V Exclusive: Lauren Tsai As Legion’s New Superhuman

The Terrace House alumna leaps to prestige TV this summer.

The curious appeal of Terrace House, Japan’s feel-good equivalent to Big Brother, is its genre-defying aversion to emotional conflict; its young and attractive housemates, among them model-turned actress Lauren Tsai on Season 1 of Terrace House: Aloha State, manage to stir up storylines without ever breaching the do-no-harm oath. The same can’t be said of former resident Tsai’s new crew—a sect of psychologically afflicted, sometimes jarringly violent mutants on Legion, FX’s surrealist Marvel franchise, entering its third and final season this Monday.

What’s most surprising about Tsai’s leap from reality to prestige TV is that her multi-hyphenated success extends beyond the already-long-winded moniker of model-turned-reality-star-turned-model-again-turned-actress. Tsai, a Hawaii native who relocated to Tokyo in adolescence, considers art to be her foremost passion—one that flourished in the disembodied confines of online artist circles. “I was definitely deep, deep down the rabbit hole of the online [artistic] community,” Tsai tells us. “Probably 95 percent of my friends were online friends, for most of middle school.”

Despite her sunny TV roots, Tsai says her aesthetic has always skewed toward subculture: “Whereas animation in the states isn’t generally intended for adults, a lot of Japanese animation is definitely not innocent; I liked that it felt a little bit forbidden—like something I wasn’t supposed to be watching,” laughs Tsai, citing influences from Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle to oft-banned Manga series Death Note. “It was very gory and very dark, so I became very attracted to that kind of stuff.”

Legion has a curious appeal of its own, bringing together big-budge sci-fi action and cerebral themes, from mental health to mortality. Series newcomer Switch, played by Tsai, is a time traveler, who can also inhabit other mutants’ minds á la Freaky Friday. Despite her character’s fantastic idiosyncrasies, Tsai says she could relate to Switch on an emotional level. “Switch is someone who felt very disconnected from the world around her; she felt very comfortable inside her own head. That was kind of the narrative for my school life,” says Tsai. “I think the beauty of a show like Legion is that it takes us to a world that is so drastically different from our own, but what the characters go through are extremely real and human.”

Though Legion‘s third season, star-powered by the likes of Aubrey Plaza and director Andrew Stanton (The Incredibles), promises to enshrine Tsai in comic-book legend, she remains committed to her own artistic powers—while finding new platforms for her dark-art aesthetic. In addition to recently painting a large-scale mural in L.A. for the Mortal Kombat 11 launch, she recently worked with Marc Jacobs on a line of bags and tees. “I had never considered putting my work on wearable pieces before,” she says. “What drew me to fashion was to empower people to present themselves to the world in a visual way.” But, while Tsai’s talents seem be superhuman, her reluctance to wear her own fashions suggests she may be fallible after all: “[I have] a white hoodie [from the collection], but I am a messy person, so I know if I wear it, I am going to spill something on it within 10 seconds.”

LEGION — “Chapter 20” – Season 3, Episode 1 (Airs Mon, June 24, 10:00 pm/ep) — Pictured: Lauren Tsai as Switch. CR: Suzanne Tenner/FX
LEGION — Pictured: Lauren Tsai as Switch. CR: Pari Dukovic/FX
LEGION — Pictured: Lauren Tsai as Switch. CR: Pari Dukovic/FX
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