John “Thunderbird” Proudstar has found a new lease on life in Fox’s X-Men series The Gifted. Though the character died mere issues after his inaugural issue in the comics, the freshman TV series has made him an important member of the Mutant Underground. Thanks to the events of last week’s episode, he has even found himself involved in a surprise love triangle — but that will have to be tabled for now, seeing as the Mutant Underground is gearing up to go rescue Polaris and the Strucker patriarch Reed from Sentinel Services.
Speaking to CBR, Thunderbird actor Blair Redford weighed in on his character’s all-new direction on The Gifted and teased how John will handle Blink’s new affection for him, his history before the Mutant Underground, what he knows about Sentinel Services’ suprise threat and more. He also discussed where he would like take the character moving forward and the responsibility of playing one of Marvel’s only Native American superheroes.
CBR: We got a glimpse into John’s history with Dreamer in the last episode. How will upcoming episodes continue to explore that?
Blair Redford: Yeah, we definitely touch back on that a little bit. They sort of put it out there, what the vibe is, in episode three like you saw, talking about the fact that they did have a relationship for a moment and, when she realized she was going to stay on and be a permanent member of the headquarters, they put everything on pause romantically so they could get the job done, as it were. As we all know, despite it being said and done, that can be a complicated thing and it will get more complicated in the future, especially since you sort of introduced this Blink situation with Thunderbird. Whether it will be because of the implanted memories now or because there’s something really there… Either way, it’s going to complicate things between the three of them.
So thanks to Dreamer, John has found himself in a really messed-up kind of love triangle. How does he handle that moving forward?
Well, as he said in episode three, he didn’t make the decision, but I think he agrees that Dreamer was coming from a good place when she did it. So he’s kind of caught between a rock and a hard place with that whole thing. He’s not really the one that did it, so I don’t think he feels a responsibility to bring it up to Blink. I think he’d prefer that the two girls get it worked out while he just kind of steps back, but it’s definitely something he’s concerned about.
Will we get to see any other aspects of his life before the Mutant Underground?
Yes. Yeah, we definitely delve into that a lot, especially the military history in his life. It’s a big component of the character and why thinks the way he does and why he operates the way he does. He’s very militant-minded, and — being a marine veteran — he’s all about brotherhood and caring about the man next to you more than yourself and never leaving a man behind and sacrificing yourself for them, that whole thing.
We’re big on flashbacks moving forward here in the series, which I think are some of the coolest things for the audience to see. It sets a nice opportunity to see the history of all the characters, and you’ll definitely see a few John Proudstar military-related flashbacks, so that’s pretty cool.
John and Clarice have had quite a few scenes together. What’s it been like to work so closely with Jamie Chung?
Oh, man! To be honest, it’s a blast. We get along really well working with each other. There’s actually been some nice opportunities where they kind of just let us improvise a lot. I really haven’t done that as much with any of the other actors on the show, but me and Jamie just sort of joke around in between scenes, kind of playing with the dialogue, making it our own, and the writers will overhear it and they’ll just give us the green light to go ahead and film that… We’ve just got to have a good rapport with each other when we’re in the characters’ shoes.
In the trailer for episode four, it looks like John has some idea about what’s dampening the mutants’ powers. What can you tell me about that?
Well, I think most of that needs to stay undescribed, but there’s a new character that’s introduced, an opponent they’re up against, and he has the ability to suppress mutant powers and suppress electronics within a certain radius. So, yeah, he’s a very powerful thing to go up against.
Would you say he takes on more of a leadership role in this episode?
Yes! Yeah, I think so. I think you start to see a little more of the commander position when it comes to this episode because it’s the first time you’ve seen them put a defensive plan together. I think in episodes one through three, they’re just kind of on their heels the whole time, trying to regain their balance because it’s just one thing after another, of problematic things that come up for the group. This is really cool: in episode four for the first time, you see them basically steady themselves and say, “Alright, what are we going to do to get ourselves out of this hole and to help our friends?”
The show has explored Marcos’ relationship with Lorna, but hasn’t really touched Lorna and John’s friendship. How would you describe that dynamic?
They were originally friends and partners that developed the Underground — or not the Underground, but the Atlanta branch of the Underground. They did that together, and they sort of found Eclipse together and brought him in. Obviously, Eclipse and Polaris had the romantic connection that kicked off right from the get-go, but yeah, they’re just friends and teammates. I think they really care about each other, but they’ve known each other the longest out of everyone you see at the Underground, so that’s something to keep an eye on, I think.
As I know you know, Thunderbird dies pretty much right away in the comics —
Yes! [laughs] I’ve had many, many X-Men fans bring that up to me all the time. But alright! I get it! You don’t have to follow everything in the comics verbatim.
But that gives the show some creative freedom in its approach to the character. Where would you like to see him go from here?
Yeah, I guess you’re right! It does kind of leave an open canvas if they’re not going to kill him. They can write a lot of different experiences and stuff for the character. I think the interesting thing about John’s character is some stuff you’ve already seen, like we talked about the military background. I love that we get to explore that. I’d love to see us delve a little bit more into his Apache background and what the story is there, growing up on the reservation and when his powers manifested there on the reservation. I definitely, at some point if it’s doable, would love to see something with his brother Warpath. I think that’s a story everybody would be really excited about and there’s a lot of places to go with it. I’m not sure what we could do there or what we have plans to do with that character, but that one would be pretty exciting to me.
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If you could pick any other mutant for Thunderbird to team up with, who would it be? Can be anyone from the comics or the movies or other TV shows.
That’s a good question! So let’s take Warpath out of it — we just talked about that; obviously it’d be a cool team up to see the Proudstar brothers. You know, there’s a character from the characters that we’ve been lucky enough to get on the show, and at this point, he’s just a small character. I think we saw him in episode three. He’s not a huge part of the storyline of in this first season yet, but maybe he’ll find something bigger as we move along. I’ve talked to him a lot and I think just there’s some really cool stuff we could do because he has the power to touch things and crystalize them. So he’d be a great team up if they were up against people or even terrain where Shatter could just move around touching people and crystalizing them and Thunderbird comes along behind and just smashes everything to pieces, and they just leave a wake of little crystal shards behind them after they’re done with the battle. I don’t know! It just inspires me visually. I’d like to see that.
A sad reality of television is that it generally isn’t a very diverse place. Considering that, what does your role on The Gifted mean to you?
I agree with you. Television has been… it’s not the most diverse place for casting. I’d like to think that things are kind of moving in a more open and positive direction. The fact that I’m getting to play a character who is one of the only Marvel Native American characters is a huge opportunity. There’s a lot of responsibility with that, but I also just think it’s a huge positive for me to show that side of my background and my makeup. Yeah, so just trying to take that opportunity and have fun with it, because there aren’t a lot of diverse roles out there, especially in the superhero realm.
Airing Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Fox, The Gifted stars Stephen Moyer as Reed Strucker, Amy Acker as Caitlin Strucker, Sean Teale as Marcos Diaz/Eclipse, Coby Bell as Jace Turner, Emma Dumont cast as Lorna Dane/Polaris, Jamie Chung as Blink/Clarice Fong and Blair Redford as John Proudstar/Thunderbird, Natalie Alyn Lind as Lauren Strucker and Percy Hynes White as Andy Strucker.
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