The Magicians returned to San Diego Comic Con to celebrate the upcoming Season 4, and I couldn’t wait to chat with the cast and producers again. It’s one of my favorite shows – I love the creativity of it, the imagination, the willingness to go wherever the story takes them even when that is sometimes the last place you expect it to go! Not to mention the amazing actors and writers who bring the sometimes surprising story to life, based on Lev Grossman’s fascinating books.
The press room for the show was first, so I headed to the Hilton Bayfront and grabbed a table. First to our table were showrunners Sera Gamble and John McNamara. I was ecstatic to see Sera again – she’s the former showrunner and writer for Supernatural and was literally the first person from Supernatural who took the time to talk with me when I started researching fandom and writing books about the show, and she contributed some valuable insights to my first few books. I will be forever grateful for her generosity in answering my questions, facilitating my research, and always encouraging my writing over the many years since.
Sera and John summed up where we ended the last season, which was with everyone in quite a dilemma.
John: No one knows who they are.
Sera: Alice does, but she’s locked in a prison in the library. So it’s a very interesting first episode because our characters have no fucking clue who they are.
Not to mention Eliot is now the monster…
Me (with my psychologist hat firmly on): Are you treating this like the characters have amnesia, and it’s almost like a trauma for them?
John: It’s more like you are that person, an entirely different human being.
Sera: They even look different.
John: When they look in the mirror, they see someone different.
Sera: We’ll explain why in the first episode, but we’ve actually got two sets of actors. It required a lot of explaining when we were producing the first episode, but it makes sense when you watch it.
Me: Oooh that’s intriguing…
John and Sera: (cagey grins)
Apparently, this will make for some interesting dilemmas for the characters. Josh, for example, has sexually transmitted lycanthropy, but Isaac (his new persona) doesn’t know that – so it’s not something he can disclose. Uh oh.
Only on The Magicians, btw. See why I love it?
Of course, we asked about another musical episode.
John: (rubbing his hands together)… How shall I answer…
Sera: Just say yes.
John: Okay the answer’s yes.
As our time with them ended, I gave Sera a message of love from the SPNFamily, and she had a message back – along with an ‘I like your shirt’ since I was wearing my Family Don’t End With Blood tee shirt. I think I need to send one to her.
Watch our complete interview with Sera and John here for all the scoop –
Next up was Olivia Taylor Dudley, who plays Alice.
She had a chance to talk about her love of animals (and that she wasn’t upset about harming any cats last season since it was a stuffed cat…)
Olivia: I think Alice is going through a bit of a redemption story, trying to redeem herself in the eyes of her friends – if she ever finds them. I’m kind of going back to Season One Alice in how I approach her. She’s been through a lot of trauma and a lot of things. She depends on her brain, and it failed her last season. This is more like Season One, a more innocent Alice.
Olivia also talked about the impact of Alice losing her dad.
Olivia: We have a lot of stories to tell. It’s my job; if I don’t see that dealt with in the script because we don’t have that time, it’s my job to put that somewhere deep in Alice. And hopefully those little things come through, I think all of our actors do a good job with that.
Me: Definitely. Would you be happy if they do go back to it? Sometimes people have trauma and repress it for a long time…
Olivia: We’ll see. I mean, Alice has died and come back, and we’ve never really dealt with that. (laughing). There’s no dealing with everything – nor do you deal with it all in life.
Me: So true.
I feel like all my favorite shows have characters who repeatedly die, and I’m not sure what that says about me. Hmmm.
Check out our full interview with Olivia here:
Stella Maeve (Julia) joined us next.
We asked how was it to not have or even know about magic?
Stella: I’m so bummed. Julia seems okay with it, but Stella was like NOOOO!
She did say that last season, Julia came to a place of acceptance. That as humans we have both bad things happen and good things happen and at the end, acceptance is the key – to accept where you are.
What would Stella like to see happen?
Stella: I’d love to get to work with Hale, with Eliot, and with Margo.
Someone at our table asked what it would be like since there’s another version of Penny who was in love with Julia, but now they don’t know each other.
Stella: (coyly) Or do they?
Stella: Ever play that game when you’re young, like am I hot? Warm, hotter, hot? You’re very very hot.
Once again: Oooooh.
More from Stella in our video chat here –
Summer Bishil (Margo) was next at our table; my phone, unfortunately, decided it was incapable of taking any more video after back to back press rooms, so I quickly switched on my audio recorder. Press rooms are stressful!
She gave us some insight into how she’ll be playing a new character (Janet) who’s not really a new character at all. Janet is into fashion, so that’s intriguing.
Summer: I can only speak for my character, but as Janet, for me the choice I made as an actor is I still am who I am at my core. All that’s changed is my knowledge that magic is real and that I am a magician. So Margo had a life before Brakebills. Her identity and her mannerisms and her core needs and her motivations and faults are still there. So I’m still who I am, but without something that really did define the character. Janet is not as fearless; she gets spooked a lot easier. Margo, from confronting magical circumstances, became pretty fearless over time. So small tweaks here and there. But I do think she would have been in fashion, and I have had some lines that I’m super excited about. And she’s still a champion of change, and she still feels very strongly about a lot of things that are important to her. I don’t want to spoil anything, but maybe she’s gonna change the world of fashion as well!
