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