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As we enter Emmy season — nomination voting runs June 12 to June 26 — Yahoo TV will be spotlighting performances and other contributions that we feel deserve recognition.
As a child, Legion star Aubrey Plaza enjoyed a brief stint in the world of competitive Irish dancing. But the moves she demonstrates in her showstopping dance number from the sixth episode of Noah Hawley’s mind-bending Marvel Comics-derived FX series most definitely didn’t originate on the Emerald Isle. In preparation for a sequence that finds Plaza’s character, Lenny — the mental manifestation of an evil mutant who has taken up residence inside the head of the show’s troubled hero, David Haller (Dan Stevens) — dancing, the show’s choreography team presented her with the haunting music video that Beyoncé filmed for her 2013 track “Haunted.”
“I watched that video a bunch,” Plaza tells Yahoo TV in her edition of our Emmy series My Scene to Remember. “My wardrobe is a little bit inspired by that. I was truthfully just trying to act like Beyoncé in some of it!”
“Haunted” isn’t the track that Lenny is dancing to onscreen, of course. Her taste runs more toward Nina Simone, specifically a remixed version of the singer’s 1965 classic “Feeling Good.” Plaza estimates she listened to the Bassnectar Remix take on “Feeling Good,” which first dropped on the 2013 album Verve Remixed: The First Ladies, at least “200 million times” before she struck her first pose for the camera. “I was excited,” she remembers. “I knew that Bill Irwin [who plays mutant scientist Cary Loudermilk] had a dance sequence kind of thing, and we had the Bollywood dance [in the pilot]. I didn’t know if my character would get one, so when I saw it I was really excited.”
As befitting an atypical villain, Lenny’s solo number wasn’t filmed like a typical dance routine. The sequence was shot in bits and pieces over the course of a week, often out of chronological order. “I didn’t know how they were going to edit it,” she says. “I didn’t know there was going to be a James Bond-style silhouette thing either. I shot a bunch of sequences on the sets of David’s memories, and then did a dance sequence where it was just me in a green room surrounded by green screens on all sides. Our schedule was so insane, we had to fit those sequences in when we could. It wasn’t ‘One day is the dance, and then I don’t have to think about it anymore!’ It was a lingering kind of thing.”
Despite the chopped-up way the sequence came together, Plaza maintained a consistent through line in her head about what she hoped the scene would communicate. “I felt like Lenny had a very masculine energy most of the time, and I wanted to have this real feminine moment with the dance. I wanted to be free and feel sexy and kind of just go for it,” she says. None of those directions were on the page, by the way. “The direction in the script was something along the lines of ‘Lenny dances a dance of malevolent joy,‘” Plaza recalls. “‘She rubs her stink all over David’s memories.’ That was it. I just kind of went from there and made it up.”
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