Be sure to read the first part to get acquainted with our team of heroes!
Same as the Silver Age comics, Magneto’s Brotherhood of (Evil) Mutants will provide the primary mutant antagonists of the first season. Though our fledgling superhero team will definitely square off against their less-virtuous counterparts before the season is through, I see the Brotherhood less as a direct presence and more as an ever-present threat – headlines and news stories. This iteration of Magneto is as much a boogeyman as Osama Bin Laden used to be, or how ISIL is today, fueling a paranoia and fear toward mutants that Xavier hopes to counter with his own team. This dynamic would allow this take on the X-Men to be much more overtly superheroic than previous cinematic versions (who aren’t really acting as heroes so much as they are acting out of their own self-interest).
Til Schweiger as Magneto.
Schweiger is best known to North American audiences as Hugo Stiglitz in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, as well as a few non-descript roles as stock German villains in action movies. In his home country of Germany, however, Schweiger is as famous as Brad Pitt, recognized as an actor-director-producer with an incredible range. The first season would cast Magneto as very much the terrorist, and Schweiger has the hard edges and intensity to sell it, but as the series progresses, of course, Magneto is revealed to be a much more complicated, morally ambiguous character with plenty of pathos, giving Schweiger the opportunity to show North American audiences why he’s such a big deal in Germany.
Frederik Johansen as Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver.
I think it’s really telling that the Brotherhood is mostly comprised of immigrants while the X-Men are All-American. I would like to play with that notion, showing mutants as refugees, perhaps persecuted in their own countries, but left marginalized all the same in the US. Quicksilver, I think, is a classic radical – young and undoubtedly wronged, he is angry and leaps too quickly to the worst conclusions about mankind. Danish actor Frederik Johansen (A Royal Affair) could convey this marvelously, and has the lean build to make a convincing speedster.
Rosalinde Mynster as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch.
Wanda, I think, is less convinced of humanity’s evil than her twin brother, but is intensely loyal to her family, and thus stands with Pietro. I really like the short Collen Coover-drawn backup feature in an issue of Jeff Parker’s X-Men: First Class, which shows Wanda as a lonely girl who just wants acceptance, and would definitely want to pursue the Jean-Wanda friendship that was shown in that comic. Fredrik Johansen’s A Royal Affair co-star Rosalinde Mynster, I think, has just the right blend of earnestness and solemnity to bring Scarlet Witch alive.
Richard Armitage as Jason Wyngarde/The Mastermind.
The Mastermind exists in this season just as a manipulative member of Magneto’s ensemble, but in subsequent seasons, he becomes instrumental in the corruption of Phoenix into the Dark Phoenix. He must be handsome, charming, and one hell of a creep. Richard Armitage (The Hobbit) is definitely the former two, and if one has any doubts as to his capacity to perform the latter, simply watch his turn as Francis Dollarhyde in the last season of Hannibal.
Adam Brown as Toad.
Another Hobbit alum, Adam Brown is certainly accustomed to performing under a lot of prosthetics and makeup as Ori the dwarf. Admittedly, Toad won’t get much to do for quite some time, apart from being a somewhat sniveling lackey to fill out the ranks of Magneto’s Brotherhood, but Brown’s expressive face and charming lisp would elevate the character to show glimmers of the development Toad will get much, much later.
Though ostensibly based on the Silver Age comics, the first season of The Uncanny X-Men will draw from a few different sources. Really, it’s a must – the Silver Age, honestly, had very little plot. I think few X-Men stories have demonstrated how, precisely, mutants are hated and feared quite as effectively as Chris Claremont and Brent Anderson’s God Loves, Man Kills, and as that story has a somewhat ambiguous position in continuity, I think a few characters and plot points could comfortably be pulled in to provide this season with the sort of rising action and big, dramatic denouement that makes for good television. The Reverend William Stryker will be responsible for fanning much of the anti-mutant fervor, as well as exerting much of the political pressure which sees the formation of the Sentinel Program under Bolivar Trask.
Eric Roberts as Rev. William Stryker.
Stryker is a Southern fire-and-brimstone preacher (and not, as Bryan Singer would have us believe, a military scientist responsible for creating Wolverine). He’s charming and absolutely terrifying in his normalcy, and his sermons are inciting violence against mutants across the country. He is the reason why Magneto feels the need to be as militant as he is. Roberts is a tremendous actor, absolutely charming but somehow always a little disconcerting, perfect for a fearmongering preacher like Stryker.
Powers Boothe as Henry Peter Gyrich.
With Stryker’s rhetoric captivating the public, and Magneto’s violence terrifying them, the US Government covertly forms Project Wideawake, a commission to address the “mutant problem,” of which Henry Peter Gyrich is the head of operations. I read that Gyrich was supposedly based on Marvel editor Jim Shooter. Looking at pictures of Shooter, I couldn’t help but feel that he reminded me strongly of a specific actor, and with Dani’s help, determined that the actor in question is Powers Boothe. (As a fun aside, prior to Project Wideawake, Gyrich served on the National Security Council, overseeing the Avengers. In Marvel’s The Avengers, Powers Boothe appeared on a monitor as an unnamed member of the World Security Council, overseeing Nick Fury’s operations. Thus, I’m pretty sure this casting is canon already.)
