How Fox's Human Target changes the hero game

Mark Valley and Jackie Earle Haley are starring in a new television series for Fox called Human Target, based on Len Wein's comic book of the same name, and they say it's nothing like an earlier version featuring '80s pop hunk Rick Springfield. Which we think is a good thing.

Human Target centers on Christopher Chance (Valley), a man who takes on fake identities to make himself the target of attacks intended for his clients. Chance has a secret past and a bit of a death wish.

We got a chance to check out the screener, and it's action-packed while full of snarky humor that takes advantage of Valley's considerable charisma (you'll remember him from Fringe and Keen Eddie).

We got a chance to chat with Valley and co-star Haley (yes, Rorschach from Watchmen and the new Freddy Krueger) at Comic-Con this past weekend.

"Coming to this thing with Jackie is like going to Las Vegas with Elvis," Valley told us. "It's like, Jackie has entered the building."

For his part, Haley praised Valley: "This guy smokes it." He added: "When I was watching the pilot, ... it kept coming and coming and coming. I felt like I was watching a movie. A big-time movie action sequence."

Valley said he enjoyed a climactic fight scene, set aboard a speeding train. "One of the cool things about it is that everything became like a weapon," he said. "You get this and grab that." I asked him about the amount of training involved. "It was more like dancing, in a way," he said. "It was more like, get the moves down and kind of hone them in when the camera was there and make it kind of look real. But I got there a week ahead of time, and it's probably about three or four days that I went in and worked with the trainer. ... Actually, in the future I think I'm just going to make sure that the stunt man does it really well," he added with a laugh.

Haley's character, Guerrero, is a far cry from Rorschach in temperament, at least from what we saw in the pilot. He's soft-spoken and sweetly threatening as Chance's hired gun and techno-wizard.

The pilot hints at a backstory that will be slowly revealed to the audience. Haley said he actually didn't have a lot of that story to work with yet. "That's what's kind of so neat about this television series," he said. "It's getting to go in there and develop this. And I think what we're kind of getting, after, even when we were doing the pilot, was kind of getting after great questions, which is part of the process. It's like, I don't have any of the answers yet, and I think we're just getting after what are the right questions to ask about this guy and their pasts and stuff."

"I feel the same way," Valley added. "Like waiting to see where it goes."

Chi McBride plays Winston, the business manager for Chance. And he doesn't like Guerrero one bit. "To describe the relationship with these guys is as if he were a recovering alcoholic and Chi was the sponsor and Guerrero is the old drug dealer," Haley said.

Valley explained that they don't really know everyone's motives yet. "We don't know yet what everybody's interests are," he said. "For Chi, it might be simply business interests, you know, to keep his main guy working or on the up and up."

Chance has a scene in the pilot where he tells a long story in what sounds like fluent Japanese. Just how long did that take? "It took me about a good two weeks," Valley said. "I was meeting with this Japanese woman, and she was just laughing every time I would say [speaks Japanese]. [Imitating her:] 'No, you can't say it like that! A Japanese person would turn around and walk away. ... You can't say Japanese like an American.' It took me a while. It's really specific."

Human Target debuts on Fox on Jan. 17, 2010, and will air Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

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