but those are the main ones."

For more on the show, including Hawley's thoughts on ts crossover potental, check out the full interview HERELegion premieres Feb. 8 on FX.