While numerous shows have done the magical school trope, Syfy’s The Magicians is bringing a darker, more grown-up version to the television landscape and it looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun.
Adapted from the best-selling books by Lev Grossman, the story follows a group of graduate students at Brakebill University (an educational institution for the magically gifted) as they discover how dangerous magic can be.
The Workprint caught up with cast members Jason Ralph (Quentin Coldwater), Stella Maeve (Julia), Olivia Taylor Dudley (Alice), Hale Appleman (Eliot), Arjun Gupta (Penny), and Summer Bishil (Margo) as well as executive producers Sera Gamble (Supernatural) and John McNamara (Aquarius) at New York Comic Con to talk about what fans can look forward to when the series premieres in January 2016.
“We’re following as closely as possible and I think people will be very happy how close we’re following the books,” said Ralph.
While the series isn’t strictly following book one (of three) for this first season, they are striving to achieve the novel’s tone. “They are using book two in what was originally a flashback. They’re using that as what they’re showing of Quentin in book one. That will be the driving ship,” Maeve explained.
Another interesting tidbit we learned was that the first episode’s opening scene will be inside a mental hospital.
Gamble praised Grossman on how there was so much depth and character to his story that they had a lot of great material to work with. The hard part was deciding what would fit into the show’s scope.
Regarding magic, the series is taking a more realistic approach to it as something that required extensive study and was incredibly difficult to master. It was intriguing to discover during the panel that they had created a new magical language in the form of hand gestures. The Brakebill University students would have to learn new ways to move their hands in order to cast spells. Gupta even did a quick demonstration to show how one would decapitate a person to the delight of attendees.
What is also quite different and appealing is that audiences are getting very flawed characters that are trying to cope with their changing realities.
Bishil talked about how her character Margo suffered from loneliness and really saw her relationship with Eliot as her only bond. The two are inseparable and are essentially co-dependent so that when other people enter his life it threatens her sense of normalcy. Appleman adds that their characters have been brought together through their intense experiences at school. He further went to say that Eliot’s outward controlling demeanor and sophistication is a front to hide a much deeper level of loneliness and sadness as well.
Ralph described Quentin as existentially depressed, perpetually disappointed, and romantic, while Maeve’s Julia is intellectual, driven, passionate, intense, and human. There will be a notable contrast between the two characters’ experiences as his life becomes more extraordinary through magic and hers becomes more chaotic and uncertain. The panel even showed a quick clip demonstrating this as we saw the different paths Quentin and Julia take to arrive at Brakebill.
The Magicians is looking to be a promising new show that will explore a relatable side of magic, yet still maintain aspects of the fantastical that fans of the genre love.
See the NYCC trailer: