This summer, Executive Producer David Wilcox and stars Sean Bean, Ali Larter, Morris Chestnut and Tina Majorino spoke with reporters about their new series, including the characters, source material, Bean's multiple roles and more.
Read on for editied excerpts from the press room discussion.
On the premise for Legends
Wilcox: Legends is a show about a special group of FBI agents who handle covert investigations. A legend is an identity that is created by an undercover agent to help infiltrate go undercover, but it's actually a fully, deeply imagined life. And Martin Odum, who Sean plays, is really sort of the best of the best. These guys, as a division, are really the tip of the spear in doing investigative work within the FBI. The show itself is basically about a guy who can't tell his legends from his real life. These questions of his identity are really the driving mythology of the show.
On the characters
Wilcox: Sean plays Martin Odum, if that is his real name, and Sean's an FBI agent who works legends, who's undercover. He does deep cover infiltration. In the pilot, somebody comes up to him and basically says, "Martin Odum is a legend. It's not who you really are." And this launches Martin on a deep quest to discover what may actually be happening in his life and who he really is. If there is some grand conspiracy afoot behind this, he's going to get to the bottom of it.
In the division of covert operations, which is a special elite division in the FBI, his handler, or the person who runs the operations for Martin Odum, is Ali's character, Special Agent Crystal Maguire, and there's a little bit of history between them. There is some degree of tension between them, in terms of tactics and methods, but together, they make a formidable team.
They are supported and backed up by Tina, who plays Maggie Pool. Maggie is trained on every database you can imagine-- NSA, DOD, FBI and all of that. She's instrumental in creating the deep backstory of these legends, which becomes absolutely instrumental many times saving Martin's life.
And then, lastly, we have Special Agent Tony Rice (Morris Chestnut), who is an agent who begins investigating a murder that he believes Sean's character may have committed. We're not actually sure because, when you do deep cover work and you're in these cases, often times, you're pushed into a situation into a position where you actually have to cross some moral lines that you wouldn't otherwise do.
But as an FBI agent, like Agent Rice, he doesn't believe in the FBI that's acceptable. And so, he picks up the beginning of this investigation against Martin and discovers that there may, in fact, be more of a systemic corruption afoot in DCO. And along the way, he begins discovering this large conspiracy that underlines what's happening. Eventually, he may, in fact, join the DCO. We'll see how it goes.
Chestnut: I'm looking forward to seeing that.
On the source material
Wilcox: The show itself is based on a book by Robert Littell, who created at least a couple of the characters. That was really where all this began. Obviously, it's changed a little bit from the book.
Bean: I read the book before we started the pilot and I've been reading it since. It's good to just dip in and out of it because the characters are very interesting and fascinating characters. It's a good basis to work from. I think it's an excellent book and it certainly helped me, in terms of Martin Odum and Lincoln Dittman, the other character that I play, and Dante Orbach, which I play. It was good. Rather than kind of just inventing the characters, at least I had that material that I could refer to, to try to create these characters. That was very useful for me. But it becomes a thing of its own after a while. I think we take that as a basis and an anchor for what we're trying to achieve, but we kinda go off on tangents.
Wilcox: We deviate completely from the book.It's all a different path. It's rooted in those characters, but the demands of storytelling in a really good novel like Legends and then to do a TV show, the demands are totally different. We approach story totally different. And we created this very cool cast. We're not bound by the book. But it's a terrific book in and of itself.
On Martin's multiple characters
Bean: I do three characters which is great. It's fantastic and fun. It's an actor's dream to be able to do that. But sometimes, it gets a big confusing for me too.
Wilcox: Martin doesn't know where the bottom of this rabbit hole is. In fact, it's what makes him such an interesting hero is that his sort of greatest power and his greatest asset and the thing that lets him be this incredible operative, is in fact this thing that is jeopardizing his own psyche and frankly his own soul. It's this question of, if he commits a crime in legend, does Martin Odum have to answer for that? What does the soul like like of a guy who steps into all these different shoes and these different identities? And, he can't be responsible for what these other identities necessarily do.
Bean: He can do anything, but it's not really me that did it. It's just somebody that I'm playing. So, that's interesting.
On the difference between Veronica Mars' Mac and Legends' Maggie?
Majorino: Oh, god, I knew that question was coming. Mac is all computers. I think it started out as a hobby or a way to get revenge on people to do right or wrong sometimes. But with Maggie, what we know about her, so far, is that there's a conviction behind what she's doing. She's highly trained. It's not just something that developed out of nowhere.You know what I mean -- it's not something that was based in a hobby. This is a life path for this character.
What I like to think about this character is that there's more of a patriotism behind it. There's a real need to participate in a solution to things, if that makes sense. I know I'm being very elusive, but those are the differences to me. Even though I knew there would be comparisons, two totally different mind-sets and they're two totally different people. When I think about Mac, there's so much of a sarcasm and a sense of humor and a levity to her. We're still discovering who Maggie is, at this point, but I don't feel that it would go in that direction.