Tonight sees the premier of LEGION, a brand new series from FX Productions and Marvel Television, based around David Haller, the mutant son of Charles Xavier.
Immensely powerful but plagued by numerous split personalities, each commanding a different aspect of his power, the series sees David trying to find his way back to sanity after meeting the “girl of his dreams” in a psychiatric hospital.
Ahead of the eagerly anticipated premiere, the Big Comic Page had the opportunity to sit down and have a chat with the show’s Production Designer Michael Wylie about what to expect in terms of set designs and tone, and how he helped to create the show’s truly unique aesthetic.
BIG COMIC PAGE: The X-Men franchise always has always had its own unique style. How did you go about designing the world of LEGION both its tone and style yet honor the X-Men spirit?
MICHAEL WYLIE: The tone of Legion stands on its own. There isn’t meant to be any tie-in with the Marvel cinematic universe. Legion is a story told by what Noah Hawley calls an “unreliable narrator.” It is a subjective view of the main characters world seen through his eyes. Our aim is to make the audience just as confused as David is as to what he is experiencing. Real or not real?
BCP: What has been the biggest challenge in designing the world of LEGION?
MW: The biggest challenge has been size. We are trying to make a big show with a lot of sets and tell a lot of story. For many reasons we shoot a high percentage of the show on stage and trying to shoot and build and dress other sets all at the same time and in the same space has been the challenge of a lifetime.
BCP: LEGION’s setting is a bit of a mashup of vintage meets modern. Tell me about the decision to bring that ‘60s and ’70s vibe? Is there a connection to “X-Men: First Class” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” which also were set in those eras?
MW: The mashup is meant to confuse the audience. If the viewer is able to relate to the space as somewhere they recognize, the story doesn’t work as well.
BCP: I know you’ve worked on “Agent Carter” and “Mockingbird Lane.” Which time period do you prefer working on historical, modern or futuristic?
MW: As a production designer I’m tasked with helping to tell the story. My personal likes or dislikes aren’t necessarily relevant BUT I really do like to create a world that doesn’t exist. I always say if the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills can have full hair, makeup, and wardrobe departments working on them then I don’t have to be real either. I have a theory that people watch TV for the same reasons people used to dress up to go to the movies. People want to be shown something different from what they see all day. We sell a fantasy. Even reality shows bend the prism. I’m not interested in things looking REAL. I don’t care. I love artifice and showiness. If you want real, hire someone else. :)
BCP: It seems like you have complete control over the production’s design, which I assume means there’s plenty of space for Easter eggs to be peppered throughout. What are some of the Easter eggs X-Men fans can expect to see in the first season?
MW: First of all I am not in charge of anything. I collaborate on this show with some pretty talented people who have a laser beam-sharp idea of how they want this show to be perceived. As far as Easter eggs, there are none. Sorry.
BCP: Where any of the set designs inspired by the comics? If so which sets pieces and could you tell us which comics?
MW: When I got this job I promised myself I wouldn’t look at the comics. I cannot afford to be influenced by them and it’s not fair to the great artists who draw those comics to steal their ideas. And this really isn’t meant to look like a comic book show. It’s not our vibe.
BCP: Since the first trailer, I’ve been curious about that (Bollywood inspired?) dance sequence. And there’s a guy dressed as a tree/part of the background. Can you tell us about that scene and perhaps put that scene into context?
MW: This goes back to the “unreliable narrator.” These things are in the show because they make you think “what the hell”?
BCP: Final question: which setting in the X-Men universe is your favorite and why? Do you think we’ll see it make an appearance in LEGION?
MW: There are no plans to tie-in to X-Men at all. That I know of. Who knows?
Starring Dan Stevens as David Haller, Rachel Keller as Syd Barrett, Jean Smart as Melanie Bird, Aubrey Plaza as Lenny Busker and Jeremie Harris as Ptonomy Wallace, LEGION debuts in the US on Wednesday 8th February, and in the UK on Thursday the 9th of February.
The writer of this piece is: Laurence Almalvez
Laurence tweets from @IL1511