Though FX’s “Legion” may come from the 1980’s “New Mutants” comic-book canon, Noah Hawley has put his own unique, indelible stamp on the genre. Style matters as much as substance in a Hawley show — but in adapting the feel of the Marvel run’s Bill Sienkiewicz psychedelia to Hawley’s David Lynch-meets-Stanley Kubrick, timeless sensibility, the heavy lifting to ground all that character-driven quality is ultimately down to the cast.
“Legion” may center itself on David Haller (Dan Stevens), following his journey from displaced madness to his own self-discovery — but without the supporting players in this world, the show would really fall flat. While Rachel Keller’s Syd Barrett speaks to David’s need for love and acceptance, it’s Aubrey Plaza as his quirky and offbeat bestie, Lenny Buskers, that really informs who David is.
Ahead of its Wednesday (Feb. 8) premiere, we spoke with Plaza about collaborating with Noah Hawley, the importance music played on set and the exploratory journey she took through all the confusion with Dan Stevens — her on-screen partner-in-crime.
Lenny is a very intriguing character, in a world of intriguing characters. What was that development process like?
When I first met with Noah, it was not about playing Lenny Busker — Lenny Busker, in the pilot, was actually described as a 60-year-old male. I didn’t read the script thinking, That’s the character I’ll end up playing on the show. We had a second meeting over coffee and that’s when he pitched to me the idea, saying what if I changed it to a girl and had you play Lenny — how do you feel about that? He then kind of gave me some very broad strokes, in terms of the journey that Lenny goes on in the show.
I just thought that was all really kind of cool: That he would be open to swapping the gender and changing that character so drastically. For me, that felt like a great way to start a collaboration — with just that idea of being open to all possibilities.
Did the collaboration end there, or was he open to character suggestions once cameras began rolling?
Noah is a writer first and I was more so interested in diving into the script — and deconstructing the script — in more of an old-school way. But there were definite times onset where, you know, there would be an action described maybe, with no lines of dialogue, and I would show up to Noah suggesting, Maybe Lenny is harassing some of the patients in the cafeteria… Whatever that means to you… And then he’d walk away, and I would just kinda come up with some stuff!
There was definitely that kind of collaborative vibe and I was allowed to play, in a major way — but all under the umbrella of the script, and of Noah.
It’s hard to imagine Lenny without David. What was the process like, bringing these scenes to life with Dan Stevens as your partner-in-crime?
We really went through it together, you know? It was a very confusing process… I had to read the script multiple times before I understood what the f*ck was going on. Noah, he’s a man of few words — he has a plan, but doesn’t always let you in on his plan. He will when he feels it’s necessary for you to know certain information.
In general, I think all the actors and cast were kind of experiencing the show as the audience will experience it, in some ways. So, to have a partner like Dan who is really interested in exploring all aspects of the character — while not just settling on the surface level basics of what’s happening… Going there was really satisfying, and I really loved working with him.
How does his journey affect Lenny’s, since these two characters seem to be so inseparable?
From where Lenny starts, to where she ends up — I mean, it’s a mind-blowing journey. There’s nothing else I can say about it at this time.
We’ve been told Noah puts together pretty extensive music playlists for his cast and crew. Did that help you get into the Lenny Busker mindset?
Yes, definitely! He invited us all to listen to his “Legion” playlist before we started shooting. It’s a great way to just understand the wavelength that he’s on — tonally, and emotionally. It was a really great introduction to the show for me.
I listened to that playlist over and over — before I started shooting, and while I was shooting. Some of the songs started to be part of the show. It was all kind of weaving in and out, creating this vibe that was really crucial.
Is there any song that stands out to you?
There was some Pink Floyd on there which, for me, was really perfect — especially when we started shooting the show. It just all kind of made sense, in that Pink Floyd kind of way. You know?
“Legion” premieres Wednesday, Feb. 8, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.