At New York Comic-Con Saturday afternoon, I got a chance to sit down with the cast of The Magicians at the roundtable press interviews, and really get in-depth about their characters, scenes, and what’s in store for season 2. On hand were Jason Ralph (Quentin Coldwater), Olivia Taylor Dudley (Alice Quinn), Summer Bishil (Margo Hanson), Hale Appleman (Eliot Waugh), Jade Tailor (Kady Orloff-Diaz), Stella Maeve (Julia Wicker), and EPs and writers Sera Gamble and John McNamara.
Check out the roundtable interviews and the first scene of season 2 below.
Jason Ralph & Olivia Taylor Dudley
Q: I’m interested in your portrayal of mental illness, and what your research may have been with that, and what sort of feedback you’ve gotten from that community or the general public?
Ralph: I haven’t gotten a lot of feedback from that community. I didn’t want to portray something specific, because I did not want to diagnose Quentin. I wanted room to kinda play within that realm. I like the idea that he is perhaps he’s not clinically diagnosed, and that it is something that… this is complicated. I feel like he is in his own way, and I want it to be more of an active choice that he’s made to be in his way, as opposed to a chemical imbalance That’s kind of the difference that I’m going for, because I want him to be able to learn to change. And I feel like a lot of mental illness don’t work that way, and I think shouldn’t be portrayed that way. It is dangerous to portray them that way, and so it’s important for me to not be doing that.
Q: My favorite, favorite episode was “The World in the Walls” just because dream sequences are always fun (Quentin was trapped in a magically induced dream), and it kinda reminded me of Buffy’s “Normal Again.” What was your favorite episode, and why?
Taylor Dudley: I really loved the haunted house episode.
Ralph: Episode 9.
Taylor Dudley: We find out about the Chatwin children. It’s a really creepy episode, and it’s shot beautifully. I was creeped out filming it, and getting poisoned. That one was really fun.
Ralph: Yeah. that episode was really great. It was cool to confront the mythos and to have it be something unexpected and mostly disappointed. It’s sort of like a constant theme I think in Quentin’s experience in discovering magic, because I think he comes to the table wanting to be inspired, and never quite learns his lesson that it’s not going to be that. And it is that continual “slap in the face.”
Q: What is your own personal fountain?
Taylor Dudley: I really want to go to the bottom of the ocean. To take me to like deep, deep, deep sea and be able to survive down there. There or outer space.
Ralph: It’s odd that we know more about what’s in outer space than what’s under the sea.
Taylor Dudley: We gotta go down there.
Ralph: I don’t wanna go down there (everyone laughs). I don’t want anything creepy or weird. I’d like a nice rolling hill of green grass and just somewhere where’s there all the best foods. Ooooohhhh…. so it’s like Willy Wonka, all the plants are made of food that’s not just candy, it’s also like cheeseburgers and ribs.
Taylor Dudley: So I’ll be miserable and you’ll be fat.
Ralph: (Grins) Yeah.
Summer Bishil & Hale Appleman
Q: We learn about Margo a lot. Are we gonna explore more of her back story?
Bishil: We definitely are. This year, it feels like a love letter to Margo and Eliot, and their relationship. The things I loved so much the characters when I initially signed on…I loved that it was a slow introduction to our characters, because it really pays off this season and the new challenges that we are facing. And you get to see us in a much more fantastical setting, which almost feels natural for Eliot and Margo. And there’s still that fun and playfulness, but you definitely see a much more layered experience of each other and their environment.
Appleman: I’m really excited for everyone to see Margo this season, because I think that Summer brings her to life in a unique way that no one else could. It’s really great to finally see a bit more attention paid to her character. It’s very well deserved. Summer is nailing it.
Bishil: I feel the same way about Hale. We just did this epic scene that we can’t talk about it, but I think it’s going to be one of my favorite scenes ever from season 1 or season 2. He’s such a force of nature, because you all know he’s the king. He has such a presence, that you have come up to meet it. And I’m small.
Appleman: She’s massive though (laughs).
