THE GIFTED Comic-Con Press Room: Mutants With A Very Human Message

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The stars of FOX’s upcoming Marvel series THE GIFTED spoke with reporters at San Diego Comic-Con this weekend. While filming is still in its early stages, series stars Amy Acker, Stephen Moyer, Jamie Chung, Emma Dumont, Natalie Alyn Lind, and Percy Hynes White were still able to tease a little bit about the series’ family dynamic, social commentary, and — of course — mutants.

Meet the new mutants. No, they’re not THE X-MEN — and there’s a reason for that…but you’ll have to watch THE GIFTED to find out what that reason is.

Percy Hynes White said of his character, Andy Strucker, “he’s a lot like me. Except he’s kind of more shy, and he gets bullied, and he has superpowers.” Judging by Percy’s engaging, outgoing demeanor during THE GIFTED’s Comic-Con press room, that probably means Andy and Percy have similar interests — but very different personalities.

And what are Andy Strucker’s superpowers? “He doesn’t know, but he finds out. And it’s crazy.” In one particularly exciting scene (shown as part of the highlight reel in the series’ SDCC panel) from THE GIFTED’s pilot, Andy and several hundred people find out about his powers all at the same time.

While the exact nature of Andy’s powers wasn’t revealed in the press room, we can assure you of this much: They’re “so powerful…that he, at any moment, could take over the world.”

Unlike her brother, Lauren Strucker (Natalie Alyn Lind) learns about her powers at a younger age. Also unlike Andy, Lauren is able to hide those powers from her family and friends, rather than making a big (if accidental) display of them.

Some familiar faces from comics, television, and film.

The Strucker children aren’t the only mutants on THE GIFTED. Not by a long shot.

The series boasts appearances by Eclipse, Thunderbird, Blink, and Polaris. At Comic-Con, we had the chance to speak with Jamie Chung and Emma Dumont about their characters, Blink and Polaris. Both mutants have appeared in THE X-MEN comics and animated series. Additionally, Blink is probably most recognizable as one of the characters in X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST.

On THE GIFTED, Blink’s “real” name is Clarice Phong, but she uses Clarice Ferguson as an alias. Jamie Chung described Blink’s abilities as follows: “My power is I can bend space in order to open portals. So, you can travel through portals. Hopefully, you’ll be able to send different objects through portals. You can use that energy to throw things through portals.”

THE GIFTED’s version of Blink “has a lot of attitude,” according to Chung. “She has the markings of a mutant. She was never able to hide that she was a mutant…And, so, she has kind of, like, this stand-off attitude. And she’s been quite independent and different.”

Emma Dumont plays Lorna Dane, also known as Polaris. “She controls magnets, magnetism…any metal. She can stop bullets. She can crash cars. She can do all this stuff. She kind of has anger issues, so some of those things happen.” If those abilities sound at all familiar, it’s because Polaris is Magneto’s daughter.

Dumont’s character is somewhat unique in the universe created on THE GIFTED. “When she discovered her powers, she wasn’t ashamed at all. But shame is a big part of what [other] mutants go through because, again, they’re persecuted because of these things they were born with. But she was loud and proud since she was a kid. So, I think that’s why she’s stronger and more confident in her powers.”

Despite Polaris’ lack of shame, she and Blink are on the run as the series begins. So, unlike, the Strucker family, we won’t exactly get to see them living normal lives before getting involved in the story’s main action. As serious all of this may sound, there will still be opportunities for some humor. According to Dumont, “Matt Nix, our showrunner, really knows how to put the dark humor in this serious situation.”

More mutants may show up at a later time: “We’re going to have a lot of really cool mutants come into the show…There are so many X-MEN characters from the comic books, so there’s endless possibilities.”

Awesome? Awesome.

X-MEN or not, Marvel’s mutants are in good hands with the cast of THE GIFTED.

Both Percy Hynes White and Natalie Alyn Lind are huge fans of THE X-MEN. White’s favorite mutant is Nightcrawler, while Lind’s is Storm. They’ve seen the films; and despite being too young to have grown up watching it, both actors have seen FOX’s Saturday morning X-MEN cartoon.

The teens aren’t the only actors who know what they’ve gotten themselves into, either.

Stephen Moyer has a personal connection to THE X-MEN universe. His wife, Anna Paquin, played Rogue in several films in the franchise; and some Comic-Con reporters wanted to know whether he’d asked her for any advice on how to navigate Marvel’s world. Moyer answered in the affirmative. “She’s a big believer in doing a bunch of research, so she showed me a few places that she had got information from. Not just comics….The internet, as an actor, is an amazing resource.”

Marvel Unlimited was also a great help in gaining background information.

With actors who know both the mythology and its impact on fans, THE GIFTED has great potential to be a well-told mutant story.

THE GIFTED will also have a very human element, though. And two actors known for portraying superhuman characters will not have powers here — at least not as far as anyone knows as of now.

Amy Acker plays THE GIFTED’s Kate Strucker, mother of Andy and Lauren. Acker has a history of playing complicated characters, so one question that came up in the Comic-Con press room was whether or not there might be some “other layers” to Kate.

Acker teased “a big transformation because she is coming into something that she didn’t expect at all.” As a comparison, she mentioned her ANGEL character, Fred Burkle. “She was a normal person put in extraordinary circumstances, and I think that brings out kind of a power and a complexity in the roles that I’m sure that Matt [Nix] is going to make challenging and exciting for all of us.” Whether or not that “transformation” will be anything like what ultimately happened to Fred, though, viewers will have to wait and see.

