The Gifted star on Polaris' season 2 arc and reckoning with Magneto's legacy
Season 2 of The Gifted was a big change of pace for everyone involved. While season 1 had relatively easy-to-divide sides — the mutant-hunting agents of Sentinel Services on one hand, and the rag-tag Mutant Underground on the other — season 2 threw the pieces in all sorts of directions. Some mutants remained in the Underground, but many others joined up with the extremist Inner Circle to try to create a mutant utopia (which in turn invigorated mutant-hating humans to join the violent militia of the Purifiers). These new coalitions were particularly hard on Lorna Dane, a.k.a. Polaris (Emma Dumont), whose alliance with the Inner Circle and Reeva Payge (Grace Byers) separated her from Marcos Diaz, a.k.a. Eclipse (Sean Teale), the love of her life and the father of her infant child.
But over the course of the season, Polaris also found new sources of strength. She reckoned with her lineage as the daughter of legendary mutant separatist Magneto and built a friendship with the telepathic Esme Frost (Skyler Samuels). That latter story line culminated in a big way in this week’s season 2 finale. EW spoke to Dumont about Lorna’s journey and finding a different way to save the world.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What were the biggest differences between making season 1 and season 2?
EMMA DUMONT: Oh my gosh, where do I start? Season 2 was totally a whole new monster for me personally. My character has changed 180 degrees. There was a learning curve for season 2 Lorna, because she’s so different from season 1 Lorna. I was ready to play Lorna as I know her — tough and badass and confident — but was told not to do that. Immediately they were like, “No, Emma, this is wrong. This year she’s gonna be more scared and passive.” I hate to say it because it sounds negative, but Lorna was kind of a wimp this year! Which is totally fine, but I definitely struggled in the beginning. You’ve played this character for a bit, and then you’re told she’s different. Her cadences changed, her word choice changed, everything changed, and there was lots of crying.
It was implied in season 1, but this year we got confirmation, that Polaris is the daughter of Magneto. How did you see her relationship with him?
On a personal level, I consider Lorna to be X-Men royalty. So as an actor I was so excited for this, like, hell yes let’s give her this headpiece and have her accept this part of her! But for her this isn’t black and white, she’s struggled with it her whole life. It’s hard to have this person you think of as a villain, the person you push all your hate and aggression toward as a teenager, and now as a mother and adult herself, she realizes she has this all wrong. He wasn’t abandoning her, he was trying to protect her. He was doing the correct things a father should do. It sucks because in season 1 we see her struggle with the fear to take action; she’s afraid to stand up for mutants because she doesn’t want to be seen like an evil villain like her father. She doesn’t want people writing articles in the paper like “Lorna Dane, just like her father! A hateful monster!” But the truth is, he wasn’t those things; he was actually a political activist in many ways.
So in season 2, we see a much deeper-rooted story where she resents him not for terrorism but not being there for her as a dad. That scarred her so much, and it’s a lot of the reason that she can’t be close to people. It took us an entire season, season 1, to see her have a genuine conversation with another female character, which she finally does with Blink when she’s talking about her dad. This isn’t on screen but behind the scenes we’ve talked about how it took her a long time to trust Thunderbird (Blair Redford), and it took her a long time to trust Marcos even though she was falling madly in love with him. She has some walls up for sure. But as a parent you understand how to live for someone else. What Erik did for Lorna was sacrifice his relationship with his daughter, knowing he would probably never get to be a part of her life, and that was the opportunity cost. What he got out of it was, she remained safe and hidden and out of danger. It hurts her that she basically does the exact same thing with her daughter Dawn.
It’s so interesting how having a baby is what made her understand her dad, even more than palling around with actual mutant terrorists like Reeva and Max (James Carpinello).
It’s funny because in season 1 she was very much the Magneto of the story. I felt like Marcos and Lorna’s beliefs were very much in parallel with Xavier and Magneto. But in this season it kind of flipped, the tables turned in a different direction and now we meet this character Reeva Payge, and now and she’s the Magneto while Polaris is the Xavier of the story in terms of battling political views. I love Lorna because with every atom and molecule in her body she does and believes in one thing, she’s very black-and-white, but that one thing is changing all the time because she has empathy. She wants to do the right thing. So she’ll put all her effort into fighting, and then after realizing fighting’s not the answer she’ll put all her energy into mending things.
In the last few episodes of the season, Lorna took actions that inadvertently led to the deaths of Sage and Max. Was it tougher for Lorna to wrestle with causing pain and harm indirectly rather than doing it herself?
