Interviews

“It’s a very good challenge” – Bill Irwin talks Legion

Legion has become one of our favourite shows. We’re so excited to see it come back, exploring a show filled with mutants through the guise of mental illness and manipulation. As we head back into the psyche of David Haller, a schizophrenic who has been plagued by another mutant, there are now so much strands to explore.

Legendary actor Bill Irwin stays in the series as Cary Loudemilk, a clever scientist who shares a body with Kerry Loudemilk. As we continue to celebrate Season 2, we’re excited to talk to Irwin about his role on the show.

What drew you to the character?

What I like about Cary is that he is a geeky scientist not confined to a chair. It’s a bit of a challenge and I’m thrilled to be playing someone who is accidentally living a double life – a bigger life. It’s a great acting performance. When I first met Noah Hawley, he didn’t mention Marvel or even the title Legion. Bit he did mention a character of a different age, who isn’t very brave, but has a fierce warrior woman of a much younger age inside of him. I really loved that. 

What makes Legion such a popular and different series?

I wish I was more knowledgeable about television in general. I’m not as literate. What I know about American television is that it is in a golden era and has expanded so much more. Legion experiments with complexity in a way that I don’t know any other show that does.  It has a great quality to it and keeps people in conversation with the high stakes and it isn’t like anything I’ve ever seen.

What do you say to people when they try to describe it?

It’s very challenging but essentially, it’s about the struggle of good verse evil and trying to define that. Everyone is trying to protect their own sense of worth and no one is a reliable narrator. Even the lead David Haller is so tricky and Dan Stevens really makes him a wonderful character in that sense.

Image result for bill irwin legion
In the last season there was an issue between you and Kerry, with the latter feeling a sense of betrayal from Cary. How does this continue into the season season? 

Betrayal is such a charged word – and it is a betray with my character Cary trying to define it differently. It’s such a good question and shooting those scenes are definitely emotionally charged. They feel betrayed by one another and young Amber has gotten so close as a colleague that her feel betrayed is actually hurtful.  I found myself wishing there was more dialogue but I really love the overall texture of the relationship. It’s a conflict in my character who thought it was absolutely necessary to leave her but was he just following an adventure and was too geeky to turn it down? It’s a very complex arc and things do get worse.

There’s a lot of intense experiences and crazy visuals in the show, what’s it like filming those aspects? 

Because you want to conserve energy and you have time pressure, you have to shoot fast and how they want it. There’s a lot of emotion into the camera and it stays still. The camera is all on you and I have to prepare for every scene. It’s like I’m on stage and That’s the Legion sensibility. The eye of the camera has a certain intensity that is a lot like a comic book. it’s like your whole body has been flown into space and that’s just with the eyes. As an actor, you have to be ready to fly into space and that’s a very good challenge. 

How is it watching the show back?

It’s hugely surprising. We try to read the script very carefully and feel the whole tapestry to some level. While you’re filming, it is very “me me me” and you semi-forget that you are part of something bigger as you concentrate on your thing. When you see the finished episode – the way they fuse together – is a great surprise.


What’s it like working so closely with Dan Stevens? Especially as Cary is both friend but also has to treat him like a guinea pig?

Working with David means I have the benefit of working with Dan Stevens, who is one of the most wonderful men on Planet Earth. In Season 1, David arrives in this place with this character and is this new guy. There’s a lot of “can we trust him?” But we were on Team David. Now in Season 2, it’s my job to distrust David. It’s very exciting and disorientating because Dan is shooting with multiple David voices.

What’s it like working with different directors? 

It’s very hard to explain to people who don’t work in television that there is a different director. It’s centrally Noah Hawley and he is the ultimate story-teller and show-runner. But he hands over power to individual characters. This past season has had very young directors and women so there’s different sensibilities and that’s wonderful.


Legion continues Tuesdays at 9pm on FOX

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