GO­ING UN­DER­GROUND

Meet the new power gen­er­a­tion as Marvel’s X-Men mu­tate on to TV. Bryan Cairns goes on the run…

SFX - - The gifted -

Don’t be­lieve the hype. Slap­ping the words “comic-book adap­ta­tion” on a project doesn’t au­to­mat­i­cally guar­an­tee its de­vel­op­ment – or suc­cess. Case in point: in 2016, Fox plot­ted to bring the hell­fire Club to the small screen. based on char­ac­ters es­tab­lished in Marvel’s X-Men line of comic books, the show would have fo­cused on a power-hun­gry, clan­des­tine or­gan­i­sa­tion of mu­tants bent on rul­ing the world. the net­work never moved for­ward with the hell­fire Club – but a new show called

The Gifted has risen from those ashes in­stead. What’s truly mind-bog­gling, of course, is how that it’s taken un­til 2017 to re­alise the po­ten­tial of a live-ac­tion X-Men tv se­ries.

“A big part of it is the peo­ple as­so­ci­ated with the fran­chise – cer­tainly the Don­ner com­pany – and ev­ery­one as­so­ci­ated with the movie uni­verse takes it re­ally se­ri­ously,” showrun­ner Matt nix tells SFX. “they want it done right. there are a lot of things to be worked out. how is this go­ing to work? is it go­ing to be a lesser ver­sion of the movie? We don’t want that. is it go­ing to step on the movies? We don’t want

that ei­ther. So, it’s some­thing they’ve thought about for a long time and sort of fi­nessed. they wanted to find an an­gle that felt ap­pro­pri­ate for tele­vi­sion, that felt fresh and wasn’t be­ing done else­where.

“on the Marvel side, they are al­ways look­ing at how to treat th­ese things so they are durable,” he adds. “they are not in­ter­ested in quickly and badly ex­ploit­ing some­thing. they are look­ing at things for the long haul.”

Sweet Sub­ur­bia

The Gifted bears all the sig­na­tures of an epic X-Men saga. Mu­tant op­pres­sion. he­roes. vil­lains. hu­man con­flict. Fam­ily. it’s all jammed in there. the pi­lot finds sub­ur­ban cou­ple Reed (Stephen Moyer) and Caitlin Strucker’s (Amy Acker) or­di­nary lives turned up­side down when they dis­cover their chil­dren are mu­tants. on the run from the gov­ern­ment, the Struck­ers seek refuge with the Mu­tant Un­der­ground, a com­mu­nity strug­gling to fit in, flee or just sur­vive. that group’s ros­ter in­cludes po­laris (emma Du­mont), thun­der­bird (blair Red­ford), blink (Jamie Chung) and eclipse (Sean teale). Fur­ther com­pli­cat­ing mat­ters is the fact that Reed, a lawyer, used to pros­e­cute mu­tants.

“in gen­eral, Reed is not a bad guy,” nix says. “As far as he’s con­cerned, he was en­forc­ing the law. in the pi­lot, he’s con­cerned about po­laris hav­ing a lawyer. he’s not try­ing to rail­road her. he’s try­ing to do his job well.

“the Struck­ers have been liv­ing their lives obliv­i­ous to the re­al­ity of what life is like for this seg­ment of the pop­u­la­tion,” he adds. “Reed has been on the other side of that equa­tion. he’s been part of the sys­tem that is re­ally do­ing some dam­age to peo­ple.”

An­other cru­cial or­der of busi­ness? Choos­ing a wor­thy ad­ver­sary. the usual sus­pects – such as Mag­neto, Apoca­lypse and Mr Sin­is­ter – be­long to the cin­e­matic uni­verse. en­ter Jace turner (Coby bell), a hu­man with a per­sonal axe to grind with Reed and the mu­tants.

“Jace turner is a char­ac­ter who works with the Sen­tinel Ser­vices,” nix ex­plains. “he’s the guy who shows up in the pi­lot to take Andy (percy hynes White) and lau­ren Strucker (natalie Alyn lind) away. While other an­tag­o­nists will emerge over the course of the sea­son, the main one at the be­gin­ning is Jace turner. he’s a guy do­ing his job and has his rea­sons, but is will­ing to push the bound­aries fur­ther than Reed. he’s the one con­duct­ing this hunt for the Struck­ers, and ul­ti­mately, go­ing af­ter the Mu­tant Un­der­ground.

“there’s also the Sen­tinel Ser­vices, which would be part of the gov­ern­ment as­so­ci­ated with home­land Se­cu­rity,” nix con­tin­ues. “they are autho­rised un­der the amended pa­triot Act. the show ex­ists where there are other kinds of ter­ror­ism. there are things that the Fbi and home­land Se­cu­rity are deal­ing with, but we are fo­cus­ing on the mu­tant side of it.”

