In Fox’s ‘The Gifted,’ Outsiders Flee Oppression and Hatred. Sound Familiar?

The Gifted - Percy Hynes White, Stephen Moyer, Amy Acker, and Natalie Alyn Lind
Percy Hynes White, Stephen Moyer, Amy Acker and Natalie Alyn Lind

And you thought your family had drama. In Fox’s new sci-fi thriller The Gifted, a seemingly ordinary clan of four, the Struckers, find themselves caught up in the saga of persecuted mutants that began 17 years ago with the first X-Men film. And director Bryan Singer, who’s helmed multiple X-Men blockbusters, is part of the team helping to bring the iconic heroes to TV.

Just don’t call The Gifted an “X-Men” show, says executive producer Matt Nix (Burn Notice). “The X-Men are gone, and nobody knows where they went,” Nix explains of the series. “What’s left behind are groups of mutants that are piecemeal, doing what they can to help [fellow mutants] on the wrong side of the law get to safety.”

The Struckers fall in with these renegades after bullied teen son Andy (Percy Hynes White) develops destructive powers that go nuclear at a school dance—think Carrie with more rubble and less pig blood. The debacle forces him and gifted big sister Lauren (Natalie Alyn Lind), who can move objects with her mind, to come out as mutants to parents Reed (Stephen Moyer) and Caitlin (Amy Acker).

To escape the government’s virulently antimutant laws—which would allow for agents to take Andy into custody after he used his powers—the family turns to the underground network of outlaw mutants for help. And yes, there’s a twist: Reed just happens to prosecute mutants, as he works for a Texas district attorney’s office.

“One of the things I really responded to in the X-Men comics is that they really seemed to be about something, more than just fighting,” says Nix, a longtime fan. “The characters had relationships and humanity that went beyond hitting bad guys very hard, although,” he adds with a laugh, “they did enough hitting bad guys very hard to satisfy 10-year-old me.”

The Gifted

Since their 1963 debut, the X-Men’s struggle to gain acceptance has always served as an allegory for the plight of oppressed minorities. Nix says he was interested in how society today relates to groups people fear. “In the show, it’s not like fear of mutants comes out of nowhere,” he notes. “At the same time, the questions we ask are, ‘How much freedom are we willing to sacrifice for the sake of security? How far are we willing to go to trample on liberties to make the majority feel good?’”

Don’t expect a simple black-and-white answer. The government agents who are trying to capture the Struckers won’t be portrayed as “mustache-twisting villains,” says Nix. Reed in particular exists in a gray area, at least initially. “[Working for the DA], he thinks he’s doing the right thing,” Moyer says. “He’s taking [dangerous] mutants off the street. It isn’t until he sees how badly some of them have been treated—and he kind of knew, he’d just chosen not to see it—that he realizes he has to take his children and run.” And Caitlin didn’t exactly have her eyes open either. “Caitlin knows mutants have problems, but it doesn’t affect her—she doesn’t do anything for or against it,” Acker says. When she finds out her children have these abilities, and then comes to rely on others with abilities for her family’s survival, her tune changes. “There is this guilt of ‘Maybe I should have been speaking up all along,’” Acker adds.

How will The Gifted intersect with the X-Men films? The series will take advantage of the concept of parallel timelines, introduced in the 2014 film Days of Future Past—and baked into the comic’s lore since the 1980s. Says Nix: “That allows us to be in a different universe, but not separate in ways that other film franchises may be from their TV shows.”

But The Gifted will still have much in common with its cinematic cousins. The series won’t shy away from grand special effects and massive action sequences.“I’ve taken up parkour training since getting cast,” says Lind. “This show is an actor’s dream because one moment we’ll be engaged in an intimate, emotional scene, and then a door breaks down and we’re thrown into major stunt work.” Which is exactly what Nix aimed to create. “We wanted to tell a story that’s relatable. You don’t need to love the X-Men to watch. Your way in can be this family.”

The Gifted, Series Premiere, Monday, Oct. 2, 9/8c, Fox