Cover photo credit and caption: COMIC-CON INTERNATIONAL: SAN DIEGO — “The Magicians Press Room” — Pictured: (l-r) Hale Appleman, Stella Maeve, Jason Ralph, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Sera Gamble, John McNamara — (Photo by: Tibrina Hobson/SYFY)

The Magicians Interviews 2018

Now that we are into Season 4 of SyFy’s magicians, these interviews from Comic-Con International: San Diego will have a bit more context. Season 4 starts well after magic returns, after magic is jacked by The Library, after Dean Fogg has hidden his former students from the monster that now inhabits Eliot. The show remains raw and difficult, off-the-rails and inventive, heartbreaking and redemptive. And that is only after three episodes. We will write a more formal review a few more episodes into the season. In the meantime, enjoy The Magicians interviews 2018 from last year’s Comic-Con International: San Diego.

Note, the text is not a transcript, but a capturing of key ideas. The entire interview is posted as audio for those who want to listen to it. Apologies for the occasionally oversampling of the audio. These were roundtable interviews so several journalists were asking questions during the recording. Unfortunately, Stella Maeve was not feeling well and left before our table rotation.

All photos below © 2018-2019 by Daniel W. Rasmus for

Olivia Taylor Dudley

Olivia Taylor Dudley The Magicians interviews 2018

Still in jail. This year: a redemption story. Moving on from being a lost soul how never figured it out. This season: given in to realities. Magic is what it is. How to get out of jail and save her friends. Will see a different version of Alice. I want to switch her up. Doesn’t know where the Allice/Quentin thing is going. Everyone is mad at Allice. I don’t know why. I think did the right thing.

My question: what was the hardest part of last season? The Finale was really hard. I had the flu, Hale had the flu. We didn’t have a lot of time to shoot a lot of it. The directors, people were fires in California. Everyone was worried about their houses. It was a stressful time. We managed to shoot the whole episode like a play, In order, in front of everybody, which was really fun and difficult.

They have a way of writing really ridiculous things. I signed up for this really grounded book. Our job is to ground what they write. The balance of them writing some crazy shit, and us taking it really seriously is what makes The Magicians The Magicians. When I read the script, I ask how I tell the story through this human being named Alice. That is the only way I can do it.

Alice born into magic. Very different. Her comfort zone is in her brain. Great to play against the stereotypes. She is not an emotional creature like other characters. I’m fascinated by that.

Comic-con: fans have gotten very personal. Fans tell us life stories and trauma. Very fascinating. I have never experienced fandom like this. At NY Comic-Con every question was emotional. We have a very giving audience.

So far, I miss working with Summer. I want to work with her more.

I don’t want Alice to ever be funny. If something comes along, I don’t’ want to do it. But they are really good at writing to our characters.

Musical? We’ve done one every season. Some 80s ballads would be really fun. I keep asking for Bork, but that is never going to happen.

Hale Appleman

The Magicians interviews 2018 Hale Appleman

I’m only a villain now. I can only say villainess things.

There is a childlike nature to the monster. John McNamara asked, “Can you play him like a nine-year-old with no empathy or impulse control?” The monster has his own agenda. Hopefully, he will mature over the course of the season.

The new character is a bit scary. To change it up so drastically was a bit of a challenge. Exciting. Changing expectations for the audience. No drugs. Like fatty fried foods and blood. Different vices. Mostly different vices.

I love Summer. She is one of my favorite actors and people. I would vote for an episode where we can really explore our relationship. I really love watching Kacey Rohl who plays Marina, and I would really love to do something with her.

Where Eliot should go: Hopefully he gets his body back. I don’t know when and if he will come back (only shot through episode 4). Explore backstory. Internal emotional machinery of Eliot. Great to fully explore why he is the way he is, where he comes from, where he’s going.

Lev Grossman wrote some of that backstory in the books, and I filled in some of it before we started shooting.

More powerful than any big bad we have ever seen. He can destroy people with a flick of a finger or a breath. He can wreak havoc in an urban center. He is really pretty sweetly terrifying. There is no bottom to him.

