The following contains spoilers for Legion Season 2.
FX’s X-Men drama Legion is a different kind of superhero story. As it follows one of the franchise’s more, let’s say, cerebral mutants, the show delights in breaking down the superhero myth…and reality along with it. Still, the end of Legion Season 2 took the show’s alt-superhero premise even further than ever.
The Legion Season 2 finale found our erstwhile hero, David Haller (Dan Stevens) succumbing to the allure of his own power and turning a super-powered attempt at an intervention into his own coming out party as a villain. As if it weren’t enough to change the “tagonist” from “pro” to “an,” the closing moments of Legion Season 2 suggested that there may be redemption in store for our former big bad…or at least a brief aligning of goals with the side of the angels.
Amahl Farouk a.k.a. The Shadow King was not only a welcome participant at David’s intervention but also seemed legitimately concerned for the soul of the boy he once fed off like a tick. Is there hope for this ancient evil force after all? The actor tasked with making an entity known as “The Shadow King” a more sympathetic figure in Legion Season 3 is the same actor who was tasked in bringing him to life in Season 2: Navid Negahban.
Negahban took over the role of Amahl Farouk a.k.a. “The Shadow King” after the character appeared as a disgusting apparition in David’s mind and as David’s deceased friend Lenny (Aubrey Plaza) in the show’s first season. A TV veteran with roles in series like 24 and Homeland, Negahban was able to build on the Plaza’s ghastly portrayal of The Shadow King and make the all-powerful mutant feel equal parts omniscient and human.
Now in Legion Season 3, Negahban will have to uncover new layers within the character – and quickly, as this is the last go-around for Amahl and the show altogether. We caught up with Negahban to discuss what it’s like to enter and exit the world of Legion.
Can you tell me a little bit of what we can expect for Amahl Farouk in Legion Season 3? Because season 2 ends on a note where he’s almost a hero.
I think you might discover what made him to end up being the hero that you think he is. You will discover a little bit more about his journey and who he is.
Okay. Who is he?
Alright. Interview’s done.
What was it like going into season 3, having already been an established part of this universe versus in season 2 when you’re coming in for the first time?
Oh, I was lost. On season 2, I was completely lost and it wasn’t because of them. I mean we work as a team, we work as a family, everybody’s helping each other and that was a pleasure. That was the joy of it. But season 2 when I came here I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Literally I had Noah (Hawley) describe the show to me, and describe the character. And I said, “oh the character’s fascinating.” Then I’m standing in this astral plane in this wide space. And it’s like what am I doing? Oh no you’re just jumping down the wall and you’re entering into the desert. I say, where’s my desert? Where’s the desert coming from? Where am I going? So just kind of fascinating. Now I know my footing. I know where I’m going.
True. You know Noah must be really a hell of a salesman in that regard. What is it like to work with Noah Hawley? And I imagine it requires a lot of trust because when you’re filming, you don’t necessarily have an exact idea of what everything’s going to look like and how it’s coming.
One of the things about Noah is when he talks to you he’s very genuine. There’s no BS, there’s no Hollywood talk. It is what it is. That’s what he’s saying. He doesn’t care if you like it or not. That’s what I like about it. He’s very straightforward. When we had the conversation, it was… have you ever done parachuting?
No? When you do parachuting, you have to, after you jump out of the plane, you’re relying on the guy who’s on your back. So, I really don’t jump, if you jump, it is out of your hands. So you just go for a ride and enjoy it. That’s what I’m doing.
You said you were not necessarily familiar with this universe when you first signed on. Have you ever been a comic book fan or a fan of these Marvel or even DC characters?
Yes. Some DC characters here and there. I will read whatever I get my hands on. Superman, Batman – those were the ones I grew up with.
When you got the role, did you seek out any X-Men comics or read up on Amahl Farouk?
I read about him. I did some research on the Internet and then at the same time I just talk to the people on set. Aubrey (Plaza) kind of set a platform for me. Sort of like a ground zero for me. From here, I can build on it, I can move. If she was one layer of me, so what else can I add to breathe with this and make it more complete?
Dan at the end of the season gave me a book about Legion and Shadow King and so that is, that was a big book that I went through it a little bit. But basically, it was just the scripts, what I read on the Internet, and everybody who was possessed by Shadow King in the first season.
I hadn’t considered that. I forgot that you’d have to inform a lot of your performance on what Aubrey had previously done.
I couldn’t change it. Because if I was the one who was making her do what she was doing, it means that I have to follow her footsteps in certain areas. So, she was bringing her own color into what I was making (the character) do but that was her feminine energy that was coming out. The source of the action would become my ground zero. Not the way that she’s delivering it – the reason behind it.
When you take that, it becomes something you can build on and move forward. I had to watch her. Even Dan, watching Dan when he is possessed or he thinks that he’s possessed. I’m going back and forth. That was very interesting for me.
For your first season on the show you got to spend a lot of time with Aubrey actually in the flesh. Is that the case in season three or do you have kind of bigger access to the rest of the cast and get to interact with more people?
I’m interacting with more people. It’s very interesting.
When you signed up back in season 2 did you know that the third season would be the final?
Oh, no, I didn’t.
What is it like knowing that this would be the end? Does it inform your performance at all?
No, not really. It doesn’t affect the way that I’m dealing with Amahl Farouk or the way that I’m dealing with Shadow King. When you become an actor, and you enter this creative world, you never know what tomorrow brings. So, everything that happens, everything that comes next, partially I don’t even want to know. I’m glad that I didn’t know and I didn’t even care if I knew that is the last season or not because that has no impact on me.
It’s good just for the way that I live my life. I’m going through and I think that the things that are supposed to be happening are happening the way that they are supposed to be happening. I have to do my best at every given moment. Dealing with it – whatever happens.
What can you tell us about Aladdin?
I’m playing the Sultan in Aladdin. I think the character has layers which we didn’t see in the animated version. The set was incredible. The actors are fascinating. It was truly a joy working with Guy (Ritchie) because he’s so excited. He’s like a kid – acting everything out. Also he was truly trying so hard to stay respectful and truthful to the culture. And that, I take my hat off to, you know? Lots of respect. He was very precise. He wanted to be respectful to the story. But, not just because of Disney, not just because it was a remake of an animation. It was because he thought that these characters deserve respect.
Is there a type of role that you prefer? It seems like movies have decied you’re a hero and TV has decided you’re a villain. Do you think that’s the case?
It was for a while. But either way it’s about bringing some kind of truthfulness to the character. The character will never become a caricature. I never betray the character. It doesn’t matter what the character does. The character does it and he’s doing it because it comes from a place of love. The love sets the platform at the beginning. And from there, you build on that. So, I don’t mind to play those characters. Because those characters deserve to be understood. Even if they are villains.
Legion Season 3 will debut in June of 2019.