Fox's X-Men drama is inching closer to a pilot order at the network, and nobody is as excited about it than writer Matt Nix.
Nix, talking with reporters Wednesday at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour — where he was there to support Fox's midseason cop drama APB — offered an early glance at the top-secret Marvel project and how it will tie into the MCU and coexist with FX's X-Men take Legion.
The untitled project revolves around two ordinary parents who discover their children possess mutant powers. Forced to go on the run from a hostile government, the family joins with an underground network of mutants and must fight to survive. X-Men diehard fan Nix (Burn Notice) will serve as showrunner and also executive produce alongside franchise veterans Lauren Shuler Donner, Bryan Singer and Simon Kinberg as well as Marvel's Jeph Loeb and Jim Chory.
"Fingers crossed, we get everything together and it enters the cycle for this year's pilots," said Nix, with sources telling The Hollywood Reporter that a pilot pickup could come in the next week or two.
Here are seven things to know about the drama:
Don't worry about FX's Legion.
Nix's X-Men won't have anything to do with FX drama Legion from Fargo boss Noah Hawley. "Welcome to crazy-town!" Nix said of seeing Legion. "It's an awesome show. When I was working on [this] I thought, 'I really need to see Legion to make sure that I don't step on anything they're doing.' Then I saw it and was, like, 'There's no chance I'm stepping on anything they're doing.' It's a great show, but it's more cable-licious. It's a very different world."
How will it connect to the larger universe?
Nix told reporters that Legion stands on its own and isn't connected to the larger X-Men universe, while his show will be. "A fan of the movies but also the comics would not be disoriented at all as to where this fits in the mythology," he said. "If you look at the movies, which take place from — they started in 2003 to now — they don't all line up perfectly. I'm not slavishly fitting them into a particular slot. But at the same time, if you like the world of the movies, there are definite nods to the movies. It exists in the same general universe." Pressed as to whether there will be a direct tie-in with the features in a way on par as to how ABC's Marvel drama Agents of SHIELD does, Nix said it will be "close, but not exactly. ... In a general way, it acknowledges that events like the events that have happened in movies have happened. But it's not up to date. It's still evolving, so we'll see how much that comes in. It's certainly, 'Since this happened in X-Men: Apocalypse, all of these things are happening,' which I think is cool, but they've already done that."
What about an episode count?
Nix's X-Men is intentionally designed to be a shorter-order series, should it move to pilot and eventually score the go-ahead later this year. He stressed he doesn't want to do so-called filler episodes since both critics and diehard fans can smell those a mile away. Nix noted that his X-Men will be "heavily serialized" as he wants to tell a "coherent story." "It's so much harder if you don't know when it ends," he said. Expect it to be around 10 to 13 episodes, should it move forward.
But what is the show?
Asked for more than the generic logline, Nix said that his project will feature a world in which mutant kids are forced to go on the run after manifesting their powers and how the established mutants have "something to say" about it all. Expect the kids to be teenagers. "Imagine a world where that's going on and extend outward from there," he said.
Will it feature familiar characters or new ones?
The short answer is … both. "[I get to invent] some. It's designed to sidestep questions like, 'Where is Wolverine?' You have to answer those questions," he said. "I didn't want to do anything where it's like, 'Wolverine is just off-screen.' It exists in a world where those questions are answered without needing to name a lot of names or spend a lot of time dwelling on that issue. Within that, there are a certain amount of [familiar] characters that I can use and am using and then other characters I'm inventing — but everything is invented with a nod toward the existing mythology. … When I was pitching the show, I pitched some characters that appear nowhere in the mythology but the guys from Marvel, when I started describing them, all gave each other knowing nods where [they understood what I was doing]."
Think of Nix's X-Men like the new Star Wars movies.
"I didn't want to get into the realm of too much like, 'Yep! New X-Men, here we go!' Because with something like this, there's a little bit of fan service," he said. "I've been really impressed with how a lot of people have talked about the Star Wars franchise and how when you do that, there's a sense of respect. You don't want to be slavishly doing the same thing over and over again that everybody else has done but at the same time, I owe something to my 10-year-old self right now and I need to respect that and I need for that kid who is obsessively reading comic books, I need there to be something rewarding, where they don't feel that they wasted their time and they know what this is."
But isn't Fox also developing a DC Comics show about Black Lightning?
From Greg Berlanti (Arrow, Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow), DC's Black Lightning received a hefty commitment from Fox and it would be a surprise if it didn't move forward, given the fierce bidding war for the project. Network brass have said that both shows can coexist, but should both score series pickups, Nix said a crossover between the two shows from competing comic book powerhouses would be highly unlikely. "I think it's far more likely the rival companies would put us both in a pit with a claw hammer and we'd have to fight it out and see who comes out bloody!" he said.