While David Haller is the inscrutable center of gravity on Legion, Cary Loudermilk could be called the critical force helping propel the show to instant classic status.
As fans eagerly await the fifth episode (Wednesday at 10 PM/9 Central on FX), ComicBook.com was able to speak to Bill Irwin -- the master of mischief who gives Cary such life on screen.
Irwin said that it is the most poignantly simply principle he goes into each scene with that elevates the complex characters’ hearts.
“Where does having powers beyond the normal meet the question of being sane?,” he stated.
The line of sanity has been questioned all too frequently for many of the characters - and perhaps sometimes the fans, which have responded with an impressive No. 6 ranking in the ComicBook.com User Rating -- through the first four episodes.
What completely separates Legion from anything before it is creator Noah Hawley.
Irwin said that working with someone as visionary is as challenging as it is rewarding, adding that most everyone involved in the production seems to agree about the awe his approach inspires -- and allows.
“You're always looking for, ‘How would Noah like me to do this?’,” he said. “Sometimes you have to piece it together. I think he likes the challenge of people piecing together props that he's offered”
When the show returns to the air, Kerry Loudermilk -- Cary’s partner in life and in spirit (but not in romance) -- now waits in a perilous limbo. The ending of the most recent episode puts Summerland’s homonymously-named duo’s health in peril, but Legion finds new ways of displaying its cast’s talents every week -- as anyone who witnessed Irwin’s dancing in chapter four already understands.
Cary’s scenes with Kerry (Amber Midthunder) particularly leave room for all kinds of inventiveness.
[UP NEXT: Preview of Legion Episode 5]
It is an art that, according to the actor, bridges seamlessly between mediums.
“The creation of two characters, one of whom lives inside the other, that is Noah Hawley-meets-Marvel,” Irwin said.
As the “geeky scientist” half of this partnership, Cary constantly observes and occasionally comments upon the incomprehensible (but delicious!) pretzel-twist that is the story of Legion. Irwin’s exhaustive comic experience is undoubtedly put to good use, but his presence (on set and on screen) extends much further.
He also acts as a hidden conductor for the diverse Legion cast, from Dan Stevens’ type-shattering performance in the lead role, to scenes showing more of his team’s full power.
It would be an amazing opportunity for any actor but in this case the part seems tailor made for Irwin’s unique talent and nature.
“You are responsible to certain storytelling realities,” Irwin said. “Or lack of realities… but don't hold yourself back as long as your freedom is responsible to the origin.”
Irwin’s experience also gives him unique insight into the boundary-pushing of a story like Legion that could only be made in our present day.
One of chapter four’s most memorable scenes -- with the two Loudermilks showing off more of their split nature for the audience during their morning routine -- was possible thanks to Irwin and Midthunder’s “old fashioned theater magic” - complicated maneuvers that could only be executed by the actors working in tandem.
Making something truly unique and satisfying requires a wide range of contributors.
With such disparate skillsets available, common language and references are needed. Without some of these travelers communicating on the same wavelength, the whole thing would fall apart.
Such a crucial role in the chaos could only be realized by someone with as much talent across storytelling and performance arts as Bill Irwin.
This week’s fifth episode of Legion follows the lead of the first four in only one way -- it’s completely unlike anything else.
Irwin’s self-described “nexus of wild ingredients” is finally rising and fans will want to watch from the beginning again to appreciate its full flavor.
-- Zach Ellin will provide coverage Legion coverage for ComicBook.com throughout the entire season of the show. Follow him on Twitter for more of his insights.