The cast of the upcoming Syfy adaptation of Lev Grossman‘s bestselling The Magicians series stopped by New York Comic Con this year to share their excitement about heading back to school with the show’s first season. And it was apparent from the beginning that everyone involved with the show is a big fan of Grossman’s book series that chronicles Quentin Coldwater’s education and adventures in the magical world.
Stars Jason Ralph, Hale Appleman, Summer Bishil, Arjun Gupta, Stella Maeve, and Olivia Taylor Dudley joined executive producers John McNamara and Sera Gamble at the convention to talk about the show and we had the chance to chat with them solo about the upcoming show, how they adapted the book, and what they have enjoyed most about the new series.
But first, check out the spellbinding trailer below.
Now that you’re super excited about the show, read a bit more about where these actors are coming from when bringing these characters to life for the screen.
Nerdist: Could you tell us how you got involved with the project, what drew you to it, and what you feel is the appeal and strength of the show?
Summer Bishil: What drew me, initially, was an audition, just like any other break down, that comes down the wire from your agents. But I immediately responded to the writing and was excited about it. I did my audition and a couple days later I went back, after I got the job, I started reading the books and becoming more immersed in the world and personally as a reader, I just enjoyed the character’s stories and evolution and how it all took shape. I wasn’t aware of The Magicians until after I auditioned.
Hale Appleman: Similarly, I got an audition for the show and read the script and immediately responded to it and felt like it was something that would be a kind of dream job for me. Then my best friend heard I was auditioning and he gave me the first book. I started reading the first book as I was auditioning and it was over a longer period of time because they hadn’t set the director, Mike Cahill, who’s fantastic. There was a long while that I had to read the books as I was going through the audition process.
I first auditioned for Penny—a different role which I knew it wasn’t right in the room—and the casting director stared at me really intently and I just crossed my fingers that there was something else for me and as I was reading the books and reading about Elliot. I felt very connected to him and was really hoping that I would get called back for him, and I did finally after about three weeks. The rest is history—I just kept going back in. Reading the books along with the audition process really helped me to find more layers and to really understand the character and the depth that Liv really brings to the books. To have his back story and all of that really helped supplement my understanding of the whole thing and that was really lucky that my friend said, “Hey, here, take this book, you’ll love it” and I did.
Olivia Taylor Dudley: I don’t know. I love magic so much. It’s a genre, it’s something that I’ve been passionate about since I was little. Nutty as that sounds so when I got the script for the pilot, I read it and I loved it and then I got the books and I loved them. I just got really lucky the entire process but magic for me drew me in.
Arjun Gupta: I think for me, I read the script before I read the books. I only read books once I booked the part, and for me, it felt like a show that was taking a risk. It was definitely different than anything that I’d seen on TV at that time and that’s really exciting to be a part and as an actor and the character that I play, it asked a lot of me. It asked to stretch in ways as an artist that’s just truly thrilling. I think you also asked about the power of the show: I think the power in the show lies in its reflection of today and how even though it is fantasy, it’s really so… Zora Neale Hurston. Yeah, I’m bringing a quote, so settle down everyone. She always said that we understand humanity best through fiction and I think fantasy also can help us understand the world in a much more deep and better way. I did when I read the books. I think that that’s really exciting to be apart of.
N: What gives it the power to draw you in?
Jason Ralph: I feel like the strength of the show is how it’s different from everything else. This is the first fantasy book that I’d ever read, and TV that we’re creating, where I feel like it’s really, truly grounded in reality and is about the consequences of these extraordinary events. I think it really thoroughly explores what it would be like to have magic in the real world. How that affects you as a person, how that affects a magical community, and how that affects the real world—the Muggle world, if you will.
Stella Maeve: I think what’s so beautiful about is it’s a theme for life, magic. As we get older, we become more jaded. We believe in less, this is something that is a metaphor of maybe if we all held onto that. That’s why when you look at children, they’re all enigmatic. They’re curious, beautiful, and wonderful because they have all this wonderment. As we get older, we lose that. What this does is it brings it with you into the adult world. We have aged up the characters, they are older. It doesn’t need to just exist in an imaginative sense, it becomes real. I think it’s beautiful, it’s a good theme for that. I think we should all believe in magic.
Can you talk a little bit about developing the TV show from the books? The first book is 5 years and it’s a lot of time to cover in a season or a couple of episodes. Can you talk a little bit about that adaptation process?
Sera Gamble: The first thing we ended up doing was aging of the characters. Now, instead of entering their undergraduate studies, they’re entering grad school. That gave us a little bit more flexibility with the timeline and what happens when within Brakebills. It was a big decision. We actually resisted it at first, because we’re big fans of the books. We sat down with Lev Grossman. We talked with him about it. About how were we going to do an adaptation that ultimately takes place over about 10 years, maybe longer, and cast actors who would start at 17, 18 and end up in their mid-30s. We realized that the stories we wanted to tell would actually best be served by starting them in their early 20’s.
How do you think fans of the book are going to react to the changes that you’ve made?
John McNamara: I hope they understand that we did it in a way to be more faithful to the books because I don’t know who the 18 year old actor is that you would cast as Quentin, who could then be 35 in season 5. But, when faced with Ralph as an example, the other one was Kat, and this was a test, 23 year old, 24 year old, 22 year olds, I believe they’re going to be 35, and we would get them there at 6 years. It was really to respect the entire arc of the trilogy. And, they’re just good actors.
The Magicians has been shooting in Vancouver on the campus of the University of British Columbia. It will premiere January 15th, 2016 on Syfy. While we anxiously await more news about season one (and hopefully more trailers), might we suggest a reread of the books to keep you going? They really are quite wonderful.
Image/Trailer Credit: Syfy