Since leaving Supernatural at the end of season 7, showrunner Sera Gamble has been working her magic on a new fantasy thriller series, The Magicians. After a tantalizing 13 episode debut, The Magicians will begin its second season on Jan 25 on the Syfy network. 

If you haven’t yet seen The Magicians, it’s a cross between Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia with more sex and relationship drama to spice it up a bit! The plots are complex and mysterious, and there is a good balance between strong male and female characters. The description of the show from The Syfy Channel website teases:  

Based upon Lev Grossman's best-selling books, The Magicians centers around Brakebills University, a secret institution specializing in magic. There, amidst an unorthodox education of spellcasting, a group of twenty-something friends soon discover that a magical fantasy world they read about as children is all too real— and poses grave danger to humanity –

Following in Supernatural's footsteps, The Magicians is also filmed in Vancouver, Canada! Another member of the Supernatural family, Rick Worthy (the alpha vampire from seasons 6 and 7) plays a key role as the Dean of the higher education magic school.

I caught up Sera (who immediately recognized The WFB from her Supernatural days!) and the rest of the show’s talented, enthusiastic cast at San Diego Comic Con in July, 2016. They shared insights about their roles, behind-the-scenes stories of filming a magical adventure, and teasers of what’s in store for fans in season 2! Beware: SPOILERS! I'm saving the showrunners' and book author's interview for last. They share the most spoilers about the plots of season 2! 

To give you an idea of the show's beautiful cinematography, sets and action, here's a sneak peek at the first episode of season2:

The season 2 spoiler pictures inserted with each interview transform the actors you see in the videos into their magical characters. You can learn more about each character by clicking on their names. A transcription of each interview follows the video to enhance clarity (braces{} appear around anything I couldn't hear precisely). Enjoy!

 

Jason Ralph (Quentin Coldwaterand Olivia Taylor Dudley (Alice Quinn)

 

Olivia: I know this is a little “Alice-like”. I can’t get away from wearing the dresses!

Q: You didn’t do any sleight of hand in the series. In the 1st episode, you did some {...} rolls and some card tricks.  Did you learn to do that?

Jason: Yeah.  I mean all the practical magic during the show is 99% me. It was important especially because so much of the magic that we do is CGI in establishing what “real magic” would be in the real world. It was important to me that we be able to do on set {_}. It's stuff that I carry around with me. It’s an important part of who Quentin is and where he came from {…}.

Q: Were there any books growing up that you cared about, or {_} in the series and in the show?

Jason: I mean, Harry Potter! Going to all the book signings, the midnight book releases, and dressing up as Professor Lupin, and I made a Harry Potter fan film – I mean, it’s too much!

Reporter: Can we find that somewhere?!

Jason: I took it down! It wouldn’t be good for my career!

Reporter: I think it would kind of be {a boost} for your career, given your current…

Jason: I mean the work in the film.

Nightsky: What drew you to these roles?

Olivia: When I read the books, I fell in love with Alice. I think she’s an incredibly intelligent woman. She’s not always the comic relief on the show but she’s driven and smart. That’s something that really drew me to her. You don’t often get to play woman like that. I think they’ve done a really great job in specifically writing that when it comes to that on the show. I was excited about that. And she’s a total introvert which I relate to.

Q: {What do you see going into?...}

Jason: I like this question that I think we’ll get into this season: this idea of what happens when you get everything you theoretically wanted, all the things that you said would make you happy, when you’re sitting on top of all of your accomplishments and you’re still sad, when you’re still that person that you’ve kind of been - what then? I love that “Then what?” question. That’s part of what we’re exploring.

Magicians S2 Quentin Alice

Q: How much of the next season are we going to see you spending time on Fillory?  

Olivia: I mean, we’re going to get set up in Fillory –

Jason: a lot more Fillory.

