LEGION show runner Noah Hawley talks about creating a unique X-Men TV show

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It’s been a while since we told you that Marvel and Fox (the rights holders of the X-Men universe on the big and small screen) are working together to create two shows based on X-Men properties – Hellfire, based around the secretive Hellfire Club whose members frequently clash with the X-Men, and Legion, a show focusing on David Haller – the mentally disturbed son of Professor Charles Xavier; although we’re not sure if that means McAvoy or Stewart.

We haven’t heard anything about the former but in the latter (as Alwynne told us) Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) has been cast as Haller; and joining him will be Rachel Keller (Fargo), Aubrey Plaza (Parks & Recreation) and Jean Smart (Fargo). He also gave us this handy breakdown of the show:

The Legion pilot introduces the story of David Haller, a man who may be more than human and who has struggled with mental illness since his teenage years. Diagnosed as schizophrenic, David has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals for years. But after a strange encounter with a fellow patient, he is confronted with the possibility that the voices he hears and the visions he sees might be real. In the comics, David is the son of X-Men founder Charles Xavier (aka Professor X) and Israeli Holocaust survivor Gabrielle Haller. The character first appeared in New Mutants No. 25 in March 1985.

In a recent interview with Vanity Fair (and via Geek Tyrant) Legion show runner Noah Hawley, the man behind the the hit FX series Fargo, spoke briefly about his hopes for the series. One of the things he’s looking to avoid is falling into the familiar story beats of many other comic book series and movies, saying:

Film and TV have traded places where, you know, where you are now in a case-of-the-week movie world. One week, the Avengers fight this guy; the next week, they fight that guy. You can’t take the story too far in any one direction.

Should the show be picked up it’ll likely have a 10-episode run – a short run which Hawley is keen to exploit to tell a singular overarching story that challenges the audience instead of falling into standard procedural-type fare with cases-of-the-week:

I always feel like the structure of a story should reflect the content of the story. If the story, as in this case, is about a guy who is either schizophrenic or he has these abilities, i.e., he doesn’t know what’s real and what’s not real, then the audience should have the same experience.

We’ve got the time, right? It’s not a two-hour movie. It’s an 8- or a 10- or a 12-hour movie. Let’s tell the parts of the story that you couldn’t tell on the big screen. What is it really like to hear voices or to be able to move things with your mind or to think you can move things with your mind, but you’ve been hospitalized and they’ve been talking you out of the idea that you can actually move things with your mind. If there’s one thing that television doesn’t really do, and has never really done, is to tell a surreal story.

There’s, whatever, 9,000 superhero stories right now. They’ve got all the running and kicking covered. I think my goal with this is to do something whimsical and imaginative and unexpected. Not just because I want to do something different, but because it feels like the right way to tell this story.

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But just how likely is it that the show will get the green light:

To be determined, I suppose. We shot a pilot and I’m cutting it together now and we’re going to talk about it. It takes willpower. Anytime you want to create something different you have to convince people that it’s O.K. ‘We’ll be O.K. It’s going to work out. It’s going to be great.’ Which is a big part of my job in this business as that guy who’s like, ‘Follow me. We’re going over the hill. It’s going to be great. We’re going to succeed beyond our wildest dreams.’ People want to believe, you know? You have to have the confidence and the willpower to sort of do something different.

I don’t know about you, but it sounds almost like Mr Robot and Jessica Jones are having a Legion baby. I can’t say I was a believer when the show was first announced as being in development, but Hawley is saying all the things needed to pique my interest. What do you think?

Last Updated: May 31, 2016

Trevor Davies

I like pie, I think.

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