Listen: ‘Legion’ Creator and HUMANITAS Trustee Noah Hawley on Portraying Male Power in His FX Drama
Welcome to “TV Take,” Variety‘s television podcast. In this week’s installment, Variety’s executive editor of TV, Daniel Holloway, chats with Noah Hawley, the creator and showrunner of FX’s X-Men inspired drama “Legion.”
Centered around the Marvel Comics character David Haller (Legion), the series follows the schizophrenic young man, played by Dan Stevens, as he hops around psych wards and ultimately falls in love with a fellow psych patient Syd. Early in the first season, Syd helps Haller realize that the voices he hears may not all be the cause of his mental illness but may actually be those of a parasitic mutant named Shadow King trapped in his own mind. With this new knowledge, the 30-something year-old Haller is propelled into a a series of dramatic turns as he attempts to combat the villain taking over his body.
As the show amps up for its third and final season, Hawley says he always saw the story as having a three-act structure.
“Episodically, it doesn’t want to be long, you don’t want a 52-minute episode of ‘Legion’ because it’s just a lot for to process visually for an audience,” he said. “Story-wise, if I do my job right, your brain goes to a lot of places and you’re a bit tired at the end because you’ve been working. So I felt like the same thing would stand true for the story as a whole. Like we have a story to tell and we’re gonna tell it as concisely as possible but we’re just not gonna tell it in a traditional way.”
The “traditional” approach Hawley likes to avoid in “Legion” is the way powerful men are presented in typical superhero and comic book stories like “Iron Man” and “Batman.” He brings up the iconic “Spider-Man” trope, “With great power comes great responsibility,” criticizing the idea that “might makes right” and that conflict can only be solved through war.
“In that way, we put ourselves in a head-on collision with hero or a villain,” Hawley said. But the creator notes that the third and final season sees a shift in perspective to help viewers feel less inclined to exonerate Haller for his past actions. “The first time you see David, you see him through [a new female character’s eyes] so immediately you have an outside perspective on him, you’re looking at him more objectively,” he said. “And in doing that, it’s not that we don’t go back into his point of view at times in the new season, but we don’t ever see him naively again.”
“Legion” Season 3 will premiere June 24. Later in the podcast, Variety’s TV critics Daniel D’Addario and Caroline Framke discuss the best shows on the air right now.
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Listen to the full podcast episode on Variety’s website below.