Olivia: …a lot more Fillory. It’s a vast land and we’re getting to explore it. We shoot up in Vancouver and the locations are so stunning and the different worlds that we’ve gotten to create. It even looks fabulous. It’s really exciting where we get to go to the different worlds. Every one looks so different.  It’s like really fun when we get a script and we read it and we prepare and we go to shoot it. And all of a sudden I realize that “Oh my Gosh, I’m shooting something that’s literally in the books and it’s exactly what I thought it would be and look like!" That’s fun.  Walking into a set, “Oh my gosh, we’re here!” for the first time. It’s really exciting. It’s fun!

Q: Is there anything from the {magic genre} that you want to see in the show?    

Olivia: I wish I could ride a unicorn in the show! and I ask all day!

Reporter: Yeah, that makes sense.

Olivia: Yeah, bring it up!

Q: [asks about their characters’ complicated relationship] Do you think there is any path forward for Quentin and Alice to get together?  

Olivia: It’s a very complicated relationship.

Jason: Yeah, and it only gets more complicated… and I can’t talk about it!

Olivia: They’ve both made their mistakes. Some of these questions are questions I can’t answer or don’t know the answer to, but we’ll just see.

Jason: A lot of that hasn’t been written…

Olivia: It hasn’t been written yet. You know, we were on a downward spiral at the end of last season and they’re all pretty deep in there.  These relationships are not necessarily at the front of what they’re all dealing with. There’s a task at hand. That’s kind of where our minds are at.

Nightsky: Were there any twists or turns in season 1 that really surprised you?

Jason: Well, you know there’s this book series that {...} so we have a lot of… a lot of that stuff is lined up. So as far as twists and turns, not necessarily. Just different interpretations of moments and how – if something happens slightly differently plot-wise, how that influences what characters learn from it and so having to make those adjustments accordingly.

Nightsky: it’s a challenge...

Jason: it’s a challenge, but a fun challenge.

Q: What have been some of your favorite magical things to be a part of?

Olivia: I liked making the glass horse. I like those! [To Quentin] You’re really excited about that. I love that every one of our cohorts has a different {adapt}… they’re good at one thing or another. I’ve proud of being able to bend light. Anytime I get to actually do a skill that Alice is good at, I’m excited about it. There’s a lot of good magic and battle magic {…}. It’s fun when we get to do the one thing that we’re specifically good at.  

 

Hale Appleman (Eliot Waugh) and Summer Bishil (Margo Hanson)

  

 

..

Both Hale & Summer: Yes, of course, we’ve read the books. The whole cast has read all 3 books…

Summer: Everybody, and they used them on the set to just keep the tone and the spirit of the novels alive, and inform our characters’ growth and journey. But the series from the start of season 1 has always incorporated – you know they borrowed from book 2 and then there’s some stories from book 1 and then they’re going to touch on book 3 – we sort of jump around and that’s the beauty of it.

Hale: We also utilize the storytelling of television to fill in certain gaps about certain characters that you might not have gotten the complete picture on in the book so the show allows us to tell other stories as well. So it’s an interesting hybrid.

Q: We spent most of season 1 on Earth but, as we saw in the finale, certainly Eliot has reason to be stuck in Fillory. Are we going to see in season 2 more time on Fillory or will it be a mixture of the two?

Hale: Yeah, I think Fillory is an important character in the show and you’ll have to see it. What do you think?

Summer: Fillory is beautiful and just visually, what our Director of Photography Elie Smolkin is accomplishing with really introducing that other character that it is. It is stunning; it should be stunning.

Hale: Yeah, this season - it appears to be even perhaps more cinematic than the way that the show is being shot overall. And there’s an attention to different cinematic elements –

Summer: different aesthetics…

Hale: … just the way that the show is being shot. That’s real interesting.

Q: How do you think Eliot is going to deal with being…

Hale: …to being tied to Fillory? I think Eliot at the end of season 1 really, obviously, was struggling and spiraling down a really dark path. Essentially, I think, on some level, he was ready to die before she [Margo] saved him. I think that, yeah, he’s recognizing, perhaps on some level, that there is a greater purpose to life and there are more important things to live for and to fight for than the attention to being afraid of who Julia is, so I think that perhaps these elements are really important in terms of the evolution of his character.

