Based on Robert Littell’s award-wining spy novel, TNT’s new suspense-filled drama, Legends follows undercover agent Martin Odum (Sean Bean) working for FBI’s Deep Cover Operations (DCO) division. Able to transform himself into a completely different person for each job, he begins to question his identity when a mysterious stranger suggests that Martin isn’t the man he believes himself to be. Legends also stars Ali Larter as special agent Crystal McGuire, who has a history with Martin; Morris Chestnut as Tony Cimarro, a smart, quick-witted and charming DCO agent; and Tina Majorino as Maggie Harris, the DCO team’s computer expert. In this press conference, executive producer/showrunner David Wilcox and key cast members reveal insights about the compelling new series.
Legends is 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 him infiltrate and go undercover. It’s a fully, deeply imagined life. In this role, Martin Odum is the best of the best. The DCO division is the tip of the spear in doing this deep cover investigative work. The questions about Martin’s real identity drive the mythology of the series. In the pilot, someone tells Martin that Martin Odum is a legend, that it’s not his real life. This launches Martin on a deep quest to discover what may actually be happening in his life, and if there is a grand conspiracy he needs to uncover. Ali’s character, Crystal, runs the DCO team. Tina’s character, Maggie is trained on every database you can imagine—NSA, DOD, FBI. She’s instrumental in creating the deep backstory of these legends, which become instrumental in saving Martin’s life. Morris’ character, special agent Tony Rice begins investigating a murder that he believes Martin may have committed. When you’re in these deep cover situations, you sometimes have to cross moral lines, so we’re not sure if Martin did commit the murder. When Rice investigates further, he realizes there may be a systemic corruption in DCO and eventually uncovers this large conspiracy.
Were you able to adapt the fight training and choreography from previous roles, or did you have to learn a whole new skill set?
Ali Larter: I’ve been doing a lot of action and fieldwork. And I’ve had experience with guns in Resident Evil, Heroes and other projects, so I’m pretty comfortable with a Glock. It was interesting to work with these guys and learn to be smooth without tensing up. Everything is second nature. You have to be in your body, and really flow and focused. This week, I went from wearing an Herve Leger dress to a Haz-Mat suit with a gas mask. It’s all in a week’s work on Legends.
What people—real or make believe—did you draw from for your characters in Legends?
Wilcox: The characters were borne out of Robert Littell’s spy novel. Each of these deep cover identities are pre-existing legends—they have their own apartments, cars, wardrobe, contacts and friends. As a case comes into the FBI and is turned over to DCO, Martin can pick one of his pre-existing legends to organically infiltrate the group.
Sean Bean: I read the book before we started the pilot. The characters are very interesting and fascinating. It helped me develop Martin, Lincoln Dittmann and Dante, the third character I play. Rather than just invent a character, there was at least someone I could refer to. It was a basis, an anchor, but the character eventually takes on a life of its own. It’s Martin’s total belief in each character that makes for a very interesting psychological drama. When his various characters collide, he thinks he can carry on and still retain himself, but sooner or later, it all comes down on him. And it filters though the department. He’s a good guy, but the people he’s working for are not dissimilar to other government organizations like the DCO.
Are you playing Martin as Martin playing someone else, or two characters at the same time?
Bean: I was playing three characters last week, which is fantastic for an actor. But sometimes, it gets a bit confusing for me too. Because it’s not really me that commits an act.
Wilcox: Martin doesn’t know where the bottom of this rabbit hole is, which makes him such an interesting hero. His greatest asset or the thing that makes him such an effective operative also tends to jeopardize his psyche and soul. If he commits a crime in Legends, does Martin Odum have to answer for it? What does the soul of a guy look like who steps into all these different shoes and identities? He can’t be responsible for what these other identities necessarily do.
Why do you always die in everything you’re in?
Sean (laughs): Yeah, I die a lot. But I think I have a rather long run in this one.
Wilcox: We don’t have any plans for his character’s death.
Where is the story based?
Wilcox: DCO is based in Los Angeles. But they’ll go where the stories take them—including overseas.
How closely does Legends follow the novel?
Wilcox: It’s rooted in the novel, but the stories and characters do deviate quite a bit.
How much of Cindy ‘Mac’ Mackenzie shows up in Maggie?
Tina Majorino: Mac is all computers. It started out as a hobby or a way for her to exact revenge on people and right certain wrongs. But for Maggie, there’s a conviction, a patriotism, a real need to participate in a solution. She’s highly trained and she’s chosen this as a life path. They’re two totally different mindsets and people. Mac has a sarcasm, a levity that Maggie doesn’t have. We’re still discovering who Maggie is at this point, but I don’t feel that she would go in the direction of Mac.
What will Tony play in this unfolding mystery?
Morris Chestnut: Right now, he’s having a good time in pursuing Martin Odum, trying to figure out the truth–is Martin really involved with this murder or is it part of a larger cover up within the DCO?
Legends Premieres Wednesday, Aug. 13, at 9 p.m. (ET/PT)