On the set of Fox's 'The Gifted,' an X-Men spinoff shot in Atlanta

Posted on Monday, October 2, 2017 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

On the set of the new Fox drama "The Gifted" last month, Lauren Strucker entered the Mutant Underground headquarters in Atlanta trying to track down fellow mutant Marcos.

"He went to Marietta to get some supplies," said Strucker, played by non-Atlantan actress Natalie Alyn Lind. During the first two takes, she said Marietta with a "Marr" rhyming with "car-ietta" instead of the correct pronunciation, rhyming with "Gary-etta."

Fortunately, a local crew member noticed and corrected Lind.

Marietta originally wasn't ever supposed to show up in any script. The original pilot was shot this spring in Dallas and the drama was supposed to be based in Texas. But in May, the Texas legislature was still up in the air about its tax rebate program for film companies. As a result, the production company decided to move to Georgia where tax credits are secure and unlimited and studio space is plentiful.

So now "The Gifted" is in the same studios where Fox's "24: Legacy" had been shot a year ago at Atlanta Metro Studios in Union City. And the show is now based in Atlanta as well.

Debuting Monday, October 2 at 9 p.m. it's yet another comic-book-inspired series, a genre now almost as common as crime procedurals and "Real Housewives"-style shows.

This one is set in the "X-Men" universe featuring the federal government trying to lock down mutants. The actual "X-Men" characters exist on this show but are nowhere to be found. "The Gifted" focuses on a family of four who are on the lam after the parents find out their two teen kids are mutants with special powers.

What's worse is the father, played by Stephen Moyer ("True Blood"), is working with a special agency tasked with arresting and sequestering mutants, seen as dangerous to society.

So suddenly, he has to protect his family and go against his employer. He seeks help from an underground society of mutants. The entire human/mutant dynamic is a not-so-subtle metaphor for any outsider in American society, be it transgender, undocumented immigrant or Muslim.

"I wasn't looking to do another show with a similar thematic element as 'True Blood,' " said Moyer in an interview on set. "The parallels are obvious. But I thought the script was really interesting. It's quite rare to see this story from the vantage point of normal humans getting into a situation like this, living underground with the mutants, learning from them."

Mutants aren't illegal per se but they are not socially acceptable and treated like second-class citizens. If mutants show their powers in public, "there's a price to pay," Moyer said. That means sending them off to internment camps.

"He thinks he's doing the right thing by moving them," Moyer said. "He does know these camps aren't particularly nice. He knows a few people he's captured have disappeared. He also knows this could happen to his kids. He has no choice but to go on the run."

His daughter, played by Lind, kept her powers secret from her family for two years until her brother (newcomer Percy Hynes White) causes mutant-related havoc after getting bullied.

"On the surface, she has the perfect life with the perfect boyfriend and perfect grades," said Lind. She kept her powers secret primarily because of her dad's job and the general stigma attached to being a mutant. (She can create shields and move and break things.)

Once her brother is "out," she helps him learn to control and manage his powers. And the underground mutants teach Lauren new skills as well.

"She finds a bigger world for herself," Lind said. "She finds people she can relate to."

Emma Dumont ("Bunheads," "Aquarius") plays one of those mentors Lorna Dane, a mutant with magnetic powers who also goes by Polaris. "She teaches her that it doesn't matter what others think," Lind said. "You're a bada** woman. Go for it! That's really cool. It's a message a lot of people should learn."

Dumont, a science geek at heart who has taken mechanical engineering classes at Georgia State University to learn more about her character's powers, said actors were given full access online to all of Marvel's comics going back decades. She studied her character, who opens "The Gifted" getting imprisoned but itching to escape.

"She's super similar to the original mythology," Dumont said. "She has some experience being imprisoned. She still has that fight she had in the comics. She has a definite sense of right and wrong. She is an eye-for-an-eye kind of girl."

Lorna helped start the Atlanta mutant underground, a sanctuary for mutants seeking to escape persecution. As an orphan, she doesn't really care about herself so much as she is willing to sacrifice herself for the greater good. "She runs on adrenaline," Dumont said. "She doesn't care if she gets harmed."

Early reviews for "The Gifted" have been mostly positive. Metacritic average score is 62 out of 100, which may sound like a failing grade but is not bad. USA Today's Kelly Lawler called it "a gripping and savvy series that carves out its own space in the cluttered comic-book TV landscape." Rob Lowman of the Los Angeles Daily News was less impressed: "Viewers have seen this all before so many times before that 'The Gifted' 'feels just ordinary."

THE GIFTED: L-R: Emma Dumont and Sean Teale in THE GIFTED premiering premiering Monday, Oct. 2 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2017 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Ryan Green/FOX
Shots from the set of "The Gifted" inside the Atlanta mutant headquarters in what had been a bank. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com


"The Gifted," debuting Monday, October 2, 2017 on Fox

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Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
I cover local radio and TV for both the print and online editions. I write a blog on the same topics.Rodney Ho's Radio & TV Talk blog (new) | Recent archiveSports...