Smal­lville’s pro­duc­ers fa­mously adopted a “no tights, no flights” pol­icy when chron­i­cling the ad­ven­tures of a teen Clark Kent. nix sim­i­larly es­tab­lished his own set of ground rules for the new Marvel mu­tant drama.

“the big­gest thing for me was mak­ing sure we al­ways bal­anced the use of the pow­ers – the su­per­hero-ness of it, if you will – with some­thing that brings the char­ac­ters down to earth,” he tells SFX. “es­sen­tially, ev­ery­thing needs to be tied to the real world. in the trailer, when Andy rips apart a vend­ing ma­chine, that was some­thing i talked about in the pitch. that’s some­thing you think about a lot when you’re a kid. ‘i want that thing in the vend­ing ma­chine and i can’t af­ford it.’ We all ex­pe­ri­enced that, so plac­ing an em­pha­sis on stuff in the real world was a big thing.

“Also, in this show, whether it’s about the Struck­ers or the Mu­tant Un­der­ground, it’s al­ways about fam­ily. the ac­tion is al­ways fil­tered through peo­ple car­ing about each

other, and try­ing to take care of each other. it’s never about the fight­ing. it’s al­ways about the fam­ily. that’s no less true on the side of the mu­tants as it is on the Struck­ers’ side.

“As for ‘don’ts’, i wouldn’t rule it out en­tirely for­ever – and peo­ple may catch me on this – but, ba­si­cally no su­per­hero poses,” nix con­tin­ues. “you see this a lot in the comic books – and cer­tainly a lot in the comic-book movies – the su­per-pow­ered squar­ing off. no one is afraid. ‘i will dom­i­nate you.’ ‘no, I will dom­i­nate you.’ the big thing for me was that no­body fights with­out fear in an emo­tional re­al­ity to what they are do­ing. it’s got to feel des­per­ate. it has to feel real.

“one of the other rules is none of those hard fist-fights, where peo­ple get smashed into walls and no­body gets hurt,” he adds. “So, no fak­ing physics or mak­ing peo­ple indestructible, who aren’t indestructible. if it’s a char­ac­ter like thun­der­bird, who is sort of indestructible, we can throw him into a wall. but, if thun­der­bird hit some­one hard enough to go into a wall with his fist, in the real world, his fist would go through that per­son.”

Power Strug­gle

nix calls The Gifted “fright­en­ingly am­bi­tious.” on a weekly ba­sis, view­ers can ex­pect to see the Struck­ers and Mu­tant Un­der­ground strive to sur­vive and get along. Mu­tant pow­ers will man­i­fest. brawls take place. X-Men movie vet­eran bryan Singer, who helms the pi­lot, es­tab­lishes a fea­ture-film scope and scale.

“episode two is be­ing di­rected by len Wise­man, who di­rected the Un­der­world movies,” nix says. “len is a huge pi­lot di­rec­tor. he’s do­ing our sec­ond episode. it’s crazy. this isn’t a show where we’re look­ing to set­tle down, where it’s like, ‘okay, this is episode five. there’s go­ing to be a fist fight in act four.’

“Go­ing for­ward, we’re look­ing to keep the ac­tion fresh and re­ally get deep into the char­ac­ters. it’s no se­cret that in the comics, po­laris has a his­tory of men­tal is­sues. Well, we’re get­ting into that. At the same time, she’s a cool char­ac­ter with a dan­ger­ous side.”

As an uber-X-Men fan, nix ad­mits he feels an enor­mous pres­sure to de­liver the goods. how­ever, Singer also im­parted some words of wis­dom: “there is no way to make ev­ery­one happy. it’s not go­ing to hap­pen.” that’s some­thing nix has taken to heart.

“Cer­tain comic-book fans want you to film the comics ex­actly the way they are,” nix notes. “that is not some­thing you can do. there are cer­tain things you just have to do for the sake of the story that you are telling. the pres­sure that i feel is this: i come to this know­ing that there will ul­ti­mately be dif­fer­ences in opin­ion on how to ap­proach the ma­te­rial. Should po­laris have a gi­ant head of bright green hair? or, is it okay if she has some green in her hair?

“in a nutshell, my at­ti­tude is i love the X-Men,” the showrun­ner con­cludes. “i’m a huge fan. no mat­ter what, i can al­ways look a fan of the comics in the eye – whether they like the show or didn’t – and say i didn’t do any­thing ca­su­ally. i didn’t treat any­thing dis­re­spect­fully. i did my re­search. i did my home­work. i did my best.”

“NO­BODY FIGHTS ON THE SHOW WITH­OUT FEEL­ING FEAR. IT’S GOT TO FEEL DES­PER­ATE”

The Gifted be­gins on Fox in the US on 2 Oc­to­ber and Fox in the UK on 8 Oc­to­ber.

Let’s all run from the legacy of X-Men: The Last Stand.

No­body puts mu­tants in the cor­ner.

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