Syfy’s latest original series, The Magicians, brings author Lev Grossman’s best-selling series of fantasy novels to television when it debuts tonight, Jan. 25 at 9/8c. The show centers on a group of young friends who discover an unexpected, high-stakes magical world as they study at the secret Brakebills University. Two of the shows stars, Stella Maeve and Jason Ralph, joined us to discuss their roles and what we can expect when The Magicians premieres tonight at 9/8c on Syfy.
DIRECV: Tell us a little about your character and your role in the new series.
Jason Ralph (Quentin Coldwater): Q’s not a classic hero, and never will be. He’s a troubled kid who’s a bit of an asshole, kind of neurotic, and is too selfish for his own good. But he’s fighting through his world the only way he knows how—with insatiable curiosity, intelligence and dry wit. It’s the combination of all of these things that make him relatable even if you hate him and make you want to root for him even when you kind of want him to fail. It’s also why I love playing him.
Stella Maeve (Julia Wicker): I play Julia Wicker. She’s driven, smart, passionate, possesses an innate depth she isn’t aware of, and unaccustomed to failure.
Would you say Julia’s tapped into the darker side of her magical talents compared to the other characters studying at Brakebills?
Stella Maeve: I would say Julia is doing everything and anything she can to attain and learn magic. Unfortunately, her outlets are limited due to the fact that she was rejected from Brakebills, so she has resorted to the “hedge witches,” a “street magic.”
The Magicians has a unique premise compared to some of the other fantasy/sci-fi programs currently on TV, but on the surface some could compare the series to Harry Potter. How do you think they are different?
Jason Ralph: For me, the difference is that these characters have read and seen sci-fi/fantasy books and shows. They know what to expect from familiar plots and tropes, much like the audience of sci-fi/fantasy does. It’s part of what makes them as relatable as they are—they are on the same page as the audience, expect the same things, and then can get surprised in the same ways.
Do you have a sense that this series will be faithful to elements of the novels, or will it be its own entity?
Jason Ralph: The show’s being made by people who love the books—by fans. In some ways the show will stray, but when it does, the goal is to stay true to the tone and essence of the books and characters.
Syfy has done a nice job introducing new programs that carry some allegorical weight to them. Are there certain allegorical themes to The Magicians that you appreciate?
Jason Ralph: One that rings true to me when playing Quentin is that a change of scenery doesn’t bring happiness.
Were you familiar with the novels before taking this role? Will you be drawing inspiration from any elements from those original stories?
Stella Maeve: I binge-read all three books before taking the role. Although the show may vary from the books in certain aspects, it’s captured the spirit of the books. Fortunately for us, Lev Grossman (the author) has been there throughout the entire season to give his support for all of these changes. I hope to have emulated Julia in a way that the fans of the books and new fans of the show will enjoy. I absolutely drew inspiration from the books. It was very important to try and take the character off the page and place her into the television.
Are you a science fiction and fantasy genre fan yourself?
Stella Maeve: Honestly before this, I wasn’t a huge science fiction/fantasy fan! But I’m pretty sure (if you read the books you would know…You should know!!!) it’s every girl’s dream to become a goddess. Julia is a dream character to play.
Real talk. Are you currently practicing any magic tricks in real life?!
Jason Ralph: Real answer. Yes ;)
Stella Maeve: I’ve been working on my disappearing act… No such luck quite yet… Although, wait…