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[Warning: This story contains spoilers for the series premiere of Fox’s The Gifted.]
Anyone who tuned into Fox’s new X-Men drama The Gifted purely because they needed their Vampire Bill fix, don’t worry: The powers that be have not yanked erstwhile True Blood star Stephen Moyer off the playing field for good.
The opening hour of the new superhero series focuses on the Strucker family, four individuals forced on the run after kids Andy (Percy Hynes White) and Lauren (Natalie Alyn Lind) are outed as mutants in a world that’s extremely intolerant of their kind — so intolerant, in fact, that the X-Men and the militant Brotherhood of Mutants no longer exist, at least not in any public capacity.
Indeed, the mutant underground is a major aspect of the series thus far, with the spotlight on a character invented purely for the show, Marco Diaz (Sean Teale), also known as Eclipse. Three very familiar mutants are along for the ride as well: Thunderbird (Blair Redford), best known for his comic book death shortly after debuting in 1975’s Giant-Size X-Men; Blink (Jamie Chung), a teleporting mutant who hails from the parallel dimension known as the Age of Apocalypse in the comics; and Polaris (Emma Dumont), a magnetically inclined mutant whose father just might be one of the most famous supervillains of all time: Magneto.
The drama surrounding Polaris doesn’t end there, of course. At the end of the pilot’s opening act, Polaris is apprehended by Sentinel Services, a task force devoted to tracking down mutants, imprisoning them and likely much worse. Reed Strucker, played by Moyer, a prosecutor involved in convicting mutants he deems dangerous, tells the incarcerated Polaris and eventually reveals to her lover Eclipse that she’s pregnant, adding all-new levels of complexity to an already delicate relationship.
Reed will very likely have to deal with the uncomfortable dynamic firsthand before much longer, as the episode concludes with him getting shot by Sentinel Services just before he can teleport away alongside his family. Don’t worry, he hasn’t gone the way of a certain Game of Thrones protagonist, killed off way before his time. Showrunner Matt Nix insists there’s more to Reed’s story, destined to intertwine with Polaris, and bound to draw in the rest of the Struckers and mutants still fighting their way forward in the free world — such as a free world exists in The Gifted.
For more on the premiere, read Nix’s thoughts on why The Gifted ended on such a deadly note, how the histories of certain comic book characters like Polaris and Thunderbird will factor into the series moving forward, and the stories behind two of the best cameos of the episode: the return of the classic 1990s theme song from Fox’s Saturday morning X-Men cartoon series and Marvel’s truest believer himself, Stan Lee.
We haven’t been Sean Beaned, right? You didn’t just kill off Stephen Moyer’s character in the pilot?
No, I did not Sean Bean you. (Laughs.) He’s in big trouble, but he’s not dead.
What were your goals in terms of how you wanted to leave The Gifted at the end of this very first hour?
One big part of it is the family and the mutant underground are now physically together, and they don’t have identical goals, but both Polaris and Reed are in the hands of Sentinel Services. It brings them together, and gives them a reason to make common cause, and also gives them a reason why they can’t go to Mexico. It puts them all together, and at the same time, we get to follow Polaris and Reed, who are in a very bad situation themselves. We get to see both sides of this world, as Polaris and Reed have to deal with Sentinel Services, and the family has to deal with this world they just met three minutes before, and now they have to depend upon them utterly. The end of the pilot was really about getting these people together for a common problem, but they don’t know each other, so what’s going to happen now?
You bring up Polaris, and we learn in this episode that she’s pregnant. It was teased in the comics, and I believe eventually revealed that Polaris is indeed the daughter of Magneto. Is that an idea you’re interested in exploring through Polaris — the idea of generations, and how different people within this different family line can take on different meanings moving forward?
(Long pause.) Family history is very important to this show. (Laughs.) The Brotherhood is gone, but yes, and not just with her. The Struckers are not named the Struckers by accident. One of the things for everybody on the show — you see it a lot in the promotion about family, but going person by person in the show, you have all of these people and for the mutants as well, they have come together as a family. Eclipse and Polaris are in a position of starting a family, and what does that mean in their world? Polaris has a complicated family history, Eclipse has a complicated family history, Thunderbird is dealing with his own issues of feeling the weight of thousands of years of Apache history and mutant history and an obligation to both families. Blink, as well. Where did Blink come from? What’s her history? That’s an example where, kind of like Polaris with Magneto, that the comics are so all over the place that we get to do our own thing and nod to some of what we liked from the comics …
If you’re voyaging into Age of Apocalypse territory via Blink, I’ll be prepared to call this the best superhero show of all time.
