F/X’s sci fi drama Legion is based on the Marvel Comics by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz. It tells the story of David Haller (Dan Stevens, Beauty and the Beast, Downton Abbey), who throughout his whole life has believed that he is schizophrenic and struggled to maintain his sanity.
The truth is, he is the mutant son of Professor Charles Xavier and Gabrielle Haller, making this the first series to be connected to the X-Men universe. With the help of a nurturing but demanding therapist, Melanie Bird (Jean Smart), and a team of specialists, David must learn to use his unique gifts against those who desire to attain infinite and world-ending power. The show is created and written by Noah Hawley (Fargo, Bones), who also is the Executive Producer and Showrunner.
Dan Stevens came to the TV Critics Association tour to speak to us of Legion Season 2 which premieres on April 3rd 2018.
When you get a typical script, what is your level of understanding about what’s going on in any given episode?
(Each script) always takes at least three or four readings, as there’s always something I missed. It’s often in a stage direction. Like most actors, I don’t read them and I come on set and say, “Wait. There’s a cow? Oh, yeah, that was the bit where I wasn’t speaking.”
Do you ask questions to Noah? Or do you just learn the lines and go with the flow?
We’re at a level of psychic communication where I don’t need to ask so many questions. I think it’s a show that the scripts are probably more confusing than the show ends up being.
The cast and crew often find ourselves asking questions we don’t really need to be asking, and get in a terrible tangle about something. It is actually straightforward, and it’s been sort of dressed up to look more abstract and playful than it actually is.
That’s part of the fun of the show, I think. Certainly for David, his presence of mind to be able to tackle and fight his way out of whatever current cloud he’s in means that I don’t question too far into the future. I trust that the writing will lead us somewhere, and it always does. It’s always fascinating.
What can we look forward to in Legion Season 2?
The issues of trust, in terms of who exactly has rescued him, and what have they rescued him from? Where does he now find himself? And is he a force for good or evil? Either way, is he being used, and what does that then turn into? And which team does he end up playing for is always at play, I think, with him. That’s really heightened in this year.
Can you talk about some of David’s pivotal moments? Are there any things that affect how you play him?
Yeah. David’s influences externally and internally are always at play, in terms of who’s at the helm of his psyche, and who is at the helm in this given interactional situation?
Which direction is he supposed to be going into, and what are the other voices telling him to do?
What shows did you watch in England? America doesn’t really have a reputation for shows like Sapphire & Steel, The Avengers and Doctor Who. Were you drawn to unusual shows that are like this as a kid?
My mom and I used to love Quantum Leap. That was a staple. In terms of British shows, I was raised on a pretty heavy diet of Monty Python, which has formed most of what I’ve done in my life.
And Doctor Who. My Doctor Who was very Tom Baker, which was in itself quite an experience. Just watching Tom Baker do anything is quite psychedelic.
Do you think the fans of the show understand it?
I think it has been very gratifying to be part of something where the most common response I get is, ‘I have no idea what’s going on, but I love it.’ I think allowing people to enjoy their confusion, occupying doubt as a slightly more permanent position is very important and it feels good. I don’t want to scare people in their confusion, but I want people to appreciate some ambiguity and to enjoy the experience of sitting with our show for a few hours.
What has been fun about this past year for you to have this show and to have Beauty and the Beast hit so big? Has it been a game-changer for you?
It’s been one of the busiest years I can remember and I’m hoping 2018 has a little more calm to it. I’m grateful for years like that, it was pretty insane having I think seven films came out, plus Legion. It was a lot. 2018 is automatically calmer already.
How are you enjoying your life as a celebrity now?
I never try and enjoy my life as a celebrity, I try to enjoy my life as a dad first and foremost, and then as a husband and then as an actor. I’m enjoying all three of those tremendously.
How do you balance your life between parenthood and work?
Well, that’s the eternal question, I think. It’s been great having the family around while we shoot this season. Last season I shot in Vancouver and they were in New York for much of the time. They came up for maybe three months. But there was a good two or three months where I was commuting from Vancouver to New York, which was less enjoyable than it has been this year.