Magicians S2 Eliot Margo

Q: What are some of your favorite magical effects to be a part of?

Summer: There are so many. We talked a lot about it last year. The {...} use a lot with practical magic as far as seeing some effects actually happen while we’re doing a scene, whether it’s explosions, creating light or wind, so it feels like there is a force in the room with you when you’re doing the scene – it’s not all invention and relying on CGI -so we can experience it.

Hale: I’d say some of the more fun stuff for me to do as an actor as well has been the very practical things. I always talk about the scene in book 3 where Quentin and I are carrying the box with a flying book around in it. There was just a weight in the box but as actors we had to bring life to that moment in terms of creating the illusion of it – the book could fly out at any moment and that was a really fun physical comedy kind of thing that we had to do that I don’t think you get to do on a lot of TV shows…

Summer: …a procedural…

Hale: It was a little theatrical, a little more even like a silent film kind of vibe. To be able to utilize a kind of physical comedy like that special effect. That was fun.

Q: Do you know the hand signals for the spells?

Hale: Yeah!

Summer: We learned them when we read the script and sort of figure it out and it is shown to us how to read [bookmore?]. We work with a choreographer. We do a lot of warm-ups. He taught us really cool stuff. It’s similar to what you would do with the rest of your body in dance as far as preparing and getting ready.

Hale: …stretching.

Q: Your characters have been noted to have an embroiled and really complicated relationship. We jump into the story having all of that already established. In what ways did you guys put together your relationship that convinced us of such a great backstory?

Summer: Outside of the knowledge of the books?

Reporter: Yeah, I mean specifically for your chemistry together.

Summer: I think it sort of  - Hale and I  -  We met, we clicked and our instincts are – I don’t want to use the word similar but in-tune.

Hale: We come from different places but we complement each other really well. I think we also have a really open line of communication…

Summer: we do…

Hale: …as far as talking about who these two people are and how they came together, the history of that and what we wanted to bring to the show and what felt good to really specify and different areas to leave perhaps a little bit more of a grey area. There’s both of that. We just have a very easy communication and trust.

Summer: Yeah, we trust each other. We take risks. You got a lot of episodes and work a lot of scenes and sometimes you can experiment. Not everything feels like it works; some of it does and it’s great when that happens so I think the thing that I know I bring is to take as many risks as possible and see what happens.

Hale: We’re always trying to push the envelope of what we can do while grounding in reality. It’s nice to have the first season behind us because I think it allows us to kind of relax more into what was set up in the first season and now we are able to now extend into these characters more and evolve in different and perhaps surprising ways.

Nightsky: Were there any plot twists or character changes that you experienced in season 1 that really surprised you; that you didn’t see coming?

Hale: It’s all kind of surprising actually!

Summer: Yeah, it all was a surprise. It was all a little different than what I might have built in my mind after reading the book. Also, everybody’s different take on the characters brought a richer sense of the feel of the entire show. So in a way, yeah it was all surprising.

Hale: It’s also one thing to read a scene or an episode then to step on the set that day and shoot it. The experience of what that environment really looks and feels like on the day versus what you might have imagined when you read it, or just the painstaking detail that everyone takes on the production team to make it look and feel so, so authentic to the writer. So every day is a new adventure and a new surprise.

 

Stella Maeve (Julia Wicker) and Jade Tailor (Kady Orloff-Diaz)

              
 

Q: So what I’ve been asking everyone is what has been your favorite magical effect to be a part of?

Stella: I loved my flying…  floating – defying gravity

Jade: I would say…

Stella: Well you did have floating sex!

Jade: I did have floating sex and that was pretty grand! Sorry Arjun, that was not my favorite. It was great but it wasn’t my favorite. I would say battling the beast was my favorite moment. That was really exciting.

Q: How do you accomplish floating?

Jade: It sounds a lot more exciting than it actually is. We are on this contraption called a parallelogram, which is basically a big see-saw. So you’re sitting on one end and on the other end are these pulleys and weights so you’re just going up and down. It’s not really all that sexy.

Stella: It the most unsexy thing.

Jade: Not the most fun thing. Not at all.

