Developed by 20th Century Fox and Marvel Television, “The Gifted” is set in the X-Men universe at a time when the iconic superhero group has inexplicably disappeared and mutants are (once again) public enemy number one.
When two newly “awoken” mutants, teenage siblings Lauren and Andy Strucker (Natalie Alyn Lind and Percy Hynes White), appear on the radar of a mutant-policing government agency called Sentinel Services, the Strucker family is forced to go on the run.
“I like that it’s a family story,” said Stephen Moyer, who plays non-mutant Strucker patriarch Reed. “It’s about ordinary people going through extraordinary things. I’m always drawn to that as a film watcher or somebody who watches television. I like that very much. This is about a family going through change and difficulty, and trying to come together for the good of their kids.”
The Struckers’ sudden and unexpected life as fugitives weighs just as heavily on Reed and his wife Caitlin (Amy Acker) as it does their mutant children.
As it turns out, he works for the government agency responsible for apprehending mutants while she is tasked with an infinitely more difficult job—being a mother.
“Everybody else has super powers, so maybe I’m the special one,” Acker joked during our chat at July’s San Diego Comic-Con. “It’s such a neat character, because this is not the life she ever imagined for herself or her children. She’s really gonna have to find out who she is in this mutant environment.”
While “The Gifted” won’t feature primary “X-Men” characters familiar to fans of the film series, comic book enthusiasts will recognize heroes and villains such as Blink (Jamie Chung), Polaris (Emma Dumont), Thunderbird (Blair Redford), Shatter (Jermaine Rivers), Sage (Hayley Lovitt), Dreamer (Elena Satine) and Ahab (Garret Dillahunt).
"This is very much an underground version," Moyer explained. "There's no superhero suits. We don't see Charles [Xavier's] school or anything like that. This is very much a subterranean world, because it's illegal to use your mutant powers in public. It's a real exciting world in which this family goes on the run. We will see lots of similarities with today's world."
As the Strucker family searches for sanctuary, they stumble upon an underground faction of mutants who are similarly fighting for survival in an increasingly unfriendly world.
Among their new allies is Eclipse, an all-new mutant played by “Reign” alum Sean Teale.
"His real name is Marcos Diaz," Teale told me. "He was a young boy in Bogota, Colombia, born to a poor family, and he lit up at a young age. In search of many things, including family, he goes to the U.S. where the X-Men and the Brotherhood and so many other mutants are. He's trying to find the place to belong and a place to do the right thing, and on the way he has to sacrifice a lot of who he is and do a lot of harsh things to get there. He has to make a lot of difficult deals."
Like Eclipse, one of the series’ primary antagonists was also created specifically for “The Gifted.” Sentinel Service agent Jace Turner, played by former “Third Watch” and “Burn Notice” star Coby Bell, is among those with the unenviable task of hunting and imprisoning rogue mutants wherever they lurk.
But don’t call him a villain.
"My guy's not a cut and dry villain," Bell explained. "He's definitely the enemy of the mutants, as far as they're concerned, but to him, I think he's just doing his job. He doesn't get any pleasure out of separating children from their families and all that kind of stuff. I think he sees it like he's doing the right thing. His daughter was killed in a mutant-related incident, like a battle. She was an innocent casualty. He joined the Sentinel Services sort of to make sure that didn't happen to any other family."
“He’s almost a hero, if you really think about it,” he added with a wry smile.
“The Gifted” is co-produced by the “X-Men” film franchise team of Bryan Singer (who also directed the pilot episode), Lauren Shuler Donner and Simon Kinberg.
But unlike the “X-Men” movies, which rely heavily on special effects and high-octane action sequences to wow audiences, this new series aims to satisfy established and new fans alike with a more grounded—dare I say human—approach to the mutant saga.
"We have some huge, amazing set pieces, but these guys aren't omni-powerful, omnipresent superheroes," Teale said. "These guys are people that are being persecuted for being nothing other than themselves. It's like a street-level view of the X-Men universe. This is the nitty-gritty. This is the real. This is the people. These are ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances."
“The Gifted” premieres Monday, October 2 at 9 p.m. ET on FOX. Click here to watch the first six minutes of the pilot episode.