The Magicians is a fantasy series based on the Lev Grossman books of the same name that will be premiering on Showcase this January.
The show follows a group of college-aged spell casters attending the magical Brakebills Academy. Vancity Buzz recently visited the set of The Magicians and the level of detail was stunning. Two of the main sets are the house where the main characters – the ‘Physical Kids’, after their magical discipline – live and the laboratory where they learn magic.
Production Designer Rachel O’Toole modeled the ‘Physical Kid’s cottage’ partially after an opium den, and the set actually includes the bed from an opium den hidden in the wall. The whole space is heavily textured and rich in knick-knacks, but not a single thing clashes or looks like it does not belong. It really feels like generations of students have lived there and left their own marks on the décor, down to the bits of graffiti painted on the walls.
The laboratory set includes multiple easter eggs which will interest fans of the books, such as portraits of past deans and a periodic table including magical and interdimensional elements.
Author Lev Grossman was on set, along with showrunner Sera Gamble and members of the cast. Grossman described the transition from the solo medium of novel writing, which he calls a “control freak’s medium”, to the more collaborative environment of television as “a wonderful surprise”. He says that the cast of the show “do things with the characters that I never would have thought of, but I wish I had…When you’re a writer one of the best things that happens is when your characters surprise you and these guys surprise me all the time in really wonderful ways.”
One of the things Grossman was most nervous about seeing adapted into a visual medium was spell casting, because he worried that what worked on the page might not work on the screen. This was a concern for the show’s creative team as well, so much so that they hired a choreographer to develop a visual language for spell casting. Different movements have been designed for different types of spells, and also tailored to the specific character casting them so that the same spell looks different on different people.
“There’s a bit in the books where it says ‘when you’re doing magic you have to mean it’. It’s really cool watching these guys do it. They really sell it, they really mean it,” said Grossman in regards to watching the cast act out spells.
The protagonist of The Magicians is Quentin (Jason Ralph), who is intelligent but also anti-social and self-centered. His social circle includes the quiet Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley), unofficial group leader Eliot (Hale Appleman), rebellious Penny (Arjun Gupta), and party girl Margo (Summer Bishil) who was adapted from the character ‘Janet’ in the books. The television series will also have a secondary focus on Julia (Stella Maeve), who did not get into Brakebills and must instead learn magic through less official, underground, channels.
Showcase will air a preview of The Magicians on December 16 at 10 p.m. The series premieres January 25 at 9 p.m.