The Sage thing will haunt her forever. This is something that will keep her up every night for the rest of her life. She has hurt people before, but because this was unintentional and there was a loss of control in this situation, this is a trauma to her. Even though she hated Max, it was a similar extent. She didn’t plan for him to be killed, and it wasn’t her doing. For her to not be in control is a big trigger. She doesn’t like to not be in control. When she’s not in control, it freaks her out. It almost sends her into a depressive state, which is what we saw when Andy revealed that Reeva had killed Sage. It’s easy to forget that Sage is one of her oldest and only friends. Sage is one of the only people, and the only woman, who came over with her to the Inner Circle. I’m heartbroken that we never got to show this on screen, we were planning on showing it in a flashback at some point, but in our story Polaris actually saved Sage’s life at one point. Sage was addicted to the mutant drug Kick, and Polaris found her and got her off Kick and basically rehabilitated her and saved her. They actually have a very tight bond. Hayley Lovitt and I always played it in the scenes, we were always doing cute things, but they never put it in the show! So when the deaths did happen, we wanted it to hurt more.
While Lorna’s big moment in the season 1 finale was taking down that plane to kill Campbell and Montez, her biggest moment in the season 2 finale is reaching out to Esme to stop the Cuckoos from forcing the Fenris kids to do horrible things. How did you see her relationship with Esme building over the course of the season?
I’m not gonna lie, I was pretty jealous that Reed got to take down Reeva. I’ve been putting up with this girl’s nonsense all season, I’ve been taking orders from Reeva, I should take her down! But of course that didn’t happen.
Her season 1 moment was politically driven, and it was about being a superhero with powers. Her season 2 finale moment was really about being a human — just being a girl and seeing another girl who needs a friend. Esme spends all her time being so confident and so fierce and getting in people’s heads, and Lorna’s like, “You don’t have to be in someone’s head to have a friend. I’ll be your friend!” Esme is Dawn’s godmother, 100 percent. Lorna did that to save Lauren (Natalie Alyn Lind) and Andy (Percy Hynes White), but she does care for Esme. That is maybe her best friend now, which is crazy. If you were going to pick a friend for Lorna Dane, it would not be Esme Frost. She’s prissy, she mind-controls people, she’s done a lot of bad things, she wears those pleated skirts, she’s not the girl for Lorna. But they have a friendship that can withstand anything, literally. On set I joke and call it “the old friendship trick”; she uses the old friendship trick and saves the day. You know what, Lorna saves the day every season! Well, Reed did a lot too.
Man, those magnetically-powered people and those telepaths always find a way to have interesting friendships, huh?
We all thought it was so cute, the Frost kids and Magneto’s kid together. Then when I got the headpiece, we knew something was gonna go down. Matt Nix, our showrunner, has said Esme loves Lorna, Esme loves Dawn, and Lorna loves Esme, but she’s cautious. We saw Lorna almost kill her this season. Similar to her father, she does not put up with that telepath nonsense. So when she got the headpiece, I was like, oh, she’s going to have to use it for this! Since as we all know, Magneto’s helmet protects against telepaths. I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but the medallion he gives her is the symbol on the top of his helmet, so it literally is a piece of his helmet. So talking to Matt about it, he was like, “The audience hasn’t seen Lorna use it for that purpose. But we know that Lorna might know.” When she confronts Esme, does she know that she has protection? I don’t know if she knows if it works, because she doesn’t know when Esme’s trying to blue-eye her. So Lorna is taking a risk! It’s almost like a placebo effect, because this thing might not do anything.
What would you like to see from Lorna in a potential season 3?
As you know, the final scene of our final episode this year is crazy. There are typical cliffhangers, like did that person die or not? But our cliffhanger is like, “anything is possible.” On the final day of that last day they had us doing our dialogue in different ways. Are we anxious? Are we hurried? Are we demanding? Are we scared? So I actually have no idea where season 3 is going. It can go literally anywhere in the scope of the Marvel Universe, which is very broad.
I’m a big fan of leader Lorna, like when she ran the Mutant Underground or Lorna in the new X-Men: Blue comic. I think she’s cute as leader, so I’d like to see her as a leader again. Also, straight-up, I’d like to see her in the green bodysuit! I hope there’s something that makes her a fighter again, something that would amp up the stakes for her. Personally, I want to see her go full-on Magneto. I want to see her tear cities apart and then deal with the consequences of that.