Musical. I would love to see the monster and Eliot do a duet, Frank Sinatra or Johnny Mathis. That would make my heart swell. I think John is more of a fan of the up-tempo iconic Anthem so I may just need to destroy sacred property again. So please forgive me.

Jason Ralph

The Magicians interviews 2018 Jason Ralph

I play this character named Brian. I refer to him as Bri-Guy. I think he has a shiny disposition than Quentin does. I spend 75-percent of his time on-screen covered in blood. That’s all I got.

Quentin and Eliot are very similar people who have found different ways to express themselves. Soul mates. They push each other in unexpected ways. It’s a lifetime love (see Life in a Day). They lived a very complicated life together. They have the emotional wealth of a relationship that is 120-years old. They raised a child together.

I would imagine if these characters ever re-emerge, there would be a strong desire to get his friend back from the clutches of this thing. Defeating it. Transforming it.

Playing the Beast. Worried about the performance aspect of it. Didn’t really rehearse it. Showed up on the day. It just sort of made sense. Put the costume on, right shoes, get a better hairstyle. The Beast is a theatrical creature, which is fun. I do a lot of theater. It felt presentational in that way. Quentin lives here. The Beast can take up a lot of space. That was fun.

Quentin’s story or Julia’s story? Gone away from the books. Ensemble-based. Different people will find themselves drawn to different characters and all of those characters are so much more fully explored because it was just Quentin’s view of the world, but this is the luxury of television.

I’m glad we created the experience for people to be drawn to different things.

Taylor Swift again?  Hopefully Britney Spears.

A lot of us were drawn to these books for the nuanced conversations it creates about depression and anxiety, sexual assault, as actors that is a part of the show we very careful to guard and usher those conversations with the utmost respect. To be on a show that creates an environment in which in a room full of strangers your innermost demons are on the tip of your tongue is pretty cool. (Jason Ralph was raising money during Comic-Con form Covenant House).

Summer Bishil

The Magicians interviews 2018 Summer Bishil

Janet has a new trade (publisher). Still a proponent for change in the profession she’s in. She is outspoken, motivated, ambitious and strong. Didn’t change the character. She is still her, just without the knowledge that magic is real, and that has certainly defined her a great deal. There are still a number of characteristics are innate to her being and soul. Some of the tweaks are there, but the motivations are still who she is. It’s never just a job on

The Magicians. You can’t just phone it in, just do your schtick. You have to be present at all time to understand tonally how a scene should play. I love dealing with big issues. That is part of what makes this show tick.  These strong characters are fleshed out, developed and intriguing, but they are confronted with real-world issues with real consequences, but we also have magic, and it’s also kooky, crazy and fun, and one of the things that makes the kooky crazy and works, is we have these hard scenes. As an actor, we can fluctuate between genres.

The challenge of the character shift was welcomed as a learning opportunity.

John McNamara and Sera Gamble

The Magicians interviews 2018 John McNamara and Sera Gamble

We are saying fuck a lot. A lot. Sometimes ten times an episode.

When we last saw our friends, they had no fucking clue where they were. First order of business when magic gets turned and an organization swoops in and takes control and a monster of untold power in walking about in your best friend’s body. That’s a bad time to forget who you are. Some fun with witness protection identities.

Janet/Margo and the monster do end up in the same room. I want them to Margo and Eliot, but they aren’t. That’s a good kind of torture for the audience because we know what we want and we aren’t getting it.

Library direction…An interesting thing about writing this show, America has changed a lot while we’ve written the show. We can’t ignore what’s going on in the world around us. The Library…we all want to talk about Fascism, it’s just in the air.

Depression and dependency, heavy social issues: Honest, do research. Access parts of yourself if you have been through that. Writing something to entertain and hopefully engage. And the minute as you start telling people how to have a better life, start a religion you are not doing entertainment.

On feminism. Portray characters honestly and three-dimensionally. Never use them just to tell another character’s story. Who is Alice? What is her story? All new directors have been women directors. Mentoring, giving them an opportunity to grow. Directing: honest about its sexism.

What magic would you like? (Sera): I would like the script to write itself.

Special effects: Season 1, mix and reshoots, experiments. Season 2: Figured out what worked.

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