Stella: You’d think, “magic!”, and you’re like “OOOh” when you watch it but then you get on it and in the moment they’re like, “Oh can you  --- Oh, the light--- oh, You’ve got a chapped lip --- Cut!”!

Jade: Yeah, it’s not sexy.

Q: What are you both looking forward to still in the coming months…

Stella: I would love to get to the part within the books where Julia gets to Fillory and gets to speak with animals and enters into her goddess. I would love for that to happen. When’s that gonna happen?

Jade: My character isn’t in the books so I’m excited just to see where she goes but I really, I’m hoping to see a lot more layers {…} this season, both magically and otherwise.

Stella: It would be nice to see them happy.

Q: Is there anything in particular from the fantasy genre you want to see in the future, that hasn’t been in the show yet?

Stella: It would be really cool to see the centaurs. I’m just saying.

Jade: Yes. Oh my God, I’m really excited about that. I’m really excited about that.

Stella: If it happens. We don’t know.

Jade: That’s true. That would be really exciting.

Reporter: We were told earlier that it is happening.

     Magicians S2 Julia     Magicians S2 Kady

Nightsky: What drew you to your roles?

Jade: The books, I would say, because I’m such a fan of Lev and his work. I hadn’t read the books prior to getting the material. I read the script first and so for me the script really enticed me. I actually remember I read the first script and Kady died and I was like, “Oh well. I guess it will be just a short little run.” Then I got the next script and she doesn’t [die] and I got really excited about it. Just the writing and the material. It’s just brilliant.

Stella: For me, the novels and getting to depict this character, this real life character that had already been created in these books. This woman, this female powerhouse, this character who is not liked by everyone, and like has tons of flaws and endures immense amount of pain and immense sadness and also anger. I mean that’s incredible to get my hands on and get to dive in there and explore that. I don’t think we’re alike in that matter but I just think seeing this woman and her journey and everything she goes through and then to come out and to play a goddess.  I don’t know. That’s like a dream.

Q: Julia is very defined by her love in her {…} with the Fillory books. Do you have a piece of pop culture, fantasy or not, that really defined your childhood and means a lot to you in that same way?

Stella: As a child, I was obsessed with the 80s. I was such a weird kid. That whole decade. I would dress up - Do you know The Outsiders? I loved that movie and I loved that book. 7th grade it must have been - I got obsessed {...} with being a greaser so I would wear these rolled up jeans with one - Very Rob Lowe of me {…}– one orange Converse, one green one, and a backwards baseball cap. Just dressed like a greaser from the 60s. I thought I was really cool.

 

Hit *Next* to hear from Rick Worthy, Sera Gamble, Lev Grossman and more!


Arjun Gupta (William 'Penny' Adiyodi) and Rick Worthy (Dean Henry Fogg)

          
 

[As the actors are being seated, they casually chat with reporters. Rick converses in Spanish with an Argentinian reporter. I comment that we could all use Google Translate to understand what they are saying, which leads to Arjun telling a story…]

Arjun: Quick story – So I was stuck in Vietnam – I got into a motorcycle accident and I was stuck in a police station in Vietnam. I was in a village in Tamuin and I was in a police station. No one could speak English and I don’t speak Vietnamese so we were literally {assigned} under a WiFi and I was passing my phone back and forth with these guys Google Translating, and that’s how we… 

Rick: That works, pretty effective!

Arjun: … anyway, The Magicians!

Q: What were some of your favorite magical effects?

Arjun: There are two that I’m going to speak to. One is - and they are both about fire because obviously I have a bit of a pyro-technic aspect to myself - in the 6th episode, we had to set this oil on fire and it was so cool. The special effects team came in and they devised a way with chemistry (because science is cool, people, science is cool)…

Rick: …young people.

Arjun: …that we could have colored flames and it was all real, it wasn’t CGI or nothing. It was so beautiful. It was remarkable. So that was one, and then I get to send a magical missile in like the 8th missile. [Motioning with hands] that’s not even how we do it; I forget [how]. We set actual things on fire. That was cool.

