Today at the FX panel for its upcoming show Legion, creator Noah Hawley as well as producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Jeph Loeb (and the cast including Dan Stevens, Rachel Keller, Jean Smart, and more) were on hand to talk about the ambitious series. Having seen the first two episodes, I can say that Legion is one of the boldest series FX has ever set out to make, especially regarding the visual style and the way it tells its story. Though it’s a show where you aren’t always certain what is real and what’s in David Haller’s (Stevens) mind, it feels true to his experience, which Hawley said is what they were trying to accomplish. As he put it, it’s a love story first, and then they put the genre back in. And though the line between reality and hallucination is ever-changing, they aren’t looking to hide things or trick viewers — while we may not understand what’s happening at the beginning, by the end of the first season we’ll know what’s going on.
Speaking of genre though, Legion is of course based on a comic book property, one tied to the X-Men world (in the comic, David Haller is the son of Professor Xavier). Though Legion was initially going to be a part of the X-Men cinematic universe, that’s in some doubt moving forward because of comments Hawley has said in the past. During the panel, Loeb and Donner were asked if the series would kick off a Marvel franchise on FX like DC has done on the CW, or Marvel has done with Netflix. The answer was a very resounding no, however, it is (as Donner put it) a chance to bring X-Men to television that aren’t going to be used in the film franchise, and to focus more on characters.
Loeb added that they’re just interested in telling good stories, and that Legion “redefines the genre in a new way.” In response to questions about us being at Peak Superhero, Loeb noted that this isn’t a question that’s asked about cop shows, legal procedurals, etc. But beyond that, their approach to storytelling is that “we don’t start out from a place where this is a person defined by their powers, it’s about a character.” He added that “X-Men is a world where you can bend the rules a lot,” and there are many stories to tell that aren’t just about saving the world.
Right now, David Haller is the only character in the show from the comics, but Hawley said others many appear. But what the X-Men universe provides, according to Hawley, is that “it’s about outsiders who are defined one way by society, and finding their power, both literally and as people.” It’s also, he said, about a transition, and going from a man thinking he has a mental illness to discovering he actually has abilities that empower him. Hawley added that many of the powers on the show will mirror the issues the individuals have, like how the character Syd can’t touch people because of her abilities, so she’s diagnosed as anti-social, so then she becomes so.
The creators are hoping that people will be coming to Legion because of Hawley and the cast, and not necessarily because they’re looking to see a Marvel franchise show (and it is definitely not what people will be expecting on that front). “We’re ambitious, we just wanted to tell the biggest story” Hawley said.
Legion premieres Wednesday, February 8th on FX.