Bishil: I have to come up to meet his energy level, his presence. it’s like, a challenge, you know?
Appleman: We’re lucky to work together.
Bishil: We love working together. We respect each other and love each other.
Q: The cast chemistry is still high level and strong?
Bishil: And that’s just luck, right? We never had a screen test together or anything. You never know.
Q: How does the show continue to differentiate itself from other programs on TV. This is now season 2. Do you still have that uniqueness?
Appleman: The uniqueness of The Magicians is an incredible blend of real life and high fantasy turned on its head through both dramatic and comedic elements. these young people trying to become real adults who are thwarted by so much human baggage. Like all of those things that don’t really exist anywhere else. The tone is very specific to our show, which is only enhanced this season. The scope of the show, while there is the Brakebills, Harry Potter-esque world, there is now this sort of Fillory as the magical Narnia with the juxtaposition of those 2 things with real life NYC as the backdrop, is something I don’t think you’ve seen before. So, that’s really exciting. It knows its references, it wears it on its sleeve, unabashedly, and is also self-aware enough to know that… to kinda make fun of that.
Bishil: That’s what I love about the show, that it is self-aware, that you do break that wall. You rarely get to do that. You would never do that on network, really. Being on the network we’re on affords us to make much more risks, without the intense pressure of being on one of those major networks. You can sort of feel it out, and I feel like that’s what season 1 was, it was introducing everybody and building relationships. And now, we’re more confident in it, not that we weren’t before, and now we can sort of play around with that.
Q: Are there any important female relationships that you develop this season
Bishil: One of the more interesting scenes that I’ve shot is a scene with Margo and Julia, and watching that power balance was a real treasure to participate in – a real tennis match.
EPs and writers Sera Gamble and John McNamara
Q: Is there an aspect of Fillory that you are looking forward to exploring this season?
McNamara: One of the magical things you can do with Fillory is you can sing as if you were in a Broadway musical (everyone laughs).
Gamble: I was gonna say building creatures. On a TV budget and schedule, a lot of that falls to our effects team, generally when you have a limited period of time you say what’s the best creature we can make on a computer, but we have an amazing production team, that does amazing physical effects. If we give them enough advanced notice, they can design us an incredible creature. Ember, at the end of this season, was kind of our first test case where we wanted to build him like that. We didn’t want to do it post. So we have even more elaborate creatures in season 2, and my inner geek girl is just in heaven every day.
Q: Who designed Marina? Because she seems to be the most fascinating and original character.
Gamble: She’s a product of the writer’s room. We knew we needed to have a really high-level hedge witch to “mentor.”
McNamara: Sera wrote it (everyone laughs).
Gamble: The whole room, we got together and talked about what attributes we wanted to see in a very unreliable mentor, somebody’s who really useful and really dangerous to Julia, someone who represents a facet of what she could become.
Q: Will we see her again?
McNamara: Oh yes.
Gamble: You will see her again. It is fantastic working with her. Unfortunately, we can’t be there every day. the writer’s room is in Los Angeles and we film in Vancouver, but as she was filming a certain scene in episode 3, I was getting texts from the set, talking about how amazing Kacey Rohl is. And she of course is the other huge piece – we casted right. If you get the right actor, everything just falls into place.
Q:The production and costumes are fantastic. Really really enjoyed the details. Is it the same crew this season?
McNamara: Yes. And this season they are doing it even better.
Gamble: Our production designer, Rachel O’Toole, is amazing, but now I feel as if I’m just throwing challenges at her to see what she can do with them. Wait until you see the throne room. You can peek the throne room at the panel. It’s our biggest set, most elaborate set The level of detail our art department has, you can’t actually capture on film. You have to go and visit the set and open the drawers.
Q: If you can have any fountain and reach other lands, what would it take you?
McNamara: The Enterprise (laughs).
Gamble: At this point, it would probably be the Fillory fountain. Probably not during the Beast’s reign of terror, because the writers of the show are f***in crazy… so there are forests where you go, and they make you high. And there are nymphs who come out and try to seduce you.
