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How LEGION and Noah Hawley Bring Marvel Where They’ve Never Gone Before

How LEGION and Noah Hawley Bring Marvel Where They’ve Never Gone Before

In every new iteration of Marvel’s stories being brought to TV, something different is being brought to the comic book behemoth’s table. Stories drawn and written in this manner are always being reinvented—it’s in the blueprint of the genre itself—and FX’s first foray into superheroics, Legion, is certainly no different. Tasking Fargo creator Noah Hawley with bringing Marvel into a different lane for their bombastic style of storytelling.

For Marvel’s Jeph Loeb, the point with any new endeavor is “telling really good stories. I think Legion in particular redefines the genre in a new way as well.”

Naturally, with as many shows punctuating the airwaves with superguys and gals galavanting about the universe, many questions at the 2017 Television Critics Association Winter Tour revolved around the idea of meeting the saturation point. “We get asked a lot ‘are there too many superhero shows?’ and there’s two responses,” explained Loeb. “Do we ask those questions about cop shows and medical shows and legal shows? Generally no. And the second is, Marvel doesn’t start out from a place of, ‘OK this is someone defined by their powers,’ it’s about character.”

And the character, David Haller, is definitely quite the character—even by Marvel/X-Men standards. Which is exactly why he decided to stay away from most storylines from the comic book itself. “It’s important the audience doesn’t know where the story’s going,” explained Hawley, the TV series’ creator and showrunner. “It’s more fun that way.”

“If you can change it even subtly it helps … Let’s create something that’s a little bit more of a fable or a parable.”

LEGION -- Pictured: (l-r) Rachel Keller as Syd Barrett, Dan Stevens as David Haller. CR: Chris Large/FX

For Hawley, the X-Men’s draw has always been how effectively fascinating it is as a mirror. “It’s about outsiders … and the [X-Men] stories were always about the mutants finding their power both literally and as people. These characters have all been defined one way by society so then it felt interesting to me to tell a story about that transition.”

It’s that transition rooted in the characters’ humanity rather than their super abilities, and that’s at the heart of the first few episodes of David’s journey. Because ultimately, Legion is all about perception versus reality—something that bleeds into all of their stories. “It’s the same for all the characters: this idea that their power was metaphorical to what their issues were.”

And for Hawley, that was the most fun part—bridging the gap between fans that come for their familiar heroes, and those looking for an inventive new way to tell a story. According to Loeb, Marvel is confident that, “people are going to come to this show because of Noah Hawley and this incredible cast … [they] have merged together to tell a story Marvel’s never made before.”

To make something different, Hawley focused on making it subjective, “which is the opposite of Fargo.” Certainly in part because David is such an unreliable narrator. “At every moment [you ask], are you experiencing what you’re experiencing?

But before you groan aloud, “another unreliable narrator?” Hawley hears your concern. That’s why it was important, to him to “introduce this love story in the first hour and for the audience … as long as they have that I think [the audience] will give you the leeway to tell your story.”

Plus, he added, “By the end of the first season you understand what everything is. This isn’t a show where we’re trying to hide stuff you.”

LEGION - Key Art. CR: FX

Other things they’re not hiding? Jean Smart (a.k.a. the mysterious and life-saving Melanie)’s husband will be played by the uncomparable Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords fame. “Jemaine Clement plays my husband,” explained Smart. “He’s been living on an astral plane, so it’s a hard rendezvous.”

And don’t worry, added Stevens: We’re sorta working up to the full Legion hair from the comic books.”

Legion premieres on February 8th on FX. Are you looking forward to it? Let us know in the comments!

Images: FX


Alicia Lutes is the Managing Editor of Nerdist, creator/host of Fangirling, and is documenting all the shenanigans at this year’s TCAs on Twitter!

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