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Jean Smart of ‘Legion’ explains what’s ahead for FX sci-fi show

Jean Smart as Melanie Bird in "Legion."

Jean Smart as Melanie Bird in "Legion." Credit: FX / Michelle Faye

“Legion,” the FX mind-bender from Noah Hawley about powerful and quite possibly psychotic mutant superhero David Haller (Dan Stevens), launched its second season Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.

I spoke recently with one of “Legion’s” stars, the legendary Jean Smart, who plays Melanie Bird on the series. You already know Smart well — a three-time Emmy winner who has graced dozens of prime-time series, including “Designing Women” and “Fargo,” since the early ’80s — but who is Melanie? She runs Summerland, a safe haven for mutants where she helps them understand their powers and also protects them (fitfully as it turns out) from so-called “Division 3” and evil mutant Amahl Farouk, aka the Shadow King.

If none of this makes any sense to you — or even if it does — Smart is here to explain.

I freely admit that I don’t understand what’s going on in “Legion.” Do you?

(Laughs) No, I don’t. But in an odd way, that’s almost part of the show [and] there is a method to the madness for Noah Hawley. What I liked most about the show in season 1 was that even though it’s based on a Marvel character, it’s not remotely your superhero show. It’s almost a study of what insanity is, and of mental illness. It takes a step further in season 2 with almost the idea that we create our own madness . . . I feel like season 2 makes season 1 look like Dick and Jane.

What non-spoilery thing can you reveal about the second season?

“He [Hawley] is writing a very, very specific story about evil as well as the monsters that we create in our own minds.”

What can you say about the dastardly Shadow King?

“I don’t know all the history [and] can’t tell you everything [but] he becomes the puppeteer of season 2. He is basically the monster, the seed that was in David’s brain.

You were, of course, Floyd Gerhardt in the second season of “Fargo,” one of the most memorable heavies in the series’ run so far. What did Noah see in her that he thought would work so well in Melanie?

They were both similar in a lot of ways — notably women who had extremely charismatic, powerful husbands who they had lost and had to step into their shoes, men they had loved and who had affected them deeply. There’s also a quiet strength to them. They’re private people.

Will the role of Melanie be expanded in season 2?

Oh yes, season 2 is very satisfying, a lot of fun to play. Then the storyline with me and Oliver [Melanie’s husband, who has been stuck on an “astral plane”] is just wild, just wild.

Let’s switch gears a bit. You’re a prominent actress in Hollywood and have been for many years. What are your thoughts about the #Metoo movement?

For the most part it’s very good because I don’t think most men realize how much that kind of [sexual] intimation pervades everything for women, even women who are self-confident and who don’t feel like victims, although I’ve been in so many situations where there has been a slight feeling or even physical intimation. I’ve never been in a situation like any of these women have described, but do recall one time at a dinner with a producer and his wife sitting between us, and he kept grabbing my leg, and I thought, “What a jerk.”

The TV business is now consumed with reboot-mania. How long before we see a run at “Designing Women”? Which of your past shows would you like to see rebooted?

“Designing Women” is not going to happen unfortunately because half the core cast [Dixie Carter and Meshach Taylor] is gone. We also lost Alice [Ghostley]. It wouldn’t be good, but it would be fun. I had my son on the show — he’s 28 — and met my husband there, too. There are a couple of shows I’d love to take a crack at again — one called “High Society” with Mary McDonnell [from 1995] and another [from 1998] called “Style and Substance,” written by Peter Tolan. I did hear that someone threatened to spin off my character [Lana Gardner] from “Frasier,” which was one of my favorites but it was not financially feasible.

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