The showrunner talks his creative process, upcoming projects with Beau Willimon at ATX
Credit: Chris Large

Following FX’s series order of Legion in May, the clock is ticking down to the bulk of production on season 1 of Noah Hawley’s adaptation based on the Marvel antihero.

“We shot the first hour of it and we’ll go back into production in August,” Hawley said Friday at the ATX TV festival in Austin, Texas.

The showrunner shared what drew him to the dark character, who will be played by Downton Abbey alum Dan Stevens, during an interview with playwright and screenwriter Beau Willimon, the creator of Netflix’s House of Cards.

“I’m always attracted to genre,” said Hawley, who told Willimon he was a comic book fan as a child. “What was always interesting about that X-Men world is that they were the kids who didn’t fit in. They were the outsiders. And there’s something interesting.”

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Hawley went on to display his enthusiasm for bringing the character of Legion’s story to life on the small screen.

“A feature film has to have a certain velocity to it, but a TV show is more character-driven, and I think it’s more interesting to explore almost the existential questions of what it’s like to be different, to really be different, and to question the reality that everybody else lives in,” he said of Legion, whose dissociative identity disorder influences the use of his superpowers. “I’m excited for that.”

In addition to launching Legion and the third season of Fargo, Hawley is gearing up for his FX limited series based on Kurt Vonnegut’s critically-acclaimed novel Cat’s Cradle, plus a film adaptation of his fifth novel Before the Fall, which hit the New York Times‘ bestseller list after its May release.

Touching on the script, Willimon asked, “Have you put thought at all [into] how allegiant you’re going to be to your own novel or whether that gives you an opportunity to approach the story in a new way?”

“Well, what’s great is that each medium has a unique set of things that it does and does well,” Hawley explained. “Film is a visual medium, and obviously you can’t fit a whole book into two hours unless you’re really economical about it. Obviously, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, and on some level it’s sort of true. It’s about that economy of trying to… forget about what’s in the book, what’s the clearest way in the shortest time to present what the book is? So I’m just starting to think about it.”

Sharing his thoughts on the book — the story of an artist who survives a plane crash and saves a 4-year-old boy’s life — Willimon called the dialogue “fantastic.” The conversation later shifted to how Hawley manages to juggle multiple demanding projects that resonate with audiences.

“There have been days where I’ve had two writers’ rooms or three writers’ rooms going and you walk back and forth,” he explained. “And then you sort of throw yourself on the sofa and you go, ‘Just talk at me for like 20 minutes,’ and my brain will catch up with this particular story. But I find that exciting. You know, there’s definitely days it’s overwhelming, but I like to jump around.”

Entertainment Weekly is on the scene at ATX in Austin, Texas. Go inside the TV festival with all our coverage, available here.

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An anthology series Inspired by the 1996 Coen Brothers film of the same name.
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