You know what magic looked like when you were young? Coins that suddenly appeared behind your ear, baffling card tricks, Ouija boards? According to new teen drama The Magicians, that’s kid stuff compared to the “real” deal.
The show, which airs on Mondays at 8/9c on Syfy and Showcase in Canada, sees a group of gifted university students chosen to enter a secret magic academy on a parallel plane where their studies lead them to revelations about themselves and the meaning of the ancient arts.
The mysterious academy is ground zero for their archaic magical practices, updated to reflect today’s world. There is danger, exhilaration, heartbreak and that’s just the student body. Add magic and chaos ensues.
The students’ powers are unleashed in no uncertain terms, sometimes through focus and concentration, sometimes spontaneously. Energy flares from their fingertips, levitation, mind reading and the manipulation of matter are part of their world now.
The Magicians stars Jason Ralph, Arjun Gupta and Stella Maeve as magic apprentices.
We spoke with Stella, who plays Julia Wicker.
M&C: The Magicians is terrific. It’s smart, cinematic and unique. What struck you most when you read the script?
Stella Maeve: Julia, these characters, and the books have this underbelly of darkness and grit. The show is also not afraid to make fun of itself.
Most shows in the fantasy genre don’t possess a raw, real, organic element combined with magic and fun, flawed human beings, which makes them difficult to understand. I love that.
M&C: Julia so wants to develop her powers, powers that seem to come easily to her friends. We can see how important it is. Is there anything you can relate to in that longing?
SM: I felt as if Julia’s “determination” and “longing” was more comparable to an addiction. This “thing”, this “magic”, got a hold of her, she became consumed by it.
And as a result, she was behaving in ways she never would have prior, finding herself in compromising positions with an entire spiral of events to come.
M&C: The Magicians is set in a series of worlds, some real some not, that stir the imagination. Does that help you as an actor?
SM: I think it’s harder as an actor to go to a “fantasy world”. However it’s extremely fun to get to travel to these mystical magical lands to play and to use your imagination.
However, there are no rules. It isn’t real life so what are the boundaries?
Luckily, the way this is written, we as these characters get to have those “uh…what the hell” moments where weird creatures pop out of nowhere and we can remind ourselves of the obscenity and ridiculousness of it all.
M&C: There are really disturbing moments that spring from naturalism, not from shock or gore. Did you find it scary?
SM: Julia goes through the most horrific journey in the entire series. It gets really, really dark. It’s always scary, being vulnerable. Being able to throw yourself into what you’re doing, and make those events, those emotions, true to yourself at that time and believing your truth as that character.
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The Magicians is based on the novels of Lev Grossman and is on at 9/8c on Syfy in the US and Showcase Canada