Navid Negahban had just finished filming in a whole new world for the live-action “Aladdin” movie when he got the call from “Legion” creator Noah Hawley.
Following the departure of “Wonder Woman” actor Saïd Taghmaoui, the second season of FX’s Marvel series needed someone to play Amahl Farouk, an evil, telepathic mutant known as the Shadow King who can take over people’s minds and bodies, and also likes to cut a rug when the mood strikes. While the X-Men villain and Hawley’s take on the world convinced Negahban to join the project, he didn’t have much time to work, as they only had a few weeks to reshoot Farouk’s scenes.
“It was a roller coaster,” Negahban tells Metro. “When I came in, my gosh, I arrived and I was handed nine scripts and I had to watch the whole first season in one day just to catch up and see what they are doing.”
Luckily, the actor had a quite a few stars help him nail down the part, as the Shadow King has also taken up residence in the minds of Aubrey Plaza’s Lenny, Jemaine Clement’s Oliver and Dan Stevens’ David, the show’s main protagonist. Negahban praises his co-stars for their insight into the complex and strange villain.
“Aubrey had done such an amazing job creating the blueprint for the character. She set up a very high standard,” Negahban says. “Dan and Aubrey, they already set up the feel for the character. I had to come in and be their student.”
Ahead, we chatted with Negahban more about his royal roles as the Shadow King in “Legion” and the Sultan in Disney’s upcoming “Aladdin” film.
Since “Legion” is such a trippy show, were there any particular challenges to playing the Shadow King?
The challenge, for me, was just to step away and let [the Shadow King] take over. He’s speaking four different languages. The character has been around since the beginning of the universe. The Shadow King, on its own, was such a huge world to jump in. The way that, for example, David sometimes is lost in his mind and flying around, hovering and seeing everything and then doesn’t know where he is and what he’s doing — that, basically, was the journey.
What makes the Shadow King such a uniquely terrifying villain?
I think his sense of truthfulness. That’s what makes him scary. He is so unpredictable. He has lots of sorrows inside and it comes out, but at the same time, there’s a creepy gentleness about him, I feel. Nobody sees himself as a villain. I don’t think he looks at himself as a villain.
Can fans expect you to show off any dance moves during season two?
You might see some moves. I don’t think that I’m going to be able to keep up with Dan and Aubrey.
You’ve played a lot of bad guys over the years. Was it nice to play a good guy for once as the Sultan in the live-action “Aladdin” movie? What can fans expect from the film?
It was so much fun. It was like being on a playground. The character’s a goofy, sweet, at the same time troubled father, who’s worried about his daughter. You’ll enjoy that movie. I don’t know how much I can talk about it, but it’s not exactly what you remember from the animated film. You go deeper into the characters. You’ll see more of the backstories of each these characters. Especially working with Guy Ritchie — he has his own sense of humor.
Do you think “Aladdin” will follow in the footsteps of”Black Panther” and provide a significant pop culture moment for, in this case, Middle Eastern communities?
I hope so. The whole production team were very respectful to the cultural elements of this film, and to the background of each character. They were trying to respect and honor that part of the world, Middle Eastern culture. You’ll see it in the film. That’s one of the things that I’m excited about, because, even the casting of the film, it took so long because they were so determined to find the right actor. It wasn’t that much about the Hollywood standards and big names, it was about the right actor to play the right part.