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First look: Marvel's Inhumans come to life — finally

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This fall, Marvel will attempt what few thought possible: After delaying its Inhumans film indefinitely (it was originally slated for summer 2019), the superstudio will bring Marvel’s Inhumans to life on ABC and — in a more limited fashion — on the big screen, too. And EW has the exclusive first look below.

For the uninitiated, Inhumans — first introduced in the pages of Fantastic Four in 1965 before headlining their own title in 1975 — are a race of hybrid alien-human superbeings who’ve undergone a transformative “terrigenesis,” a process that unlocks sometimes strange, but uniquely powerful gifts. “It was an exciting proposition,” showrunner Scott Buck (Iron Fist) says of tackling the series’ challenges, which include visual effects-heavy favorites like Medusa (Serinda Swan) and her prehensile hair, and the one-ton teleporting bulldog Lockjaw. But Buck stresses it won’t be an SFX extravaganza. “We approach these [characters] all as real people who just happen to have these abilities, so they’re all very grounded.”

At the center of the show — which will take place on Earth and in the Inhumans’ technologically advanced city Attilan — is the Royal Family, who face a critical juncture where everything they’ve ever known is at risk. The Inhumans are led by Black Bolt (Anson Mount), whose devastatingly destructive power is unleashed by using his voice. “It’s a little bit difficult to write him, because Black Bolt does not speak, but yet he is our hero and the center of the show, so it does certainly present challenges in how you tell his story,” Buck says. (Mount reveals Black Bolt will use sign language, choosing his words carefully when he does speak.)

While not a spin-off of Marvel’s Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., both ABC shows share a world with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “Things that have happened on S.H.I.E.L.D. will potentially affect our show as well,” Buck says, playing coy on potential crossover possibilities. But Inhumans is intended to stand on its own, trading procedural spy elements for a serialized family drama.

In the comics canon, Black Bolt battles to hold onto his crown while his brother Maximus (played on the show by Game of Thrones baddie Iwan Rheon) has plans to usurp his power. “We were so thrilled to get Iwan,” Buck says. “We didn’t want to create just a simple villain who’s evil for the sake of being evil. Our Maximus is a different, more complicated, more real, and more compelling version.”

The scale of Inhumans is also greater than its predecessor, shot entirely with IMAX digital cameras for a big screen release of its two-episode premiere (Sept. 1) ahead of its debut on ABC this fall. “The first two episodes feel like a movie, because [using IMAX] gave us a lot more freedom and encouraged us to think bigger than we would if it was just a normal network show,” Buck says. It’s safe to say, Inhumans is anything but normal.

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Below, you can find our full Q&A with Buck, but first, here’s an exclusive first look at the Royal Family. From left to right: Eme Ikwuakor as Gorgon, Ken Leung as Karnak, Anson Mount as Black Bolt, Serinda Swan as Medusa, Isabelle Cornish as Crystal, and Iwan Rheon as Maximus.

Michael Muller/Marvel

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Inhumans is a comic that, while beautiful on the page, seems almost impossible to bring to life. How daunting was that task when you took on the role of showrunner?
SCOTT BUCK: Actually, it was an exciting proposition. I had just finished Iron Fist and was looking for a little time off. Then, Jeph Loeb called me and pitched the idea of the Inhumans, the idea of doing a show basically about this family. We discussed each one of the characters, who they are, their personalities, their journeys. I always approach these things through the characters — what’s the story we can tell about Black Bolt, about Medusa and each one of these members of the Royal Family? It may have been daunting, but I think I was, more than anything, just excited about jumping in.

Are there any story lines from the comics that you’re inspired by?
I was so curious to see what their origins were, so I started at the very beginning. Obviously if you look at those comics from the early ’60s, they’re a very different tone than what we’re doing. It was fun to see how it all began, but I just continued to leap forward. I have not read all of them, but I continue to look through some of them. There were so many different incarnations of the Inhumans, though, so it was more a matter of figuring out, what’s the story we want to tell? Going back and then reading the whole backstory of them all was very helpful, but from that, we just pretty much moved forward.

Are you planning to lean into the more fantastical elements of Inhumans’ powers, or are you trying to ground the series?
To a certain extent, yes, but again, we approach these all as real people who just happen to have these abilities, so they’re all very grounded people. We try to write them as real as possible, and then have fun with the powers when we can. We want their powers to seem like a very natural part of their personality.

Can you say anything about the story we’re going to be seeing with Black Bolt and the Royal Family?
Basically we’re telling a story about a family at a very critical juncture in their lives. When we meet up with them, we’re going to find that pretty much everything they’ve ever known is at risk.

