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5 Takeaways From ‘Legion’ Creator Noah Hawley’s SXSW Conversation

Noah Hawley has had an impressive run these last few years, and with “Legion’s” early success it doesn’t look like he’s slowing down anytime soon. Originally a songwriter and then an author, Hawley sounded like a true director when he spoke at South by Southwest on Saturday in conversation with New York Times best-selling and Pulitzer Prize finalist Philip Meyer, whose AMC series adaptation “The Son” premieres on Sunday.

“The more I do this,” he said, “the less I want to have pages of dialogue. [Television is] a visual medium, and today – with people’s 70-inch TVs and the ability to watch without commercials, it might as well be the movies.”

With his repeated adage – “What else can I get away with?” – Variety reports on Hawley’s most interesting tidbits from the conversation:

He wants to stay grounded in Hollywood:

“I was very happy in San Francisco with my life, and this whole thing could have been a lark,” Hawley said. “It could’ve added up to nothing that would’ve been fine. I remember telling myself to not let go of that feeling. The last thing you want is to be desperate in Hollywood. What I’m writing today is what keeps me grounded and excited, not what I’ve done or am going to do.”

He believes television writers should develop a distinctive voice:

“TV is all about learning to write in someone else’s voice, so if you do it long enough without selling your own project, they assume you don’t have your own voice, you’re just a good mimic,” he said. “The writers’ room was invented because in TV they used to make 22 or 26 hours of one show and there’s no way one person can write all that and because you’re always filming when you’re writing, you need 15 people … When you’re only making 10 hours there’s no excuse to not make it your own.”

He believes it’s never too late to edit the story:

“The second season of ‘Fargo’ is a good example,” he explained. “I ended up needing to reshoot some of that episode and re-cut a lot. I didn’t want to do what ‘Game of Thrones’ does – you do your Tyrian Lannister story for 10 minutes and then you never go back to it. The whole point of ‘Fargo’ is that all these people are on a collision course and we needed to keep them alive. We found this split screen idea in post, which was not the original intention.”

He wants “Legion” to hypnotize you:

“‘Legion’ is meant to be a show that is a state of mind. But the problem with TV is that there are commercials,” Hawley said. “There’s a hypnotic quality to the way we put it together. I need to get you out of your life in the first seven minutes of that show.”

He says creative freedom is not a fight at FX:

“They want to break ground if they can,” Hawley said. “The job at broadcast is to figure out what the dumbest person in the room is going to think. That’s not the case at FX.”

WATCH: Noah Hawley & Dan Stevens’ ‘Legion’ Variety Cover Shoot

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