Finally, we were missing only Hale Appleman and Jason Ralph, but time was growing short – which means I was getting increasingly nervous. Eliot is my favorite character on The Magicians, so I was especially happy (and relieved) to have a chance to chat with Hale Appleman. Last year in the press room, we bonded over a mutual love of classic Lou Reed music. This year, I was devastated that my phone ran out of video recording space before Hale sat down at our table. NOOOOOOO!
I rallied, however, to ask my question. Interestingly, two of my favorite characters from two of my favorite shows (Supernatural’s Dean Winchester and The Magicians’ Eliot) are not themselves this season, though still played by the same actors. I wondered how both of them were feeling about that, and asked Eliot at the roundtable.
Me: Do you sort of miss Eliot this season? You’ve been playing him for a long time, and now you’re not.
Hale: Kind of, but I’m honestly having such a good time exploring this new character that I don’t know…. (smiling) maybe you’ll fall in love with him.
Me: Pretty sure I’ll always love Eliot.
Hale: You’ll always love Eliot? Well, okay, cool – I hope you get him back at some point because, I really don’t know…
Me: (silently) NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
Hale: I miss him, I do. I do miss him. I don’t know where Eliot is and you don’t know what the monster is going to do at any given moment. So you’re kinda set up for the rug to be pulled out from under you at any moment. He’s a nine-year-old without any empathy or self-control and a lot of power. Ungodly power. Godly power. Maybe a little of both.
Me: (silently) I mean, what could go wrong??
Hale: He’s pretty scary, you guys. But he’s innocent too. He’s just doing what he thinks he needs to do. He’s not the villain of his own story; he’s the hero of his story. He just has a hit list of people that he needs to murder. I mean, he’s been trapped for thousands of years. How would you feel?
I get the feeling that Hale is enjoying this way too much – he’s disturbingly good at doing that creepy ‘Will you play with me?’ thing and now I’m feeling a little empathy for his character, which is like, NO.
Hale: He needs to stretch his new Eliot legs and learn how to walk. And…. Shed some blood.
Hale: He can do whatever he wants, as many narcissists do. I’m figuring out who he is as we go, so my guess is as good as yours as to what’s going to happen. I hope you guys like it, I hope you’re not like oh, that monster thing was okay, but can we have Eliot back? My goal is for you guys to fall in love with the monster at least a little bit. Maybe have a little Sophie’s Choice moment.
Me: (is skeptical)
Hale: There’s always some rationale behind decisions each villain makes. I mean, this monster is destructive by nature, so he doesn’t know it’s bad, it’s part of who he is. And he doesn’t necessarily have a context for human compassion. He’s trying to gain experience.
I’m all for that, but gotta say, I’m also all for the return of Eliot. Guess I’ll just have to cross my fingers and hope for the best!
Hale left our table and headed over to the table where Jason was chatting. He slid into a chair beside Jason and put his arm around him, and the two gave that lucky table a bit of impromptu #Queliot. I silently regretted my table choice.
Especially because our table never did get any time with Jason, so some of my paranoia was not in fact paranoia at all. I stopped to say hello on my way out, and Jason graciously took a photo to make up for the lack of discussion time.
I left the press room feeling super excited about the new season, and eager to catch The Magicians panel – luckily the Ballroom 20 line wasn’t too insane, so my friend Laurena and I were able to get halfway decent seats.
The panel was standing room only, with series stars Jason Ralph, Stella Maeve, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Summer Bishil and Hale Appleman, and showrunners Sera Gamble and John McNamara. Felicia Day moderated, which thrilled me as a Supernatural fan – Felicia plays Charlie on Supernatural (and Poppy on The Magicians).
Jason and Stella were raising money for Covenant House, a homeless youth shelter – The Magicians is another cast who cares about making a difference in the world. Note their tee shirts. The panel kicked off with a kickass video review of the last season, which ended with everyone in bad shape.
Sera: We have an unspoken rule that at the end of a season of a TV show, as good luck for getting another season, you just fuck everybody as hard as you can.
As we heard in the press room, the vast majority of the characters ended last season with a bad case of amnesia – as in, they have no idea who they are. And Eliot is someone else all together, namely possessed by a monster.
Eliot mostly says “Will you play with me?” in the creepiest way possible throughout the hilarious new season preview footage, which we also got to watch.
Felicia to Hale: What is with you, you’re creepy?
Hale: (totally creepy) Will you play with me?
Felicia: Sera, what is going on with Hale? Did you just look at him and say he’s too beautiful, I have to make him creepy and beautiful?
Sera: We didn’t not have those thoughts, but… basically I like to throw interesting and difficult material to actors I know are really good.
Olivia: Why am I the only one who has to stay the same miserable character?
The entire panel was gloriously off the rails (okay, semi off the rails) and peppered with four-letter words just like the series.
Sera: Can you tell we were just doing tequila backstage?
