At the end of its latest episode on Tuesday night, Fox’s The Gifted aired a title card showing the X-Men drama’s cast with Stan Lee in memory of the Marvel Comics legend, who died Monday at the age of 95. Lee, who created countless iconic superheroes including the X-Men, had appeared in the series’ pilot as a customer exiting a mutant-friendly bar, and later mingled with the cast for the photo used in the remembrance:
Below, the drama’s showrunner Matt Nix reflects on scrambling to make the Lee cameo happen. What could have been a logistical nightmare — the team had little time, not to mention a potential conflict with horses — turned into an appearance that, Nix says, “felt meant to be.”
We were in Dallas shooting when we realized in the morning that he was there at a comic book convention, so one of the executive producers and I just rolled out of bed and ran. I had never met him, so I was super excited. Weirdly, as we walked out of the hotel, we bumped into Amy Acker [who stars as Caitlin on The Gifted]. Amy just happened to be at the valet at the time, and we said, “Hey, we’re going to try to go to this comic-con,” and she said, “Oh! My roommate from college runs that comic-con, she can get you in!” Because, you know, we didn’t have tickets.
So, she calls her friend, we arrive, her friend meets us and walks us right in so that we’re just in time to find Stan and his people. We say, “Hey, will you be in this episode?” And his people are like “Yeah, he’ll do it, but he has a 20-minute window.” He had to get on a plane! We had no location — we had nothing, so basically, I sat down and was like, “Okay, he’s in this mutant bar,” and we had to pull out all the stops to get the bar. The bar said, “Yeah you can do it, but we have this whole event planned here. A bunch of horses are showing up, so there are going to be horses in the bar, so we’re not sure it’s going to work out.” Like, who has horses in a bar?
Anyway, turns out the horses were late. And so, because the horses were late, the bar was available, and because we got there at exactly the right time — we got a new camera crew and literally pulled it together in two hours — he was available. He said yes, we all got there, he had literally 20 minutes before he had to leave, so he walked into the bar, he walked out of the bar, he walked into the bar, he walked out of the bar, he walked into the bar, he walked out of the bar, and we called “Cut.” He was like, “Thanks, everybody!” He took a picture, then got on a plane. That was it.
We didn’t go through any channels. We literally found a camera and shot it, so we were incredibly excited. It felt meant to be! I mean, by that point in his life, he was so good at being Stan Lee, you know what I mean? It’s exciting, and it’s such an honor to be able to play in the sandbox of these modern heroes. These are iconic [comic-book characters] — and to get the opportunity to play with them is an honor, and to actually get the opportunity to meet the guy who made it all happen? It’s pretty amazing.
So obviously we have great affection for him, and as soon as we heard about his passing, we thought, “We have to do something.” Fortunately, we have that great picture. And fortunately, it’s a post-production thing. Everybody’s always [thinking about] scrounging money and time, but when something like that happens, what’s great is that everybody is just like, “Yes, this must happen,” and everybody comes together to make it happen.
The Gifted airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.
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