For Stephen Moyer, who plays Reed Strucker, portraying one of the few characters without powers is “a real welcome change.” Well-known for his turn as Bill on TRUE BLOOD, Moyer jokingly mimed some of the strange things he’d have to do when filming the vampiric aspects of his character and quipped, “we can just watch everybody else suffer with that” on THE GIFTED.

In fact, one of the things that brought Moyer to THE GIFTED was the element of “ordinary in extraordinary” that Acker had mentioned. “Drama is about what happens when something difficult happens to ordinary people.”

Coby Bell plays Jace Turner, who might be considered one of the “bad guys” in this situation. His job involves capturing and punishing mutants. Will Jace struggle with this at all? “I think so. It’s not just black and white — ‘I hate mutants, and I’m taking them down.’ He was a cop. His daughter was killed in a mutant-related incident. So, he joined the Sentinel Services sort of vowing to not let that happen to any other family.”

“Family comes first, and I think that that’s the biggest message in our show, which is extremely important.”

One of the interesting aspects of THE GIFTED (aside from the superpowers, of course) is that, despite having two mutant childrenReed Strucker is actually in charge of prosecuting mutants. It’s part of what makes Lauren feel the need to hide her powers for so long.

How does this affect the children’s relationship with their father? Andy and Lauren will have different viewpoints. Andy will spend a lot of time seeking his father’s forgiveness, and he’s going to try his best to keep his relationship with Reed unchanged. “I think I still trust him, and I’m still looking for my parents’ support.”

“She doesn’t want her father to think of her as a threat or think of her as this weird girl,” Lind said of Lauren. There’s even a memorable line from the series that points to Lauren’s wariness: “Dad puts people like us in jail.”

Regardless of Reed’s job, though, the Strucker family is going to have to stick together — especially the children. Natalie Alyn Lind considered this dynamic a vital part of THE GIFTED. “I think that’s definitely where the heart comes in. Because our characters…I think my character is alone for so long, so when she finds out that her brother is a mutant, she — all of a sudden — has a new look on things. And she finds somebody, especially somebody she’s as close with, that can relate to her and kind of be there for each other.”

So, is Reed Strucker one of the villains? Definitely not, no matter what his occupation is.

At some point, Andy and Lauren will become far more important to their father than some job. “Immediately when it becomes about his own kids, and one of them does something quite destructive, he knows what’s going to happen to that boy. He knows what’s going to happen; and suddenly, it’s almost like his fatherhood gene kicks in. Because he has to do something about it. And it means taking the kids out — and his family out — of the happy, protected bubble of their world and going subterranean.”

Related: Watch an extended preview of THE GIFTED from Comic-Con

There’s more than one kind of family.

Because of the dangerous climate for mutants, there’s an “underground society,” based off of the Underground Railroad, that works to keep them safe. Although this group wasn’t formed based on blood ties, it becomes a form of found family.

Lauren and Andy Strucker will rely on this new family to help them learn about their abilities. “We’re mutants, and we don’t really know how to use our powers. And that’s something our parents will never be able to help us with.”

Will this lead to one of THE GIFTED’s characters taking on a Charles Xavier-like role? “We can’t say that” said Lind. So, maybe…maybe not.

The anti-mutant laws.

When it comes to THE GIFTED, Stephen Moyer explained a little bit more about what exactly mutants are being persecuted for. Unlike anti-mutant legislation in some of the other X-MEN stories, it’s not necessarily being a mutant that gets you in trouble; it’s doing anything at all about it. If we’re relating things back to the social commentary aspect of the series, it sounds an awful lot like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” or laws against certain religiously-affiliated attire…just with much harsher consequences.

“Mutants and humans can live together — that’s absolutely fine — but mutants aren’t allowed to use their powers in public for detrimental means.” But, of course, “detrimental means” is loosely interpreted. As an example, Moyer talked about, well…Dinner. “You can cut your vegetables with your laser eyes in private, but you’re not allowed todo that outside.”

Reed Strucker thinks he’s doing the right thing and protecting his children by taking those mutants who can’t control their powers out of the picture, but what exactly does it mean to be unable to control  so-called “dangerous” powers? We’ll find out.

THE GIFTED has a message for viewers.

As has been an underlying theme in several of the stories from the X-MEN universe, “being a mutant isn’t socially acceptable. People think of them as freaks and these weird people you kind of want to stay away from,” said Natalie Alyn Lind. Percy Hynes White backed her up, adding, “they think of them as a threat. So, they’re kind of…trying to detain them.”

It’s a classic case of the fear of the “other” that has created plenty of sociopolitical drama in the real world; and the cast promised that this is a theme that will be visited often on the show.

“I’m just going to say straight up, you guys: Our show is about bigotry. We see Blink, in the first scene, running for her life. A cop could easily kill her dead with zero consequences. Because of prejudice. Because of prejudgement for something people aren’t comfortable with — that they don’t understand —because people are born with this thing. And that is literally where we live. And it is heartbreaking, but I hope this show throws up a mirror on society because it is ridiculous.”

The situation is harder on the women than the men, so there’s maybe even an element of sexism to discuss. The boys are able to hide that they’re mutants much more easily, while the girls “have things physically on us that we can’t hide,” said Dumont.

“Knowing that THE X-MEN is this allegory for human rights,” Amy Acker did a lot of research into what it’s like for people who have been in a real-world situation that mirrors what the Strucker family experiences on THE GIFTED: the coming out experience for the LGBT+ community, from both the children’s and parents’ perspectives. “There’s all of these websites about advice for when you’re coming out to your parents or what parents…how they should respond.”

Coby Bell had the final word on the series’ underlying themes: “It’s a great way to tackle issues that are happening in our real world — but without being preachy about it.”

Make sure to watch THE GIFTED on FOX, premiering October 2.

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