Can you say where the show takes place: On Earth or Attilan?
I think we’re on both.

Attilan moves, so is Attilan currently on Earth in your story?
Not when we go to Attilan, no.

Does Inhumans live in the same universe as Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., considering on Earth there was this explosion of Inhumans?
We all inhabit the same universe, so things that have happened on S.H.I.E.L.D. will potentially affect our show as well.

Have you thought about crossover at all?
Not at this point. [Laughs] We’re just trying to get this launched.

A show like S.H.I.E.L.D. has a procedural element. Is that the case here or is Inhumans doing more serialized storytelling?
I don’t think we’re likened to a procedural show in any way. We’re more of a family drama with one big story leading us through the season.

How do you think Inhumans will differ from the other ABC or Netflix Marvel projects?
I’m not necessarily comfortable comparing it to other shows. I think we’re creating our own thing here. But having worked on a Netflix Marvel show, obviously I’m very aware of how that show goes. Again, just because the approach is strictly through character, we’re interested in creating an interesting world with interesting people that pull us in, so if there’s similarities to the other shows in that way, I guess that would be the case.

How did being released in IMAX color things for you guys during production? Does this feel like a movie in a way?
Yes, I would say the first two episodes do, because it gave us a lot more freedom and pushed and encouraged us to think a little bit bigger than we would if it was just a normal network show. We just wanted to think bigger in terms of scope, and what we were seeing, and how we bring these characters to the audience.

What do you hope to achieve with the IMAX release?
Hopefully just to get people really excited. I think it’s something that absolutely stands on its own, but hopefully it’ll intrigue people enough to make them want to watch the rest of the show.

RELATED: Marvel’s Inhumans: Full cast revealed!

Turning to the characters, Black Bolt is such a stoic leader in the comics. How does that translate to screen?
Black Bolt is a very difficult character I would think for Anson, but for any actor to play. But Anson is tackling it in a hugely fantastic way. It’s a little bit difficult to write him, because Black Bolt does not speak, but yet he is our hero and he is the center of the show, so it does certainly present challenges in how you tell his story, but fortunately we came up with a really good story. Anson is terrific. I think everyone’s going to be very pleased and excited by his Black Bolt. We’re not doing voice over. If you read the comics, you see Black Bolt does find a way to communicate to people, but he’s also a very enigmatic character as well, and he keeps a lot inside. That’s part of what’s so fascinating about him is that a lot of times, we don’t know what he’s thinking.

What made Iwan Rheon the perfect Maximus?
We were so thrilled to get him because he’s such a super talented actor. Obviously we knew him well through Game of Thrones, but he can do a lot more than that. We didn’t want to create just a simple villain who’s evil for the sake of being evil. He’s a very real, three-dimensional character. Iwan is more than capable. Every time we watch dailies of him, we’re just more and more excited about what he’s bringing to the screen.

We all expect this character to be the villain, but are there ways you’re going about to subvert expectations?
I think our Maximus is a different, more complicated, more real, more compelling version of Maximus that has been seen in most of the comics, and it’s just because we have the opportunity to do so much more on the screen than you would in a comic book.

How difficult is it to bring Medusa’s hair to life on film?
It is very difficult. Even now, it’s still a process. It takes quite a long time in post to make that effect work. We have some of the best visual effects people available working on our show. We still haven’t seen the final version of it; it’s very much a work in process.

Are characters like the fish-like Triton motion capture?
Oh no, they’re all actors.

Another character people are curious how you’re going to bring to life is Lockjaw.
Lockjaw is probably going to end up being the audience’s favorite character. We certainly enjoy working with him. He’s fun to write, he’s fun to shoot. There’s not too much more detail than that that I can give, but he is going to be a standout on the show.

We know basically nothing about Ellen Woglom’s character.
She’s not a character in the comic books. She’s someone new who we have brought in.

Marvel was planning to do an Inhumans movie and then it got delayed. Is this meant to be a primer before the movie? How do these things connect?
I have no knowledge of the movie or anything other beyond this. People high up at Marvel may have some sense of what’s going on there, but for me, I’m just working on this TV show, so I have no connection to any movie.

What makes you most nervous in taking on the show?
It’s big. I’m used to writing — and what I’m best at — slightly smaller character dramas. This is a show that I have to stretch myself and think a little bit bigger at times, so that’s been the biggest challenge for me.

Michael Muller/Marvel

Marvel’s Inhumans will premiere its first two episodes in IMAX for a two-week period beginning Sept. 1. ABC will then air the entirety of the series this fall, with additional exclusive content that can only be seen on the network.

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