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Comic-Con: Catching Up with the Creators of TNT’s ‘Legends’

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This fall, TNT will be premiering a new suspense drama series called Legends. Based on the novel by Robert Littell, Legends stars Sean Bean (Game of Thrones, Fellowship of the Ring) as FBI deep-cover agent Martin Odum. Odum’s special ability of transforming himself into a different person for each operation comes back to haunt him when a person he encounters suggests to him that he isn’t “quite who he believes himself to be.” The series was created by Fringe’s David Wilcox with Howard Gordon (Homeland, 24, The X-Files), Alexander Cary (HomelandLie to Me) and Jonathan Levin (Charmed) and Brad Turner (24).Sean Bean in Legends

Much of the cast and the entire creative team of Legends descended upon San Diego for this year’s Comic-Con. San Diego’s airport and several downtown buildings are decorated with Sean Bean’s image, and although he was not among the cast at Comic-Com, his presence certainly loomed large over the area!

We were joined in the pressroom by the cast and creative team of the new series; executive producer Howard Gordon was fresh from the 24 panel, and displayed an iPhone image of Kiefer Sutherland sporting a black t-shirt with the Legends hashtag, “#DontKillSeanBean,” which led to an interesting exchange before the topic turned to Legends itself:

A “legend,” in espionage terms is a deep undercover identity, and in Legends, Bean’s character Martin takes on new identities each week in pursuit of the baddies. Wilcox explained during our Comic-Con pressroom interview that in a sense Martin is a “method actor,” going deeply into character — so deep, possibly, that he may in fact lose all sense of who he really is. Does there come a point, he wondered, where the line between the legend and Martin’s real persona blur so much that he no longer can tell where the act begins and the real Martin begins.

Although the series will framed through an array of personalities taken on by Martin, the show will not be an “undercover case of the week.” Instead, at its core, Legends is an “existential quest,” according to Wilcox.

Executive producer Gordon added that Martin’s gift to so immerse himself into another personality is a gift as well as a curse. He is a “sort of willful schizophrenic.” Gordon is especially proud of the fact that the Martin’s special gifts come not from microchips implanted in his brain or other technology, but really from within the character’s own personality. The show is built upon “a psychological dilemma, and not chips and technology.”

Creating the series has been a synergistic effort between writer and actor. Gordon explained that the various personalities assumed by Martin are fleshed out by Bean in the writers room. The writers sketch the character and “Ben comes into the writers’ office and builds the character.” Wilcox noted that each persona taken on by Martin Odum is unique — down to personality quirks, regional affectations, accent. Odum becomes a completely new character each week.

As the series progresses, we learn of a dark conspiracy that shakes both Martin’s world and those around him. The narrative is fueled, said Gordon by the changes in our own society, and a near future world of private armies, and an inability to tell the good guys from the bad guys. “A conspiracy will be revealed over the course of the series,” as Martin endeavors to find answers to the questions that drive him. At its core: Is Martin Odum, himself, a “legend.” As the showrunners explained this aspect of the series, I flashed on Harrison Ford’s character Rick Deckard in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Gordon noted that Odum himself is a sort of “Russian Doll,” revealing layers within layers of his personality, one within the other, merged at times, but separate as well.

Legends premieres August 13 at 9:00 p.m. on TNT.

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is publisher and executive editor of Blogcritics, as well as a noted entertainment writer. Author of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., her primary beat is primetime television. But Barbara writes on an everything from film to politics to technology to all things pop culture and spirituality. She is a contributor to the book called Spiritual Pregnancy (Llewellyn Worldwide, January 2014) and has a story in Riverdale Ave Press' new anthology of zombie romance, Still Hungry for your Love. She is hard at work on what she hopes will be her first published novel.