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Mutant X Interviews: Avi Arad, Rick Ungar (12/00 Cinescape)



Cinescape 12/8/00: Avi Arad, Carlos Lopez, Daniel Tibbets, Rick Ungar

MUTANT X TV SERIES DETAILS: New syndicated series no relation to the comic of the same name.
By: ERIC J. MOREELS, EDITOR Dateline: Wednesday, December 6, 2000
Source: X-Fan, Comics Continuum, Comics Newsarama

Fans of the recently cancelled Mutant X comic book series may find themselves somewhat disappointed if they expect the upcoming syndicated TV program of the same name to resemble the print version in any way. A source recently told X-Fan that the TV series will reflect the comic "in name only", and that the cancellation of the book had nothing at all to do with the show. Daniel Tibbets, head of programming and development for Fireworks Television, which is co-producing the series with Tribune Entertainment and Marvel Studios, told the Comics Continuum Web site that Tribune has a commitment for two years, with 22 episodes each year. "In the TV world, especially in syndication, you look for franchises and brands," Tibbets said of the X-Men spin-off. "And this is one of the biggest."

Regarding what characters will be featured in the series, Tibbets said, "It`s too early. The show-runner will have a lot to say in that, as will Marvel."

Marvel Studios` Carlos Lopez said, "We have been playing with some characters and ideas for the powers on the show. Right now nothing is really set in stone, but I guarantee it will be really exciting and on the edge. We have done some roughs for costumes that are very hot, but as of yet not final."

Tibbets also said that said that "physical hires" for the show will begin in February, with scriptwriting starting in March. Production is expected to start in May or June, possibly in Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada. The series is likely to premiere in syndication the week of October 23, 2001.

"It`s a whole new generation, you`ll see," Marvel`s Avi Arad said of the show earlier this fall. "It`s something very unique in live-action."

Meanwhile, Fandom.com`s Comics Newsarama Fandomain recently sat down with executive producer Rick Ungar to find out more about the show.

"The original working name was Genome X, but we all kind of decided that didn`t tell ya anything," Ungar explained. "Interestingly enough, when we came up with the title Mutant X for this show, we actually had forgotten - or at least I had - we had a comic called Mutant X. It was helpful that we already owned the title, needless to say, but that`s kind of where any similarities end. This show really has no relationship to the X-Men, or anything that`s existed in the Marvel Universe before. It`s brand spankin` new."

As to the premise of the series...

"Sometime probably around 20 or 30 years ago, the government and private industry started to experiment with what we now know as the Genome projects," Ungar said. "This conglomeration of sorts began to deal with the issue of trying to resolve the genetic structure of people, and they succeeded. And with this success, they began experimenting, though it wasn`t all some nefarious plot. In fact, most of the experimentation that was done was in most cases for good reasons, and intended to be positive. So what happened was people who had good connections with this conglomeration were able to request that their children be genetically engineered to certain specifications."

"So basically you have children who were born as a product of this genetic research. And though it was all done in secret, without the general public being aware of it, it all seems to be going swimmingly. People with the ability to make this connection to the government are able to ask for a child who, for instance, will be a very good athlete, and get a child who is engineered for that. And for the first 18 years or so of this kid`s life, that`s exactly what he or she would be - a very good athlete. A normal kid - not extraordinary in the sense of superhero-ish - but this would be a kid who would make it to the Olympics of whatever sport he/she chose to participate in."

"And that`s how it goes along and everything is just fine... until what happens is, these kids hit a certain age - and the age varies a little depending on the person - and it`s like a timebomb goes off. The bottom line is there is an error in the genetic coding, but it doesn`t manifest itself until different ages in different people, but when it `goes off`, things begin to happen to these kids that wasn`t in the genetic program, and this is what really forms the premise of the series."

Ungar told Newsarama that the star of the series will be one of those people that have been genetically engineered for intelligence, and who becomes `super-intelligent` after their bomb `goes off`.

"It doesn`t turn him into an evil person though," continued Ungar. "In fact he`s a very good person, but as he learns more about what happened to him, he realizes that there are others like him, and it becomes his responsibility to try and find these people as they`re having these problems and help them. As a result, you have this core of a leader and four other characters who now do have these `powers` that we`re used to seeing in Marvel-type mutants - which is really where the only similarity to the comics is - and forms this team of `new mutants` to go out there and help other `mutants` like themselves."

The villain of the piece will be the responsible government/private industry conglomeration who have reason to not want this mishap exposed.

"So unlike the X-Men scenario where the government wants to register mutants for their own purposes and to keep an eye on them, this is not really what this show is about," explained Ungar. "In this scenario, government/private industry did something they probably weren`t legally supposed to do many years ago, and it`s all gone wrong and the proof is out there in these mutated people. This conglomeration can`t have these mistakes walking around the streets, so this becomes the motivation for tracking these people down. And there is a tracking mechanism - which I`m going to keep a secret - so you have a situation where the good guys and the bad guys become aware of these mutations as they happen at the same time, and it almost becomes a race each episode to who can get to this person first and who will win the battle for their soul, if you will."

Ungar also said that whilst there are some similarities with the X-Men, he stressed that this series is also very different.

"We really did not want to go back and try and do the X-Men again," said Ungar. "The X-Men have been done really well, and hopefully they`ll continue to be done really well. I really wanted to come up with a new series idea that had a Marvel `feel` to it for a first run syndicated hour, because I really like that genre. But I really didn`t want it to be an existing Marvel character. One of the things about us is we rely very heavily on our existing library of characters, and for good reason. But I`ve always said it`s really time to create some new Marvel characters, and this really seemed like an awfully good venue to do it, and Avi [Arad] came up with a good idea for doing something, I picked up the ball along with him and we wrote what we think is a really neat new series idea, so it all kind of fit together."

As to the current theatrical X-Men trilogy from 20th Century Fox, Ungar said that they`ve been very cautious with Mutant X not to cause any conflicts.

"There are certain X-Men names and characters Fox holds the rights to, and we were hugely careful, for several reasons. No. 1 of which is we would never do anything to breach our very good relationship with Fox; and No. 2 we would never do anything to compromise the movies. Protecting the X-Men theatrical franchise is a top priority. So we were very cautious of even going into the area of `mutating` characters. But this went so far away from any existing concept. It`s almost become a situation where the X-Files has as much to do with the X-Men as Mutant X does."

Ungar also said he expects that at "some point in the future, we`ll see an X-Men spin-off of some sort on television, but it will probably be after the next feature and it will probably be for a network."

So although it won`t be a TV show based on the comic book, it`s not a stretch to presume that at some point after the show`s debut there may be a new comic book based on the show.

© Cinescape
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