Giancarlo Esposito as Bolivar Trask.
I really, really liked Peter Dinklage as Trask in Days of Future Past, feeling he was criminally underused. He possessed this great curiosity, and determined mutants to be a threat not because of any overt bigotry, but because of an academic calculation of mankind’s odds against them. Few actors can convey that without devolving into a mustache-twirling villain, and apart from Dinklage, Giancarlo Esposito is one of those few. Trask is hired by Project Wideawake to propose a safeguard against mutants.
Tatanka Means as Forge.
But wait, you are surely saying, these characters are under the heading “HUMANKIND,” but Forge is a mutant! To which I reply: Spoiler! Yes, Forge is a mutant, but we won’t know that until a little later. Though he wasn’t introduced until much, much later in the comics, I think it would be a good opportunity to introduce him as lead engineer of the Trask’s Sentinel Program, a man remarkably gifted with machines. Forge is a fascinating character, a mutant so mercenary willing to invent technology that will be used against other mutants. I think he perceives himself as a man without a people – he is a subversion of that First Nations stereotype of being closer to nature, aligning himself instead with technology. Like most First Nations actors, Tatanka Means knows how to intone seriously and impart wisdom, but as a standup comedian and romantic lead, he can show a lot of irreverence and charm, running the gamut of Forge’s fascinating range as a character.
Stana Katic as Doctor Valerie Cooper.
Also part of the Project Wideawake commission, Doctor Valerie Cooper is the Special Assistant to the National Security Advisor. Though she will only have a supporting role in this season, she requires an actress who can effectively convey shrewdness, professionalism, and a fair amount of badassery, as she will later take on a Nick Fury-like role supervising the government-sponsored X-Factor. Castle‘s Stana Katic ought to be an action star in her own right, and playing Val Cooper would let her convince anyone who isn’t already.
Yvonne Strahovski as Raven Darkholme.
Another part of Project Wideawake commission, Raven Darkholme works for the Department of Defense. Surely there is nothing more interesting to say about her.
Laurence Fishburne as Agent Fred Duncan.
FBI Agent Fred Duncan is tasked with investigating mutant activities, and emerges as a rare human ally to mutants (and to the X-Men, in particular). Duncan is something of a stock character in the comics, but in recent years, Laurence Fishburne has done a tremendous job of playing stock characters (such as the crusty-newspaper-editor archetype in Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman, or another federal agent in Hannibal) and giving them a memorable and enjoyable spin.
Mandy Patinkin as Super Doctor Astronaut Peter Corbeau.
Another human ally to the X-Men, Corbeau is a friend and colleague to Charles Xavier. He would mostly serve as a supporting character throughout, acting as Xavier’s confidante and frequently, voice-of-reason. His astrophysics research would be alluded to, teasing and introducing the cosmic elements of the X-Men mythos that will come into play very soon. Corbeau is awesome, and Mandy Patinkin, the once-and-always Inigo Montoya, is pretty awesome as well.
The great thing about supposing a serial format is that a lot of elements can be introduced that won’t be paid off until a lot later (just like in the comics!). Thus, while the main plot juggles the big X-Men-versus-Magneto-versus-humanity stuff, there will still be plenty of room to learn a little more about our characters and the people who inform their backstories.
Julian Richings as Nathaniel Essex.
Nathaniel Essex is Scott Summers’ case worker. Surely there is nothing more interesting to say about him.
Bob Odenkirk as Jack Winters.
Jack Winters is a con-man, and Scott’s onetime foster father. Though a mutant (he can turn into a nearly unbreakable diamond form, a little like Emma Frost), he’s less of a supervillain than he is just a two-bit shyster. It would be a small but important role, providing insight into Cyclops’ past while also acting as the antagonist over an episode or two, and Bob Odenkirk’s wit could make Jack O’Diamonds . . . (wait for it) . . . sparkle.
Callan McAuliffe as Alex Summers/Havok.
Alex was adopted after losing their parents in a plane crash while his older brother wasn’t. Scott’s search for Alex would serve as a running subplot throughout the first season. Of course, they will reunite, but under dire (probably Sentinel-filled) circumstances. Though also a mutant, Alex really wants to live a normal life, and Callan McAuliffe possesses the right head-down earnestness to capture the younger Summers brother.
Andrew J. West as Cameron Hodge.
Cameron Hodge is Warren Worthington III’s close friend and college roommate. We won’t know it yet, but he is also the goddamn worst. Andrew J. West played the disconcertingly normal (almost downright friendly) cannibal Gareth in The Walking Dead. It was such a weird read of that particular character, but I think it would be downright brilliant in regard to Cameron Hodge. Hodge is normal, or at least he does an incredible job at making everyone think he is.
In part three, we’ll take a glimpse at what season two might entail, with an all-new, all-different team of X-Men stepping into the spotlight . . .