It’s no secret that superheroes have spilled over onto television in a big way. DC pretty much has the traditional market cornered with Arrow, The Flash, Gotham, and Supergirl, but Marvel is doing solidly on its own separate track with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter and, more successfully, its Netflix series Daredevil and the upcoming Jessica Jones. In short, superheroes dominate our screens both big and small, but one studio that’s been lagging a bit is 20th Century Fox. Their X-Men franchise is a big money-maker at multiplexes, and the studio finally announced plans to extend its own Marvel universe to the small screen earlier this year with Legion and Hellfire.
Legion is set up at FX with Fargo showrunner Noah Hawley writing the pilot and tells the story of David Haller, a man diagnosed as a schizophrenic who has been in and out of hospitals his entire life until a strange encounter with a fellow patient confronts him with the possibility that the voices he hears and the visions he sees might just be real. Hellfire, meanwhile, is set up at Fox and is more of an X-Men show in the traditional sense, revolving around the villainous Hellfire Club in the 1960s. 24: Live Another Day showrunners Evan Katz and Manny Coto are at the helm of that show.
While both series are firmly in development and not officially ordered “to series” yet, Steve recently spoke with producer Simon Kinberg who was enthused about the prospect of the shows, especially Legion:
“Legion and Hellfire are both super active. Hellfire we’re hoping to be shooting at the beginning of next year, the pilot. It’s been extraordinary working with Noah Hawley [on Legion], who I think is a straight up genius. Actually the idea for Legion, it began in conversations with Lauren Schuler Donner and Bryan Singer and Noah me, but I remember I was actually in Moscow last year about to go into a dinner, I was there for the Days of Future Past premiere, and I was sitting in a car outside a restaurant about to go into dinner. It was really early on in the process, like one of the first conversations, and Noah and I were on a call just the two of us just riffing ideas, and I was sitting outside what I thought was gonna be like a 10 minute call and I ended up sitting out there for three and a half hours, missing the dinner. Everybody had not only had the dinner but went home, and I just got off that call being like, ‘It’s midnight in Moscow but we have to make this show with this guy because he’s so brilliant.’ So that’s really ramping up now, the production’s ramping up to start shooting at the beginning of the year with FX.”
But with Legion being on FX, Kinberg, Hawley, and the rest of the team have the opportunity to do something a little different than shows that are destined for network television. Specifically, the producer likens Legion to one of the stalwarts of TV’s Second Golden Age:
“I mean the thing that’s cool and that’s the hope in branching out to TV is that we can tell these X-Men stories in a slightly different way and even with a slightly different tone. It’s one of the thing we’re kind of doing in the different movie franchises. I mean Deadpool obviously has a very different, almost antithetical tone to the mainline X-Men movies. The X-Men movies are dramatic and almost operatic, whereas Deadpool is irreverent and hysterical and sort of a dirty R-rated comedy in many ways. And Gambit will have its own different flavor and tone to it, will be more of like a heist movie and a sexy thriller in a way. So the TV shows give us an opportunity to go even further and certainly what I’m seeing on Legion with Noah and FX is an intent to do something completely original in the genre, in some ways to sort of blow up the paradigm of comic book or superhero stories and almost do our Breaking Bad of superhero stories.”
With Hellfire, meanwhile, Kinberg said the writing team is hard at work prepping to shoot the pilot:
“The Hellfire script we have an amazing writing team, really two writing teams working together on it, and also that will shoot next year.”
Kinberg added that Legion would presumably follow FX’s other series and carry on with 10 or 13-episode seasons, but said it’s too early to talk about episode number for Hellfire. Indeed, both shows only have pilot commitments at the moment, so it’s possible neither comes to fruition. Legion especially, though, sounds mighty promising.