Fox’s The Gifted is set in the X-Men world and stars Stephen Moyer (‘Reed Strucker’), Amy Acker (‘Caitlin Strucker’), Sean Teale (‘Eclipse’/’Marcos Diaz’), Blair Redford (‘Thunderbird’/’John Proudstar’), Natalie Alyn Lind (‘Lauren Strucker’), Percy Hynes White (‘Andy Strucker’), Jamie Chung (‘Blink’/’Clarice Fong’ aka ‘Clarice Ferguson’), Coby Bell (‘Jace Turner’), and Emma Dumont (‘Polaris’/’Lorna Dane’). Fox brought the cast to the 2017 San Diego Comic Con to promote season one of the comic book-inspired series which is set to premiere on October 2, 2017, with Sean Teale and Blair Redford paired up for roundtable interviews. Teale and Redford talked about their characters, the appeal of being a part of this X-Men world, and working with X-Men veteran, Bryan Singer.
Can you talk about the social themes that are being explored on the show?
Sean Teale: “People keep on asking about why X-Men is still relevant and why it deals with civil issues, and I think the reason why is because of its conception. That was the case. Magneto and Charles Xavier were made into Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, and if that’s the way that this concept was conceived, then that’s going to emanate throughout the mythology later on. And so in this show we have that same thing with civil rights issues.
These people aren’t superheroes who don suits and fly magic jets and save the world, these are human beings that are persecuted for doing nothing other than being themselves which is mutants because they’ve just been bestowed this X-Gene they didn’t ask for. And so, the social issues that we’re dealing with exist on the planet already: persecution of the skin type that you have or your gender or your sexuality or your age, weight, height, anything. What nationality you are, how you speak, or if you have any disabilities. That persecution is all relevant on our show because you don’t have a choice in those things. You don’t choose them. Maybe your weight you could choose…you could choose not to have that extra dessert. But, that’s what this show is dealing with is human beings persecuted for being nothing other than themselves and coming together and trying to fight for their rights as people. I think that’s quite relevant.”
Is the world of The Gifted similar to the world of Incorporated?
Sean Teale: “The world of Incorporated was quite frightening. It was set in the future and it was grounded and realistic as possible with the projections that they made, but quite sinister and quite dark. This does have some connections to that. There are trade-offs. Some people fall afoul of the system and others do not. That will always happen in every story. But that’s where the similarities would end, I guess, because I could go on for days and I ramble – as you’ve noticed. So, that’s really where it ends and this is very different, actually.”
What was it like working with Bryan Singer on the pilot?
Blair Redford: “That was incredible. Right off the bat when I heard he was attached you know you’re getting a pillar of the X-Men franchise helming the project. We felt like we were in great hands. His instincts are incredible. He’s an encyclopedia of X-Men knowledge.
What I found amazing working with him too is that as a director he’s always cutting and editing in his head. It’s an interesting process where his understanding of the franchise and of the powers and how they all work – he’s got such a strong grasp that he’ll be shooting something and what normally might take a discussion to figure out, he’s cut the scene in his head. He’s figured out, ‘That power doesn’t quite look this way,’ or ‘it won’t cut that way.’ He’s just a good leader when it comes to making this project. Obviously, that’s why he’s a part of it.”
What was the lure of the characters you’re playing? What got you excited about them?
Sean Teale: “What got me excited was the world because the characters are sort of very much…well, they not only live in this world but are derived from this world. They’re molded and sort of poked and prodded and manipulated by the world that they live in and the circumstances that they’re in. Because of this terrifying world and these dangerous scenarios, what’s really interesting is how these people are going to react. Not only do they have this thing that they don’t know whether they control yet, they live in a world where people resent that so do they resent themselves? Why wouldn’t you want to play someone that’s trying to do one thing, trying to do good in the world when the world is trying not to do good by them? And how far can those people go before they start to jeopardize what they believe in and it starts to tear away at the threads of who they are under duress? We’ve all seen people crack and change because of that, so it was really fun to have that dynamic happen.
I think Thunderbird and Polaris and Eclipse – you’ll see throughout the series that relationship does factor in. Thunderbird has a way of thinking and it’s in my opinion a good one. Polaris has another one and Eclipse…we all get torn between the two opposing factors and that sounded really fun to play because who doesn’t want to play in these extreme situations, ordinary people in these extraordinary circumstances? That’s really fun.”
Blair Redford: “What I was drawn to about Thunderbird, I didn’t even know who I was reading for when we first auditioned. They kept it a secret. What I was drawn to was Thunderbird is obviously this guy with superhuman strength, we’ve seen that portrayed a lot in different stories. But, he has this other power of foresight. He has heightened senses and was a tracker. It kind of made him a little more well-rounded.”
Sean Teale: “He’s not just a grunt.”
Blair Redford: “Yeah. And any character I look at I try to examine what their origin story is, what their history is. I thought with Thunderbird there’s so much to delve into. I mean, he’s got this Apache background, this tracker background, he’s ex-military…there’s a lot of stuff to go off of. His brother, Warpath, there’s a lot of deep stuff to delve into. That made it interesting for me.”
There’s another X-Men series out now, Legion. Will these two series complement each other?
Sean Teale: “From what I’ve seen of Legion, it’s a very unique show on its own. So, fortunately, there won’t be the problem of clashing because it’s quite hard to clash with something unless you’re similar to it. Legion is very much its own thing in the way it’s shot. The way that it’s sort of staged is very different to how ours is. You’d hope that they do sort of complement each other. I can’t tell for sure. But one thing is that they won’t clash. I can’t imagine someone watching Legion and going, ‘Well, there’s no way The Gifted can be watchable because this is.’ That would be quite worrying and it would be a shame. (Laughing) So, don’t do that, please! We hope they complement each other.”
How does the show relate to the existing X-Men movie universe? Is The Gifted in the same universe?
Blair Redford: “Matt Nix, our creator, has given a bit of information on that. I think what he alludes to a lot is that from Days of Future Past there are actual different timelines that have sprouted up. So, keep that in mind. We can exist on our own. There’s no direct connection at the moment to Logan or to the last X-Men film that was in theaters.”
Sean Teale: “We exist in that universe but with our own lineage, I guess. There will be things that are alluded to. You’ve got Thunderbird and Blink and Polaris so you know that we’re part of this world.”
Blair Redford: “And the X-Men and the Brotherhood existed in our story.”
It’s set in 2017?
Blair Redford: “Yes, it’s set in the present day.”
Watch the full Sean Teale and Blair Redford The Gifted interview:
(Interview by Fred Topel. Article by Rebecca Murray.)