NYCC 2016: FX’s Legion Panel

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

Sunday afternoon at New York City Comic Con 2016, fans who hoofed it over to the famous Hammerstein Ballroom located in the Manhattan Center Studios were given an exclusive sneak peek at Marvel and FX’s upcoming psycho-drama, LEGION. Created by Noah Hawley, LEGION features the character David Charles Haller – the Omega-Level mutant son of X-Men's Professor Xavier. The panel was moderated by Entertainment Weekly's Tim Stack, and joining him on stage were Showrunner Noah Hawley, Executive Producer Lauren Shuler Donner, Executive Producer and Head of Marvel TV Jeph Loeb, and actors Dan Stevens, Rachel Keller, Aubrey Plaza, Jeremie Harris, Amber Midthunder, Katie Aselton, and Bill Irwin.

The event began with a cringe-worthy Reedpop hype man doing his best to get the crowd going "Kanye West crazy". After becoming increasingly frustrated with a 4-day-tired crowd of Marvel fans, the misogynistic-joke-fueled dude with the microphone left the stage and the real fun began. As the lights went low, fans were then treated to a first-look at the extended pilot episode. Okay, I'm going to be straight up with you all, right now. As a big fan of David Haller's character, I was way skeptical about whether or not this show would turn out to be any good. However, after seeing the pilot, I can tell you without a doubt that it's something you should all be tuning into when it airs in early 2017.

To sum it up, it's a beautifully shot psychological thriller of psychedelic proportions. The episode we saw was the story of a young mutant wrongfully diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and placed into a mental facility. While there, David falls in love at first sight with a haphephobic female patient by the name of Syd Barrett. And yes, this name is indeed a wink to the late Pink Flyod singer and guitarist. In fact, it was even revealed later in the show by Noah Hawley that the prolific band's timeless album "Dark Side of the Moon" served as an inspiration for the show. The episode blew me away. Really, I did a lot of amazing things at this year's New York City Comic Con, and the LEGION pilot definitely makes it to the top of my list in regard to panel-related content from the event.

The pilot is this intense love story set inside the walls of a futuristic sanitarium where David and his fellow patients are under constant surveillance by a shadowy organization of doctors and drug pushers. The show's primary cast deliver solid performances all around – with Aubrey Plaza's Lenny being one of the most obvious highlights. It's also to note the the show feels different in every conceivable way when stacked against programs set in the proper Marvel Cinematic Universe. For me, the pilot was firing on all cylinders, be it the cinematography, lighting, or performances, everything about what I saw made me want to tune in once the show finally makes its television debut.

During the panel, Noah Hawley had this to say about the show's creation:

“The X-Men, that was my book when I was growing up, and I had the opportunity after the first year of Fargo, I heard from FX that Lauren and Simon Kinberg and Bryan Singer thought there might be a TV play in this world,” Fawley said. “I called Simon and we just started talking. I had to feel like I understood where this story was going, it had to be a strong character journey.”

“It really clicked for me this idea that this was this man who was either schizophrenic or he had these powers,” Hawley continued. “This show is a subjective, you’re in his head, you’re in his world, so you don’t know what’s real and what’s not, and I thought that was a fun idea. It becomes a parable, a fable, almost.”

Hawley then added that the overall vibe of the show was intended to feel that of a 1960s Terrance Stamp movie. 

Following Hawley was Jeph Loeb, saying, “When FX contacted us and said they were going to go venturing into this land, we always start at this very basic place, who is the storyteller? When they said Noah was interested, and Lauren was going to be producing, it took very little time for us to say yes, For everyone who’s here who’s an X-Men fan, at the core, it’s about being different… and I think each of us at some point in our lives, and some of us, it was this morning, feel different, and don’t feel like people understand who we are. 

Hawler continued, We live in a world where diversity and uniqueness is something that’s on our minds 24 hours a day, it’s social media, it’s all of these things, and the X-Men have never been more relevant than they have been now. You’re in the for the most wonderful surprise ride that all make you laugh and make you cry and at the same time make you hope that we’re entering a time that people aren’t going to turn you away but will embrace you because you’re different.

Tim Stack then turned to the LEGION cast to hear what they had to say about being involved in the making of the show. First up was Dan Stevens, who remarked that, "As an acting exercise, this has been one of the wildest rides ever." Rachel Keller then chimed in saying that, "The team who’s making it, and my sister and I love the X-Men movies, that was the family thing we did, to watch them together. And this felt like a very different, creative way to tell an X-Men story.” Moving right on down the line, Aubrey Plaza then schooled moderator Tim Stack about the notion of her chracter, Lenny, being a sidekick to Steve's Haller. As Stack chomped down on his tongue, Aubrey corrected him by saying, "I wouldn't consider my character as anyone's sidekick. They're friends."

Stack then moved through the remaining cast members at a steady pace, prompting them to elaborate on their characters. Unfortunately, everyone seemed to be quite nervous about giving any real details due to NDA agreements as well as not wanting to spoil any surprises for fans. Suffice it to say that, though, that David will not be the only mutant featured in the show.

Next, audience members were invited to the front of the room to ask any burning questions they might have. When being asked about where LEGION lies in relation to the rest of the Marvel universe, Hawley had the following response, “There’s a certain degree where that’s to be determined – we live in this subjective reality of David’s, so it’s hard to tell. There’s all these alternate timelines and alternate universes, but we learn we’re also looking through this world through all the confusion and mixed signals that David gets. I like the idea of making things that are unexpected and yet feel inevitable, but I like to say we are true to the origins of the character and leave it at that.”

When asked about whether or not LEGION would have any bearing on Marvel's Cinematic Universe, Hawler confessed that. “Marvel heroes at their core are people who are damaged, people who are trying to figure out who they are in life, and it doesn’t matter if they’re X-Men characters or Matt Murdock or Peter Parker or Tony Stark,” Loeb continued. “We’re much more interested in the person underneath the mask… if you have a character as strong as David is and a storyteller as strong as Noah Hawley is, then in that sense it is all connected. We just want something that has truth to it. If what you watched feels like Marvel, then it’s all connected, and that’s all that matters.”

The panel then wrapped with an all-too-brief photo op. Seriously, I coudln't get to the stage fast enough and I was only 4 or 5 rows in. Anyway, I'm super pumped for when LEGION debuts in early 2017. Like I said before, it feels different, unique. That alone will be a welcomed breath of fresh air if Marvel's Agents of Shield isn't your bag. 


About the Author

Born and raised in New York, then immigrated to Canada, Steve Seigh has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. He started with Ink & Pixel, a column celebrating the magic and evolution of animation, before launching the companion YouTube series Animation Movies Revisited. He's also the host of the Talking Comics Podcast, a personality-driven audio show focusing on comic books, film, music, and more. You'll rarely catch him without headphones on his head and pancakes on his breath.