After a brief self-imposed hiatus from the small screen, actor John Shea, perhaps better known as Lex Luthor from LOIS & CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, is returning to television in another series with comic-book roots: MUTANT X.
Beginning in syndication the week of Oct. 1, MUTANT X tells the story of a corrupt government agency genetically engineering "super" humans. A number of these "New Mutants," as the human guinea pigs have been dubbed, have escaped from the program and are living life on the run - the organization's top agent ?? ?? is after them. However, they do have a place to turn. Shea plays Adam Xero, the leader of Mutant X - a group organized to find and protect fellow New Mutants from the agency that created them.
While litigation continues between Tribune Entertainment, Marvel Entertainment and 20th Century Fox over the show's alleged X-MEN rights violations, MUTANT X continues production and will debut as scheduled. And while Shea stresses that his series is not X-MEN, it's sure to draw followers of the comic book property and summer 2000 blockbuster, as well as fans from the actor's LOIS & CLARK days.
Legal issues aside, Shea feels that MUTANT X is "the perfect series at the perfect time" in his career.
"After being part of the team that created LOIS & CLARK for a period of over four years and having seen it become a global phenomenon, I [decided to] wait five years," says Shea. "I retreated into the independent film world, to the New York theater world, and I didn't want to come back into the mainstream television world until I knew that I could come onto something that was equally good and not be embarrassing. I knew I wanted to do something different and that was going to be a hit. I read a lot of pilots. I was offered lots of TV series, and I waited until MUTANT X came along."
In this go around, Shea plays the good guy, the moral core of the series. Adam is the leader of MUTANT X whose last name is shrouded in mystery and who just might be the smartest man alive.
"He was a scientist, a 19-year-old prodigy at Stanford University, a bio-geneticist, hired away to go work for a company called Genomex," Shea says. "He started working doing agricultural cross-fertilization using cross-gene work, thinking this work was going to be for Alberta, for Saskatchewan, for Kansas and Nebraska. Then, of course, it turns out that the things he was developing agriculturally, maybe even for animals in terms of genetic engineering and cloning, was secretly being used by the darker side of this corporation for human genetic engineering."
Going deeper into the roots of the series, Shea outlines a story based on corruption, conspiracy and, of course, super-powers. Think of it as the SUPERFRIENDS meets DARK ANGEL.
"[My character] discovers that Genomex is actually a cover corporation for a wing of the CIA - the American Industrial Complex - and that they're using the genetic research to develop these powers in human embryos. He's disgusted by this and he downloads everything he can before he can be captured. And then what happens in the course of the series is that the embryos that were experimented upon are now coming into maturity and people are discovering, much to their surprise, that they have these astonishing powers. They also find out they are being pursued by this branch of the government called the GSA - or the Genetics Security Agency - which is now trying to track us down, hunt us down, to exploit the powers for their own dark purposes. You can imagine how they could use guys like this in espionage and in mind control. Or they will kill us if we don't play their game."
So Adam takes the millions he made on the Internet and builds an underground sanctuary, full of peaceful-looking plants and waterfalls, but also very high-tech computer gadgetry and a VTOL vehicle. There, he is joined by four young New Mutants - Shalimar (Victoria Pratt), Jesse (Forbes March), Brennan (Victor Webster) and Emma (Lauren Lee Smith) - in his mission.
While Shea acknowledges that it's fun to play a hero, he considers Adam to be more of an anti-hero.
"He's complex, a very human being, not a one-dimensional super-hero by any stretch," Shea says. "The guy is a scientist, and that's already a weird and a complicated thing to be. Secondly, he is on the run, so he's a fugitive scientist. He's being hunted down by the GSA, which is actually part of the government, and that's the law, so he's an outlaw scientist. So that becomes complicated for him emotionally, intellectually and spiritually and it makes him much more interesting to play."
Having been involved in a comic book based series once before, Shea understands the importance of visuals. To that end, he insists that MUTANT X is raising the bar for TV.
"This show is being produced by this top-notch team," Shea says. "Jamie Paul Rock and his team created LA FEMME NIKITA. And if anybody saw that, you know that it looked really good. It was shot like a feature film, like ours is, shot like a feature film. It's all done with state-of-the-art CGI. The stuff that we can do on this show couldn't be done on a television show, even when we were shooting LOIS & CLARK. Because in the last seven years, the technology has allowed us to do astounding things on a weekly basis that seven years ago, you could only do on a feature film. So it looks astonishing."
LOIS & CLARK continues to air in reruns on TNT after ABC abruptly pulled the plug on the series and while rumors persist as to a possible LOIS & CLARK reunion, Shea is quick to put the kibosh on said reports.
"There are no LOIS & CLARK projects that I know about that are planned," Shea says. "If there were to be, I would probably be part of them. Teri Hatcher, who played Lois, was just in town shooting a film. She and I stay in touch all the time. We talk about doing something maybe down the line, but at the moment there is nothing planned."
Besides, with 44 episodes of MUTANT X ordered, Shea will be pretty active over the next two years.
"It gives us a future to evolve this for the next two seasons," Shea says. "That's a real luxury for the writers and the actors and the directors and the production team, so we can plan these stories out over a long period of time."