Rick: I love when Alice and Quentin are trying to break up the party and then she takes just a beam of light and focuses it and then burns a hole through the door. He comes in and says, “{------}, bitches!” It was cool and it was fun and cute and it was telling us just how powerful Alice is. You’ll see it; it’s coming up.

 Magicians S2 Penny Magicians S2 Dean Fogg

Q: So both of your characters have been through the wringer this last season…

Rick: Yeah, oh yeah, and we’re still alive!

Q: …and now you are out for revenge.

Arjun: That’s interesting. Is it revenge for you [talking to Rick]? Do you think revenge is at play? That’s an interesting point. I never thought about that, because for me it’s always been about survival. At least, that’s for Penny and the kids – we’re being attacked. For me, it’s not about revenge. Is it for you?

Reporter to Rick: The Beast comes in and goes “Ok, all students – Frozen! Oh, by the say, your eyes? I take them out.”

Rick: I think he’s definitely getting pissed off about this beast, Martin Chatwin guy, of course. He wants the problem to go away as quickly as possible. As the episode “39 Times” said [the episode name was actually “39 Graves”], we’ve been through this 39 times. Jane’s –the time loop - it’s the last loop, Jane’s dead, can’t be reset, all of that and he’s really frustrated. There’s has to be a solution to this at some point.  There’s a great scene when the Dean is in the hospital and Jane Chatwin comes in. She’s really kind and says, “Oh Henry…”, and he says, “This is YOUR problem! This is your problem, not mine! You created it, you fix it… You f-ing fix it!” and if I could say “f-ing”, I would have, because that’s… if you know me, that’s…

Arjun: They reserve their F-words for Penny.

Rick: Yeah! They give them all to him.

[Editor's Note: You can stop the video here. Rick has a side-conversation with a reporter for several minutes]

 

Sera Gamble and John McNamara (Executive Producers)

Lev Grossman (Book Author)

 

Sera: Hi! Look, it’s my old friend The Winchester Family Business!

Nightsky: We had to come and support you! Absolutely had to come! [Chitchat with reporters] Can you tease anything about season 2?

Sera: Of course! Fillory; there’s a lot of Fillory in season 2. You will see all of our beautiful cast again, obviously. They’ve been Instagramming from set every single day. But we can’t promise they’ll be in the same form they were in in season 1 because things went very bad for them in the finale. What else? The Beast is still a threat, Reynard is still a threat and if they make it to Castle Whitespire, they have an entire planet to run, which sounds awesome but it’s a difficult job. What else?

John: Centaurs.

Sera: Yes! Talking animals.   

John: …who are also doctors and they’re kind of jerks. They’re kind of stuck on themselves, right?  The Beast is obviously still out there. Reynard is still a threat. We dig deeper into both of those backgrounds and their motivations.

Sera: Ask us something specific. We’ll tell you.

Q: Lev, How are you feeling generally about the interpretations of the book? My understanding is that it is very different in terms of how it is pacing out. They’ve been borrowing things from books 2 and 3 first and then 1. In terms of the trajectory of the plot, how are you feeling about that?

Lev: It’s really fascinating to watch these guys {rif} like crazy into the stuff from the books. A lot of the plot points from the books do make their way onto the screen but often sort of turned around, or with a different meaning. It’s amazing to me both how much of the spirit of the books gets up there on screen and also the crazy stuff these guys think of to do with it. They take it places that I never would have thought to take it.

Q: Do you have a specific scene in mind that when you saw it, was it very close to what you pictured or just a scene that you didn’t think of that you wish you had put into your books?

Lev: That’s a good question. I’m trying to think of something specific. What’s something specific?

Sera: Something you loved?

John: or was just different? Can I just ask you, and you don’t [have to if you don’t want to] answer - when Quentin chased the paper into {the bush} of Brakebills, which was in the book, did that feel like what was in your head?

Lev:   A lot of it was in my head. That sequence…

John: ...and Julia simultaneously (even though that was a little later), simultaneously comes to Brakebills?

