With a character frequently known as "Maximus the Mad," you'd guess we're talking about a villain. And that's the role Maximus has commonly played among the Inhumans since first introduced by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966's Fantastic Four #47, but actor Iwan Rheon said that's not necessarily the case in the Marvel's Inhumans TV show set to debut this September -- at least, he's not coming out and saying it yet.
"There are no villains," Rheon told reporters including CBR on a visit to the show's Hawaii set this past spring. "It's developing as we go along. Maximus, he wants to help the people. He's actually genuinely out to help people in a system he believes is wrong and unjust. What's great about this show is it has sort of gray areas in terms of what is a villain, what isn't. It's not black and white."
And while Maximus doesn't necessarily look heroic in early photos released from the show (take a look below), this doesn't look to be the only change for the character in the jump to live-action. While Maximus has Terrigenesis-derived mental powers in the comic book source material, Rheon told press that on the show, Terrigenesis actually removes his Inhuman gene, leaving him a nonpowered human -- and someone who is looked down upon by the rest of the Inhuman Royal Family. "It's kind of the worst thing that can happen to you," Rheon explained, "but because he's the son of the brother of the king, that meant he didn't have to go and live in the mines."
While there's surely much to be revealed about Maximus' role on Inhumans following the show's debut on ABC on Sept. 29 (preceded by a two-week run in IMAX theaters of the first two hours starting on Sept. 1), Rheon discussed what he could with press outlets including CBR, including the burning question of who would win: Maximus or Ramsay Bolton, his savage Game of Thrones character? A condensed version of the conversation follows, and look out for more potential Inhumans information next week at Comic-Con International in San Diego, where the show will look to turn around a widely skeptical initial reaction, with a panel at 6:15 p.m. Thursday in Ballroom 20.
How do you describe Maximus to someone who might not know who the Inhumans are?
Iwan Rheon: Maximus is the brother of the king, Black Bolt. He's part of the Royal Family, and he's maybe the yin to Black Bolt's yang. They often don't see eye to eye. He's a very charismatic talker, where is Black Bolt's the complete opposite. That's a very interesting dynamic.
And also because his Terrigenesis made him a human, he's kind of looked down on by the rest of the Royal Family and the people of Attilan because he's not one of them, in theory. It's kind of the worst thing that can happen to you almost, but because he's the son of the brother of the king, that meant he didn't have to go and live in the mines.
What makes the show unique compared to the other Marvel TV shows?
It's a very different twist on the superhero genre in the sense that they're not really superheroes that are going out to save humanity and help against evil baddies. They're a race of people that have been living completely separate, on the moon away from the world. They don't want anything to do with humans, and they're hiding from them, essentially. We pick up the story with the sort of threat of [humans and Inhumans] meeting, and how that will pan out through the series is very interesting. The two worlds start colliding, and it's a very interesting dynamic in how two segregated groups interact, and how then you integrate them.
How does Maximus find humanity when he's put in this situation?
Well it's a very interesting thing for him because he is in theory a human. He feels a closer connection maybe in a way, and he feels there's more to learn on Earth. Attilan is a very limited society. It's a city on the moon and it has limited resources, limited, size, limited scope; and he believes that it's too small for the people, and the Inhumans could do better and move to Earth.
Would you compare his relationship with Black Bolt to Loki and Thor?
Yeah, possibly yeah. He's incredibly loyal to his brother and he loves his family, but he also feels very strongly about the world that he lives in and how he wants it to change and how he believes it should be, so that's where you get a sort of conflict.
You also starred in a superhero show, Misfits. Was there something about that genre that appeals to you?
When you get asked to do something for Marvel and it's such an interesting question that although on paper might seem quite similar to Ramsay Bolton or whatever, he's very different. He's a politician more than anything. He's not a vicious person just going around doing things because he can and he wants to. What's the point of being an actor if you don't take on these roles? It's being part of a completely different world and create a whole universe that you exist in. It's a very different thing.
Is there a supervillain in this show?
This is showing -- I don't want to say origins, because I don't think it is. But we enter the world where, I guess, there are no villains. It's developing as we go along. I guess you start maybe seeing certain people as we go along. Maximus, he wants to help the people. He's actually genuinely out to help people in a system he believes is wrong and unjust. What's great about this show is it has sort of gray areas in terms of what is a villain, what isn't. It's not black and white. It's a lot of shades to the characters. You could see Black Bolt as cruel because he's sending all the people to live in horrible conditions and mine for resources for them. Is he a villain for doing that?
Is the tone like a superhero comic book film like Guardians of the Galaxy, or is it more gritty? Is it closer in tone to Game of Thrones?
It's very difficult to tell because I haven't really seen any of it. I think what Marvel has done wonderfully is it kind of brings the superhero genre to us to make it less stylized. It feels like it's more a part of our world and we exist in it, which I think really works. They're trying to bring this completely foreign land to how we see it, and how we interact with humans. So it's a very interesting dynamic.
It's very interesting you very emphatically said he's not like Ramsay because I think when you got cast a lot of people thought he would be, since there are iterations of Maximus where he's very much the madman. Can you elaborate how they're different?
Maximus starts offsan opinionated, passionate young man who wants to change things, and he wants to do it peacefully. He's ruthless in his plans. Ramsay is a very dark, twisted individual who got pleasure from inflicting pain on people. He didn't have any real political ideas. He was all about, "I'll go in there, kill all them, and then we'll be sorted and figure out the next plan." Maximus is very considered. He's a politician; he thinks. He doesn't do his own dirty work, he manipulates people to do things for him. He doesn't run into a room with a knife. That's not who he is. So I guess there are fundamental differences. He's not evil. He doesn't want bad things to happen to people. He's a young, passionate man.
Who would win in a fight: Maximus or Ramsay?
Oh, Ramsay would kill him. Maximus would just be running away.
Can you talk a bit about your costume?
I think what [costume designer] Roland [Sanchez]'s tried to do is use some of the images from the literature of Inhumans, but it's very different. I've got this kind of leather, it's kind of cool, but it's very different. They wanted it to feel very different, because there is interaction with humans; we need to look weird, basically, in the human world.
Was there anything from the Paul Jenkins-written, Jae Lee-illustrated source material that was specifically influential to you in taking this role?
I think so. I think seeing the relationships was interesting, and how the rest of the Royal Family sort of talk and think about Maximus. I think the story we're telling is very different, certainly, to what you're talking about. It's interesting to see how they sort of look down on Maximus. I guess he's probably been a naughty boy in that specific literature. That's the kind of interesting thing. It says a lot about the relationship between Black Bolt, as well. He pities Maximus. That’s a very interesting dynamic to have between family members.
Can you clarify: Maximus is human, but does he have powers?
He has nothing. The Terrigenesis took away his Inhuman gene, so that was his transformation. He can't do anything. He's useless... He's a dead man.
Keep reading CBR for more from the set of Inhumans.