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The Gifted Actor Sean Teale is TV's Hottest Newcomer 

The Gifted Actor Sean Teale is TV's Hottest Newcomer

Total Eclipse
Photography: Steeve Beckouet

As the star in the highly anticipated superhero series, Teale is the latest recruit to the X-Men universe. 

Sean Teale was still in high school when he landed his first short film. He recalls sitting on the steps of a farmhouse outside London, waiting to begin shooting, when he felt someone approach him from behind. "I'm freezing and I get this weird nudge from above and hear this grunt," says Teale, an animated, engrossing storyteller. "I look up, and it is Tom Hardy, about half a foot from my face, with a shotgun and an air rifle on his back. I didn't manage to get many words out. And he just says, 'All right, mate, are you playing Derek?' "

The actor does a spot-on impression of his costar from Sergeant Slaughter, My Big Brother, a 12-minute curio from 2011 that's essential viewing for anyone interested in seeing Hardy naked (it's on YouTube). That's partly because Teale was quite enamored with--and fearful of--Hardy after seeing him play a real-life psychopath in Bronson. "I was a 17-year-old child," he says with a laugh. "It was a bit terrifying."

Six years later, Teale is experiencing another baptism of fire as he enters the fabled world of comic-book superheroes. This fall, he'll star in television's latest X-Men spin-off, The Gifted, a show whose trailer has been watched more than 13 million times. The queer mastermind of the film franchise, Bryan Singer, directed the pilot episode, which pulls together mutants already familiar to fans of the movies and comics. They include Polaris (special power: magnetism), Blink (a teleporter), and Thunderbird (who exhibits superhuman strength). Teale's character, Marcos Diaz, a.k.a. Eclipse, is a new addition whose party trick is manipulating photons.

Specific plot points are under lock and key, but the series, which premieres October 2 on Fox, focuses on a small band of mutants being driven underground by government forces. District attorney Reed Strucker (True Blood's Stephen Moyer) leads the hunt--until he discovers that his kids have unusual abilities, too.

An irresistible queer allegory has long been part of X-Men's rich tapestry. Singer injected its first film adaption, 2000's X-Men, with a categorically LGBT theme--those who are different become scapegoats in an intolerant society--and used that angle to persuade Sir Ian McKellen to join the cast as the supervillain Magneto. Similarly, in the new series, his children's revelation provides a teachable moment for Strucker, who turns to Eclipse and his mutant friends as an act of survival. "To Strucker, these mutants were villains and monsters--they weren't people," says Teale. "When he finds out his kids are mutants, his opinions start to change. I'm sure it's the same for so many children coming out to their parents."


Sweatshirt: Maison Margiela (Available at Mr. Porter)

Teale didn't need much schooling on the franchise's inherent parable. "It's about being a minority and being persecuted for it--for something that's not your fault," he says. "They've made the show at this time because of what's happening in Eastern Europe and Russia. There's antigay sentiment, Islamophobia, and all sorts of persecution across the globe."

The show also appears to have put its money where its mouth is. Its pilot was shot in Texas, but production was later shifted to Georgia--a decision announced the day after the Texas Senate revived its transgender bathroom bill. Parent studio 20th Century Fox declined to say if the bill affected its choice to relocate the cast and crew, but it has stated that it doesn't do business in states with anti-LGBT laws. Teale shares that stance: Shooting in states that vote on bathroom bills "should never be a question," he says firmly.

Teale hardly seems qualified to relate to a series about outsiders. The smolderingly handsome 25-year-old was born and raised in the wealthy suburbs of west London. His school, Latymer Upper, counts Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman among its alumni. But he had his own identity crisis, born out of his trans-global heritage. "My parents are Spanish and South American, but I didn't like speaking Spanish," he says. "I was a London boy and wanted to be English. Kids would say mean things. It made me close up and not be too open about it."

Now he proudly identifies as Venezuelan, Spanish, and Welsh--though a recent DNA test taken as part of a promo for The Gifted uncovered that some of his ancestors were Scandinavian and Kenyan. "I'm super hybrid. There's some Italian and Greek in there as well, which is where all the hairiness comes from," he says, pulling down the front of his shirt to reveal a healthy crop of dark chest fuzz.

Whatever Teale's genetic makeup is, it's working for him. He's 6 foot 2, with an athletic build; he used to play rugby but gave it up when he became hooked on drama at 16. He possesses a winning combination of charm, confidence, and a devilish smile--the marks of a leading man. It's a surprise his career in America hasn't taken off sooner. After landing supporting parts in PBS's Mr. Selfridge and The CW's Reign, he seemed set for his big break last year when he starred in the Syfy series Incorporated. But the show was canceled after one season.

The experience taught Teale that in Hollywood, nothing's a sure thing. But with The Gifted, the odds are stacked in his favor. And in the meantime, he's planning to have fun with those special mutant powers. "I just know there's going to be a scene where Eclipse is heating someone's Pop-Tart on the sofa," he says, contemplating potential scenarios and flashing that devilish smile. "Or I can't open a jar, so Thunderbird opens the jar. Or Polaris undoes men's belts with her eyes." In other words, appointment TV.

Photography: Steeve Beckouet
Styling: Frank Strachan
Groomer: Christian Vermaak (Using Mac Cosmetics & Bumble and Bumble)
Photographed at Paradise Garage, London

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