In a post 9/11 world, well-armed bands of vigilantes seem uncomfortably realistic. They crop up, and government agents are not far behind ready to thwart them, as they do in TNT’s “Legends” premiering Wednesday, Aug. 13.
Sean Bean (“Game of Thrones”) plays one such FBI agent, Martin Odum, who slips in and out of undercover operations with such ease he’s losing himself in the process.
“He’s a lone wolf in a sense,” Bean tells Zap2it, relaxing on a terrace at a Beverly Hills, Calif., hotel. “He’s a blank canvas for his legend. He enjoys playing his legend more than he enjoys his real life. He’s estranged from his wife and child and even from his colleagues.”
“Legends,” based on Robert Littell’s novel, has the edgy energy of “Homeland,” which isn’t surprising considering executive producers Howard Gordon and Alexander Cary, are behind that Showtime hit.
This series opens with tense scenes from a militia. Odum is undercover as a man named Lincoln, who stutters, wants to meet the boss, then thinks he’s going to get shot.
Odum takes insane risks, worrying everyone in his FBI office.
Among those is his colleague, Crystal McGuire (Ali Larter), who like everyone in the office, is necessarily tough. They’re hunting internal terrorists while going deep undercover.
“Finally, this opportunity of peeling back the layers of the onion,” Larter says of her character. “I love looking at different characters and figuring out why they do what they do, and figuring out the passions and dreams. That’s the fun of it for me.”
Bean says he’s enjoying playing multiple characters, an acting feat he had not tried before. He explains the title, and how legends are not what viewers might assume.
“The legends are the parts he plays,” Bean says. “The police and the FBI use legends as someone who goes undercover. That’s his life, I guess. Apart from him changing his character, he has his own personal crisis. Is he a legend?”
Undoubtedly, and there’s a mysterious character in the pilot who questions whether Odum is who he thinks he is. No answer is revealed, which adds to the show’s mystery.
“It’s a very exciting psychological thriller about the FBI, criminals and undercover agents and shows you the repercussions about being an undercover agent, and how it leaves psychological problems,” Bean says.
Odum’s psychological problems include not trusting anyone. He lives alone with just a mattress on the floor, though he has a young son who adores him.
What’s fascinated Bean is how these legends lose themselves in their roles undercover.
“I talked to people who were undercover — up to a point they talk to you,” he says. “And how it affected their lives and got so immersed and couldn’t go back into their lives.”