By Shirley Li
September 25, 2018 at 09:00 PM EDT
Credit: Guy D'Alema/FOX
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Warning: The following contains spoilers for the season 2 premiere of The Gifted. Read at your own risk!

Reeva Payge has a plan — and so far, it’s working.

By the end of the season 2 premiere of Fox’s X-Men drama The Gifted, Reeva (Grace Byers) has taken over the Inner Circle, hidden Polaris (Emma Dumont) and Andy (Percy Hynes White) far enough away to prevent the rest of the Strucker family from catching up, and kept Polaris safe as she gave birth to baby Dawn.

In the final minutes of the episode, Reeva exchanges a look with the Frost sisters (Skyler Samuels) — a look that Byers says clearly shows how important Polaris is to their plans. “That look with the Frosts says, ‘We did that, and this solidifies our strength as the Inner Circle,’” Byers explains. “Reeva could have easily been like, ‘Forget the baby, save Polaris,’ but that didn’t happen. She sees Dawn as an addition to the mutant family. She’s doing what she’s doing for the generations to come, so this showed a bigger heart in Reeva and gave a little glimpse as to who she is as a person.”

After all, Reeva’s introduction leaned the other way, showing how deadly she could be: In a single Inner Circle meeting, she carried out a bloody coup that left the old guard dead, and only herself and the Frosts still standing. That scene turned out to be Byers’ first, and as a new member of the cast, the actress admits she walked in “a little trepidatious.”

“I had to find Reeva [in that scene],” she says. “I loved the opportunity to discover her, and find her energy. She’s not about sitting back and calculating. She’s more straightforward and laser-focused, [with an] attacking, abrasive kind of energy.”

The first scene set inside the Inner Circle headquarters had to be this shocking and memorable for a reason, co-executive producer Melinda Hsu Taylor adds. “We wanted to say, ‘Look, here is the new sheriff in town,’” she says. “We wanted to set up a continuation a little bit, with William [played by Ray Campbell] from episode 11 of season 1, who was seen reprimanding the Frosts, having that little face-off [against Reeva]. We had seen the Frosts already bristling at him being too cautious, and now we understand it was Reeva who was egging them on.”

Credit: Steve Dietl/FOX

Going forward, The Gifted will delve deeper into Reeva’s story, tracing exactly why she believes that mutants should take their place as Homo superior and dominate society, as she had the Frosts illustrate in their vision for Polaris. But as menacing (or Magneto-like) as that goal may sound, Byers says the season aims to show “a multidimensional Reeva.”

“There are times when something needs to be done and an operation needs to be undergone, and that’s when all frills are cut off and she’s like, ‘Don’t like it? We’re still gonna have to do it,’” Byers says. “But there are other times when she understands she’s picked people by hand to come into this Inner Circle, and they’re alone or away from their families. She’s sensitive to that, because she doesn’t want to hold people prisoner. She wants people to be excited by this venture.”

That nurturing side of her comes through in her interactions with Polaris and Andy — though Reeva’s much more of an “older sister” to the Frosts, Taylor notes. “Reeva’s not afraid to express disappointment,” she says, laughing.

Reeva may not be afraid to do what she wants, but Byers did hesitate while performing her powers: the hypersonic screams that scramble minds and inhibit mutant abilities. “The first time we filmed it, I knew I emitted a sound, but I didn’t know what it was, so I was like, ‘Am I doing an Eeee! or is it an Ahhh!’?” she recalls. “Eventually, they were like, ‘It sounds like a chorus of banshees!’” Banshees? Hey, it is an X-Men-related story.

The Gifted airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.

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The Gifted

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