I honestly love this entire cast and this show so much. It’s not afraid to play fast and loose and see what happens, and that makes it one of the most creative shows on television right now.
Felicia: Jason, what were your favorite parts of Season 3? Anyone in particular who you worked with?
Jason (laughing): One of my favorite things, and I think Hale and I share this sentiment a little bit….(he pauses to let the audience anticipate)… and it’s that working with Summer is the best.
Jason: No, when we were shooting episode 5, the A Life In The Day episode…
Audience breaks into howls of joy…
[That episode, if you haven’t seen it, is all about the relationship between Quentin and Eliot, and it’s a huge fan favorite]
Jason: That was a real gift, and one that we knew was gonna be really special from the first read and that we were really excited to get to do. Our show is very fast paced and it’s about life and death, and it was very nice to have the opportunity to slow things down a little bit… There’s so much in the books about what happened between Eliot and Quentin, their relationship is so rich, so to have the opportunity to investigate those things on the show was a treat.
Hale: I second that, it was a beautiful opportunity for us to invest in the mundanity of everyday life between these two people and to allow the depth of the connection between Quentin and Eliot to live onscreen. So, thank you for that.
Felicia: It was a beautiful episode, it made me cry.
The entire cast was enthusiastic about everything from the musical episode and singing (which might happen again…) to playing “new” characters this season.
Sera teased Season four and one of its themes as being an exploration of how far people are willing to go in being authoritarian,
Sera: The library is very influential. At what point are you regulating things that need to be regulated and at what point are you a fascist?
That’s a question that their Dean Fogg might have to answer.
Sera: And it has nothing to do with our country… like at all…
Felicia: Are there any relationships you’re looking forward to exploring this season?
Olivia: I mean, I wish Alice and Quentin would get back together, but I don’t think I could get between these two! (Hale and Jason)
Hale: You can try…
The fan questions began with one about the Eliot and Quentin kiss in A Life In The Day.
Fan: Even though you were currently possessed, will there be any progression in that relationship?
Hale: I haven’t seen Eliot again at all this season, so… I hope so?
Sera: Doing stuff like that when you’re possessed is weird and rapey.
Hale: But I will say that the monster and Quentin, I mean Bri-guy, have a close bond, according to the monster at least.
Jason: winks at Hale
Another fan asked Hale what it’s been like bringing a queer character to life.
Hale: Thank you so much. There wasn’t really a character like Eliot when I was growing up, like I didn’t have a queer king, so I’m really grateful that I get to play a character as multi-faceted as Eliot who is queer, or fluid, or however you view him. He’s deep and he’s complicated and he likes dudes.
Hale: And we should be seeing more queer characters period. Until it’s not a conversation anymore and we all just fuck who we fuck.
Felicia: Thre is a lot of sexuality fluidity in the show. Is that just your kink?
John: Well, I do like musicals.
Sera: It is in the books though.
John: There is some fluidity or pansexuality in the books, but it’s very tossed off, there’s no big tea and sympathy moment. Eliot is Eliot, and Eliot and Quentin are gonna sleep together and Alice is angry but not because it’s bisexuality but because Eliot lied to her. And I think that’s really interesting, and for people of my generation because I’m way older, it was a huge deal to come out, no one in my high school did, it was incredibly a taboo thing until I was in my forties. This is the way society has thank god settled down.
Felicia: And Jason, did it surprise you, the twists and turns… I was trying to make an innuendo, but it didn’t work…did Quentin’s proclivities surprise you? Or was it just natural for him to love who he loves?
Jason: So you haven’t read the books…
Felicia: I read the books! Lev sent them to me!
Everyone: Is laughing
Jason: No, it’s something that’s a part of Quentin. It’s something that’s relatively undiscussed and I think that’s a little bit of the beauty of it. I don’t think we get to see a lot of that in television or in media. I believe sexuality is a spectrum and Quentin is somewhere in the middle. It’s the one thing in his life that he’s not anxious about and I like that. It was important to Hale and me when we were shooting the Life in a Day episode that after the kiss that we have, that the morning after wasn’t like a weird bumbling like oh we shouldn’t have done that.
Hale: We didn’t have to explain it, it exists, chemistry is chemistry.
There was also some discussion of favorite swear words on the show, which is an awesome thing to be able to discuss. To the surprise of no one, Sera just loves the word fuck.
At one point, Gamble called on the audience to peer pressure Felicia Day to come back to the show as Poppy, which the entire ballroom was more than happy to do.
Felicia: Sure, I need health insurance for my baby. But no, seriously, working with Jason, I think I am a better actor for it. You guys raise the bar for each other and I’d love to work with all of you.
There was also an unlikely discussion about how well hung the centaur was who was part of last season.
Sera: We kept having to send it back with ‘it’s gotta be bigger, guys…’
Felicia: The show is like a 9-year-old with no moral compass.
I’m not sure what this says about me, but maybe that’s why I love it. Also, I totally left the panel a #Queliot shipper. And a fan who cannot wait for Season 4!!!
The Magicians Season 4 premieres soon on SyFy – keep a lookout for the release date!