The Shadow King In 'Legion' Season 2 Is A Villain "As Old As The Universe," According To Star Navid Negahban
He has haunted the periphery of the show for an entire season and appeared in various terrifying manifestations, but viewers have yet to see his true form. His name is Amahl Farouk, but his face remains unknown — until now. The Shadow King on Legion Season 2 will finally be unveiled in all his haunting glory and he's played by… pretty much the nicest person imaginable? When Bustle chatted with actor Navid Negahban about his debut as the supervillain, there was a decided dichotomy between the effusively generous Negahban and the manipulative monster he plays. But they do have one thing in common: they can't wait to mess with your mind.
"I don't think that the audience will be disappointed with the twists and craziness of the show," the Legion newcomer tells Bustle of the new season. "To be honest with you, I've never had this much fun doing a show. It was like a kid being in an amusement park." That roller coaster ride of a production was particularly intense for Negahban, who came into Legion relatively late in the filming process, replacing Wonder Woman actor Saïd Taghmaoui in the role after Taghmaoui departed the series for undisclosed reasons.
"I came in right at the end of Episode 7, so I had to, in a matter of two weeks, three weeks, I had to shoot seven episodes," Negahban recalls. "The scenes that involved Amahl Farouk, they had to reshoot everything. I had no time to think and I just needed to jump in. It was a crazy ride. What you see [onscreen] is sometimes how we feel on the set."
If Legion feels disorienting to watch, then it felt equally disorienting for Negahban to film. The Iranian-born actor, who TV audiences may recognize from his roles on shows like Lost, Fringe, 24, and most notably Homeland (on which he played the main villain, Abu Nazir, throughout the first three seasons) says he was only passingly familiar with the X-Men from the movies before signing on to the FX series.
"I watched Season 1 in one day, so by the end I didn't even know where I was," he remembers. "I had to learn as I was moving forward. It was funny because all the guys — Aubrey [Plaza], Dan [Stevens], Bill [Irwin], Jean [Smart], Rachel [Keller] — every time I had a scene with any of them, they would jump in and explain, 'This is what's happened so far, so this is what we're doing,' because it was crazy just to keep up with them."
Speaking of his Legion cast mates, Negahban's performance was a very collaborative one, considering some of his co-stars had already been playing various manifestations of the Shadow King for an entire season before his arrival. "What they did, it was kind of a blueprint for this season, so I had to study their work and see where they were coming from," he explains. "I had to be careful not to disappoint the character. The character was already established through them, so I had to keep up the intensity of what the essence of the character is."
That being said, he didn't want to simply mimic the performances of the actors who preceded him — most specifically that of Aubrey Plaza, who shed her familiar Parks And Recreation persona to play one of the Shadow King's favorite manifestations, Lenny. "What Aubrey has done, first of all, there's no way I'm going to be able to match that, so I left that as one of his colors, one of his nuances, one of the flavors of the character, one of the spices in this crazy dish," he adds. "But at the same time, I was just trying to add a little bit of my own flavor into the character."
Negahban can't wait for audiences to unravel the mystery that is the Shadow King. "As we go through the season, you will get to know the character better," he promises. "Each episode has teeny tiny clues that, when you put them all together, then you'll get to know the background of the character, where he's coming from. It was just fascinating to play a character who's as old as the universe."
But what Negahban loves most about the show isn't just its mystery-box plotting or mind-bending imagery, but its provocative themes of reality and insanity. "What I like about the show is, it's not just about entertaining you," he says. "Each episode, if you really pay attention, if you don't get lost in the episode, there's a question there. And there's a question in each of us we need to ask ourselves. So we have to look into it and figure out what it is. What is it that they want to tell us?"
One of the questions the actor has long been asking himself concerns representation, and whether Hollywood is getting better at depicting characters of Middle Eastern descent. Negahban thinks Hollywood has "changed for the better, if not as fast or as quick as we all hoped. We need writers and producers who are more familiar with what's happening in our world, and they're coming out," he says. "Right now with the internet and all the possibilities we have and how small the world has become through social media, we see there's not that much of a difference between all of us. We're the same. Deep inside yourself, your spirit, what is inside your core, there is no difference between that and what is inside me. My dreams and your dreams look very similar."
Negahban takes a deep breath. "This one is a conversation that's very close to my heart. Maybe another day; that's a longer conversation for us to sit down and talk. Because trust me, the world is not what they're telling us it is. It's beautiful. Hopefully one day we get a chance to sit down and chat longer about our journeys," he says. "When I'm talking to you about the world, I'm not as lost as I am when I'm talking about Legion."