Former Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens to star in X-Men TV spin-off

Former Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens is to star in a new television spin-off series of X-Men.

The British actor has landed the lead role in Legion, a new eight-part series based in Marvel's superhero universe, which is to hit screens in early 2017.

Dan, 33, will play David Haller, who is described as "a troubled young man who may be more than human", Marvel said.

X-Men director Bryan Singer is one of the executive producers on the show, which also stars Rachel Keller and Jean Smart from the television adaptation of Fargo and Aubrey Plaza from the comedy series Parks And Recreation.

Fargo writer Noah Hawley, who directed the pilot of Legion, is another executive producer on the superhero series, which will first air on US television network FX.

Nick Grad, president of original programming at FX Networks, said: "Just as (Hawley) did in re-imagining Fargo, he is bringing an entirely new aesthetic and sensibility to the enormously popular and richly represented X-Men world."

Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley, and Zoe Boyle as Lavinia Swire in Downton Abbey
Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley, and Zoe Boyle as Lavinia Swire in Downton Abbey (Nick Briggs/AP/PBS)

According to Marvel, Dan's character in Legion "struggles with mental illness" and is diagnosed as schizophrenic.

"David has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals for years," a statement from the studio said. "But after a strange encounter with a fellow patient, he's confronted with the possibility that the voices he hears and the visions he sees might be real."

Dan is best known for his role as Matthew Crawley in the ITV period drama Downton Abbey, which he starred in for three years until his character's death during the 2012 Christmas Day special. He is also set to appear as the Beast in Disney's live-action film adaptation of Beauty And The Beast alongside Emma Watson.

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