Warning: This post contains major Legion spoilers! Only read if you’re up to date.
In hindsight, it should have been obvious to all of us from the beginning that the Big Bad of Legion would be the Shadow King, given how closely connected the two characters have become in the comics. But that first glimpse we saw of the Devil with Yellow Eyes was very different from the barrel-chested reptilian monster the Shadow King used to look like in the ‘90s. Heck, I thought it was supposed to be Mojo at first!
So why go with a Shadow King who looks like that? To make you feel weird, of course. The reason for most of this show’s choices.
While on a recent conference call with members of the press, Legion showrunner Noah Hawleyrevealed that the design of the Shadow King was partially inspired by production designer Michael Wylie’s obsession with My 600 Lb Life, a reality series that documents the struggle that morbidly obese people face in losing weight. Hawley admitted he had never seen the show, but he said, “I did respond to the idea that whatever was inside David has been feeding on him all this time and as a result there was something engorged or tick-like about about it, that it had been feeding and that it was reaching this very corpulent state.”
From there, it was a matter of making the Shadow King look something between human and… other. “A big part of our approach was in looking at the full title of the X-Men, which is The Uncanny X-Men, and this idea of the word ‘uncanny.’ In this essay that I found by Sigmund Freud about the uncanny, it’s basically about the supernatural and why people are afraid of the things they’re afraid of. The idea that the thing that really scares us the most is when familiar things operate in unfamiliar ways. A house should not be a haunted house; it freaks us out because that’s not the way a house should be. “
The design of the Shadow King, whose unusually large prosthetic chin, odd form of moving, and tattered suit make him look look not quite human, would certainly fit that description for uncanniness. “And then we found this guy who’s 6 foot 8, the skinniest guy that you’ve seen, we built this suit for him,” Hawley continued. “So he’s hugely corpulent but also very thin in places, and that adds to the unnaturalness of the character. It was sort of designed to have a visceral impact on the viewer.”
The man in question was Quinton Boisclair, a Vancouver-based comic book enthusiast who’d never before worked on a project like this—of course, Legion being what it is, I’m not sure many can say they have.
“He was the nicest guy,” Hawley said. “I think we found him at a comic book store, if I’m remembering correctly. One of the things I really liked about him was that he he had these very gentle eyes. I’m always wary of villains being too villainous, and I like the conflict between the fact that he has these very kind eyes but he also is this sort of frightening figure. I think there’s something worse about the idea that he almost looks trapped inside this villainous shell. He was the gentlest guy and I think for the first few episodes, I think this was all very strange to him, and I think by the end he was into the role and the performance and the things that he got to do. It must have been hot in that thing!”
Legion star Dan Stevens also had nothing but nice things to say about Boisclair in an earlier phone interview with Nerdist. “I think it was about three months into shooting was the first time I met him out of his costume, so every time I met this guy he was dressed like that and looked like that. I had no idea what he looked like, and it was deeply disturbing every time he was on set because he’s got these long thin arms and long thing legs that come out of this thing,”
Stevens said, “He was so into it, and he’s obviously not just a huge comic book fan but a huge X-Men fan, so it was fascinating talking to him about the X-Men even though he was in this costume, having these conversations about Legion and the problems of Legion and the ideas at play. Talking to this guy, this super sweet guy, very softly spoken and yet he’s playing this horrendous apparition. It was great fun.”
Did all of Legion’s efforts to make you feel uncomfortable pay off? What do you think of the way the Shadow King was designed? Let us know in the comments!
Image: FX Networks