(Big laugh.) Well, the actual Apocalypse is a little hard to do on television. But we’re working through those things! So, yeah, that’s the idea. We’re going to explore the family histories and interpersonal relationships of all of these characters, and all of them are feeling the pressure of history and the pressure of the past.
In keeping with that idea, it’s a frightening prospect to have Thunderbird on the show, when you know he’s most famous for dying shortly after Giant-Size X-Men in 1975. Should we prepare ourselves for a giant-size bummer in Thunderbird’s future?
If you’re asking if Thunderbird is immediately doomed, the answer is no. That said, when you see him in the pilot, he’s the level-headed guy, right? Which is not who he is in the comics. But one of the fun things to explore is, what’s the relationship of this guy to the Thunderbird of the comics? Getting into some of his internal turmoil, and how did he come to be this guy, and what’s he dealing with internally, and what anger does he have … that’s the thing about his character. What a way to exit, man! We’re kind of trying to be conscious of that, while at the same time not just randomly killing off our characters.
We learn in the pilot that the two Strucker children are both mutants. Lauren’s had her powers for years, while Andy is discovering his for the first time, which is the big thrust behind why the family is on the run. Are you leaving the exact nature of Andy’s powers purposely vague at this point?
It’s definitely part of the mystery. In my own thinking about powers and stuff, and the way we geek out when we’re reading comics and we think about what it would be like to have powers … one of the things that you see in the pilot is, what does it feel like? Nobody ever talks about the powers. Does it hurt? I guess they talk about it with Wolverine in [the first X-Men movie], when he says it hurts every time, but that’s really the only time they address that question. Is it fun? The other thing I thought about is when your powers manifest, they don’t come with a label. It’s not like somebody pops up and says, “Hey! You can do this!” When we think about powers on the show, what’s the organic relationship between this person as a living, breathing human being, and their power? The idea is that what your power is and what you can do is influenced by who you are as a character.
If you’re Lauren Strucker and you can push molecules together, but you’re a 17-year-old girl and you’re hiding [your powers] from your family and you’re kind of afraid, then your power manifests itself as shields. But in another person who had a different emotion, and someone who is a further evolution of Lauren with a different emotional life, that power might be able to manifest differently. She doesn’t have the power of shields. She has the power of pushing molecules together, and that manifests itself as shields. Similarly, Andy has this power where he starts ripping things apart. What is that? We can call it a telekinetic destruction field, but to me, that’s less interesting than him having to explore it and him having to understand what specifically he’s doing. What’s the relationship of his power to Lauren’s power? How does that work?
There are generations of comic book and superhero history where characters get a power and they understand it almost perfectly from the moment they get it, unless it’s [the TV series] Greatest American Hero from the early 1980s. But to me, everyone’s favorite part of Spider-Man is when he learns how to be Spider-Man. Once he knows everything, it’s still fun, but it’s super fun to see him learn how to use his powers.
What’s the story behind securing the animated X-Men theme song as a ring tone?
Honestly, we did it initially as a joke for the cut. Then we were like, “No, we have to do this.” We were told we couldn’t do it, and we basically said, “No, really, this needs to happen. We’re doing this.” It’s one of those things where there aren’t a lot of those battles you get to win when you’re making a network television show, but that one? We knew it cost more money than a regular ring tone, but it’s so much fun so we’re doing it. Pay the money. (Laughs.) I was very happy we got that.
Is it a one-time only or is the ring tone of the season?
It might reoccur! We don’t want everyone to just be waiting around for it.
How did the Stan Lee cameo come together?
We moved heaven and earth to get him in there. The morning we got him, one of our co-executive producers texted me in the morning and told me Stan Lee was in town for a comic book convention. We went to the convention to get him on the show, and they told us, “He flies out at four. If you can shoot him in two hours, then you can have Stan Lee in the show.” We didn’t have that location. We didn’t have anything. We were just like, “OK, it’s a bar? Do anything you can. We have to get the bar. We have to get the actor out of bed and bring him down here to put the costume on. We have to shoot the scene in 20 minutes!” We went down there, we shot the scene, Stan Lee was like, “Thanks very much!” Then he rode off to get on a plane. That’s the kind of thing where I think people sometimes underestimate the degree to which we, who make the show, are just another group of fanboys trying to make something happen by the skin of our teeth.
What did you think of The Gifted series premiere? Sound off in the comments below.
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