FX’s “Legion,” with all of the physical anguish and intense love scenes and dancing that’s seen on screen, is a beast of a job for Dan Stevens. And that’s why the actor’s work playing the Beast in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” came in handy while starring in the series: “‘Legion’ has been influenced by the work that I’d done on the Beast, indirectly,” he told IndieWire.
Playing the Beast, Stevens said, was “hands down” the most physically demanding experience he’d ever had as an actor. “Physicality, the physical approach, is something I’ve definitely incorporated more into my work in the last five years, I would say,” he said. “And just thinking about that whole motion capture performance, it was just completely revolutionized my way of thinking about any characters going forward.”
Added Stevens, “There’s odd moments of stress and strain physically but that particularly just in terms of the training that’s required to get yourself there to do, whether it’s Bollywood or whatever.
How much that applies to “Legion” is a complicated question, but in general Stevens has some pretty deep thoughts about playing David Haller, a telepath whose reality frames the subjective experience of the series, according to creator Noah Hawley (riffing off the Marvel comics).
“Sometimes you’re moving things around. Sometimes I’m taking pieces from one episode, putting them in another episode,” Hawley told IndieWire. “Sometimes I want to create a subjective feeling, so I’m going to go back to last season and take some imagery and create something… Because I’m trying to create this subjective experience, which is like what David’s mind is doing.”
Fortunately, Stevens trusts Hawley to a great degree. “I don’t think it makes for a very particularly healthy show if people are distrustful of the showrunner,” he said. “You’re always handing yourself over the will of whoever, especially in an open-ended series. But to know that you’re in the hands of a craftsman storyteller who knows how to shape a novel, many novels, who knows about long full narrative — who is also a deeply engaged man who thinks about the way audiences consume, thinking about the medium.”
Stevens doesn’t think about the characters he and his fellow mutant co-stars play in the context of comic books, though — instead, he’s focused on the mythological implications of the series and its roots, which he sees reflected in the myths he reads to his kids. “There’s always some human traits that we attribute to these characters, these mythological entities,” he said.
That’s because, he feels “our modern mythology demands that we look at these characters in that way and what they represent. It is a multi-theistic universe. So-called superheroes who are so called because they’re very rich and they can afford the coolest toys and destroy some stuff and fly and do whatever and that’s fine.”
Stevens admits that it’s not David Haller he finds the most interesting character on the show — it’s the others. “I find those more interesting, if I’m honest. Their powers transcend something that can be bought,” he said. “It actually exists on a different plane altogether and it really goes into quite an epic sphere. I love that sense.”
He added, “Going back to the mythological value of it all the place of those myths, whatever they are, they’re there to explore bigger questions, cosmological questions, personal questions. They sometimes reinforce a certain kind of order. But they’re also there to teach us things. I like the sense of legion, of teaching, its didactic quality.
“I’m not a fan of dogma but I am a fan of questioning and exploring and encouraging an audience to think differently about the way they are consuming information and hype,” said Stevens. “Rumors and even our news and truth, all these things. They can come into play in our world. That, to me, has tremendous value as well.”
While there’s no official plan for future seasons, Stevens is still engaged by Hawley’s vision for the show. “I think what keeps me hooked is the quality of the writing and the character and the cast around him and the kind of set that we created to make this show,” he said. “It has to be a very playful space. And it requires playful actors to show up, even if they’re just doing a day, just to get stuck into the madness of it all.”
Added Stevens, “That’s a really fun place to go to work. So it can run as long as it likes — but as long as it stays like that I think I’ll be very engaged. It’s a very engaging project to work on, for sure.”
Stevens did think that at least Season 3 would, like Season 2, also be shot in Los Angeles — which does offer a striking contrast to Season 1, which was shot in Vancouver. “If we are lucky enough to get a Season 3, I imagine it will stay,” he said. “The location move has definitely been incorporated into this fabric as a show. And the landscape is informing the new personality of the season. But I think there’s ways in which that can continue.”
“Legion” premieres Tuesday night at 10 p.m. on FX.