‘Legion’ Creator on How X-Men Spinoff Goes Where No Superhero Adaptation Has Gone Before

Noah Hawley talks to TheWrap about the Magneto/Professor X dichotomy and why David Haller’s mind is a “haunted house”

The moral ambiguity of X-Men characters and storylines was a big draw for “Legion” creator Noah Hawley when he was approached with the idea of creating a TV series that fit within the film franchise.

During “the initial conversations with FX and with the other executive producers of the films — Lauren Schuler-Donner, Simon Kinberg and Bryan Singer — they weren’t really tied to a specific character or story,” Hawley told TheWrap while explaining how “Legion” came to be. “It was an idea of trying to create some sort of TV offshoot of the X-Men films. I’d seen all the films and read the comics in my youth and I was intrigued by it.”

“Legion” follows David Haller (Dan Stevens), a mutant whose telepathic and telekinetic abilities are diagnosed as a mental disorder. The character is the son of Professor Xavier in the comics, and Hawley confessed that the ongoing themes he’d read in the comics felt unique in this crowded superhero landscape.

“There’s a lot of things that the X-Men do that other comics don’t do, in terms of the moral grey that they have in their stories, that two opposing ideas can both be right,” Hawley said. “You can have this Magneto character, who was a child in a concentration camp, who knows what it’s like to be hunted down and ostracized, for being different and whose response is to control normal people and kill them if he has to. And there’s the Professor X mentality, which is no, we can teach them and we live together. And they’re both right, to some degree. I always found that very interesting.”

However, the writer and producer behind the reinvention of “Fargo” for television approached the potential project cautiously, and didn’t just want to translate a specific comic book storyline for the screen.

“My goal is to look at it and ask, ‘what’s the character, what’s the relationships , what’s the character dynamics that make it worth making?’ There’s 500 shows on the air, the only reason to make another one is if you think it can be the best one,” Hawley said. “For me it was finding the show before I even took on the genre. It was this idea that didn’t seem really explored a lot on television, the idea of the unreliable narrator, the idea of mental illness, and a character who doesn’t know what’s real or what’s not real, who either has schizophrenia or he has these abilities — or both — and creating a story where the structure of the story reflects that.

“So the audience is in his shoes. We see the world as he sees it,” Hawley added.

This purposeful fragmented structure may leave audiences confused as to what’s really happening, but that will change as David changes, the show’s creator explained.

“There are images we see in that first hour that aren’t connected to information,” he teased. “It’s just this sort of haunted house of his mind. Over time, as he learns more, and gets more clarity, we learn more and get more clarity. That’s what was really exciting to me, to make something so subjective after two years of making a very objective show.”

“Legion” airs Wednesdays at at 10 p.m. on FX.

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