McNamara: There are like cool fights where you bounce off the wall that make no sense. There’s a lot of people to talk to.
Jade Tailor & Stella Maeve
Q: What can we expect from season 2?
Maeve: You’ll get to see a lot more of Kady and Julia. That’s for sure.
Tailor: Which is really, really exciting and how that relationship unfolds. I think everything in this season has expanded. Our experience in Brakebills, our experience in New York and Fillory, and the characters’ journey throughout all of that. Everything is so much more expansive this year, which is really exciting.
Maeve: It’s like, you get to watch these characters grow as human beings with the thru-line of magic, and in these fantastical places like Fillory and New York. But, it’s still dark, and Brakebills. And so while you are watching these characters grow and change and interact with one another, you’re also seeing these crazy landscapes, and wild animals, and talking animals.
Tailor: And also I think the the terror we’re experiencing with both Reynard and the Beast, and so our worlds have been thrown for a loop. And we’re having to fight these really intense dark magic.
Maeve: We’re sent on a lot of missions. We are just like Mission: Impossible.
Tailor: Yeah. Like getting thrown these crazy things. And going in, guns blazing.
Tailor: yeah. We’re like the dynamic duo.
Maeve: It’s great to see two female heroines being strong and fierce.
Tailor: Like, we can do this on own. We got this.
Maeve: Kicking ass and taking names.
Q: What did you guys think when you started the role, with the way you guys did magic with the finger tutting, and do you ever find yourself doing that in real life when you want things to change.?
Maeve: That would be awesome. But working with these choreographers, it’s so much fun. We get blasted with these fans, and we get to experience these magical moments. I was doing this amazing tut in this flashback of Julia, and this light pours in, and it’s so epic and beautiful. And you feel like you’re doing it, even though the lighting guys are doing it, but you’re standing there and you’re making this thing happen.
Tailor: I think that’s what’s so great about what they create, is that they really make it feel real. And to go back to your question, I play with my hands to stretch them out, because our choreographer gave us some different movements and things to work on. And so I’m constantly playing with my fingers now.
Maeve: It’s a stretch.
Q: I wouldn’t think you guys would have to stretch out your fingers, right? But you kinda do.
Tailor: You do. It’s like a dancer. You wouldn’t think it, but you do. (Demonstrates) Because I couldn’t do that before.
Maeve: Sometimes they get sore though
Tailor: That’s why you gotta stretch.
Q: In your minds, how does the show differentiate itself on TV?
Tailor: It takes a little from every show, and that’s what makes it so special. You really get the whole spectrum, both in the lands and the experiences and the characters.
Maeve: I’ve been comparing it a lot, it’s like Buffy for our generation. Our showrunner, Sera [Gamble] loves Buffy too. You meet these characters, and you get to know a little bit about them, and then they get thrown into these crazy situations. You get to see them go through these wild things, that don’t always really make sense, but it’s fun. You can’t define it. They meld the books, and our writers. Like Cady was only supposed to be a small part of it, but now she’s a big part.
Tailor: And they melded a couple of different characters.
Maeve: Without Cady, Julia would be utterly alone, so it’s nice to have that.
Tailor: There’s also some comedic elements which makes it different as well, which you don’t see very often. So I think they found this beautiful balance between the seriousness and the depth and the humor, but also make it grounded in reality.
Maeve: I feel like they use magic as this metaphor for real life problems, so you’re seeing these people in these things that happen to you and me, and we get to use that as the outsource tool to make it fantastical, but really relating to real life things.Q:
Q: If you could have your own fountain of Fillory to take you anywhere you want to go, where would you let it take you?
Tailor: I just want it to be able to take me around the world in an instant. Like a magic portal.
Maeve: Preferably on an island or a beach.
The Magicians returns in Winter 2017 on Syfy.
THE MAGICIANS | First Scene of Season 2 | Syfy
And this is how Season 2 starts, folks. Enjoy. The Magicians returns in 2017.