Lev: that was an interesting thing. I didn’t really think about Julia’s plotline until the second book. They took it right out of the second book and ran it in parallel with Quentin’s story from the first book, which is a great thing to see. I would have done that in the books if I had thought of it. It took me a whole book to figure out what Julia had to do.   To see those storylines run against each other, actually balance each other and play off each other in really different ways - that was something I didn’t get to do in the books.

John: You did, and you also used the {convolution? revolution?} technique of looping back in time between - and sometimes that can’t work as well in television. It gets confusing, so we - just for clarity’s sake - but that was such a wonderful scene to adapt because it’s written so cinematically. He wants this so badly. He’s chasing the paper and it’s just… maddening, and the way that Mike Cahill shot it, if you remember is - to really have what I think Lev wrote - it’s one shot. When you cross into that alley - It’s a continuous, it’s not - technically what he did was to build part of the alley at the university so that you go gray alley, gray alley, gray alley, leaf, leaf, leaf, flower, flower, flower, holy shit, crap, holy shit – one shot! It took the whole day, and then a bunch of CGI later. I just thought that was one of the scenes I felt was {fun to adapt}. That felt to me like what it was like when I read it, and that doesn’t happen often.  A lot of scenes you’re looking like, ehhhh, for the money we had, it’s good? Rain, or the set fell down or whatever happens, you try to scramble to get it… You know, it’s like there’s no crying in baseball. There’s no stopping in TV.

Lev: I cried I lot. It didn’t stop, but I cried.

Sera: Usually when I’m watching something I’m a part of, I’m seeing everything that’s wrong, but whenever I see the pilot and I see the moment that he goes to Brakebills…,

John: I love that…

Sera: ….my heart lifts because that’s been a fantasy that I’ve loved since I was a kid and it’s one of the things that attracted me to the book, and it was so fun to bring it to life. Then Mike did such a brilliant job at it. Every now and then I sit back down and rewatch the pilot so I can remember where we started and that’s still my favorite one of the whole thing.

John: Yeah, me too.

cast banner Magicians S2 syfy site

Q: South Park did that episode “The Simpsons Already Did It” and I wonder do pre-existing works block things off? Do you have moments where you go, “That’s too Dungeons and Dragons. That’s too Harry Potter. That’s too …” Are there things that are cut off because of other universes, other frameworks?

John: Actually, I think we reuse.

Lev: We think, “That’s not Harry Potter enough!”

Sera and John: Yes!

Lev: I’ve said that before.

John: You did, and you’re right. I think that because the show, because what Lev constructed was a fan of fantasy who doesn’t know he is going to be in a fantasy, you’re in such a meta hall of mirrors that  -  we give each other notes – there was some note on episode 2 in the library, doing the – SPOILER - there’s a scene called “The Anagram” and someone referenced a Harry Potter movie where they did that (whispers, “I hadn’t seen that) so I put the line in having no f-ing idea what this meant. It’s a meta line saying, “Oh, this is just like a scene from the Harry Potter movie, da-de-da”. Figure out that guy’s name.” That’s the stuff that makes the books fun, that make the series a fan experience. I hope we don’t undercut real psychology, real tragedy, real emotion. We can have both. How many shows can do that?

Q: If the show keeps renewing and goes beyond the books, what would you like to include?

John (to Lev): I’d like a 4th book, please!

Sera: Yeah, Lev, what do we do if we run out of books?

Lev: There’s going to be graduate school, post-graduate work.

Sera: Yes!

Lev: They’re already in graduate school.

Sera: They’ll have to do Ph.Ds, Medical Degrees, the Law School.

Lev: They’ll have to do the Doctorates.

John: …the White House

Lev: Elves. There are no elves in the books. You’re going to have to add Elves. I left that for you in case they get in trouble. Elves.

 


Did you watch season 1 of The Magicians? How would you describe it? Are you excited about season 2? What attracted you to the show? What are your favorite aspects of the show? Would you recommend it to other Supernatural fans? 

Episode details confirmed at http://www.syfy.com/themagicians/about

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Magicians_(U.S._TV_series),

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4254242/