Stella Maeve – The Magicians
By: Lisa Steinberg
Q) What kind of response have you gotten to Season Two of “The Magicians?”
A) The response seems to be really good and people seem to be really happy with it. It’s good! We haven’t gotten our pick up yet so people are like, “What?!” We had already gotten our pickup by this time last year so I think we’re all a little like, “Huh?” But the response from the fans seems to be good. Julia is a tough character to like. It’s kind of all over the place, but I’m surprised by how many people are still in her corner. Surprised in a good way! It’s nice.
Q) “The Magicians” has picked up a lot fans through word of mouth and buzz this season.
A) Yeah and I think Netflix having the first season available to live stream, which seemed to help get a lot more viewers. It got wild after it was released on Netflix. The response was pretty massive.
Q) How have things “leveled up” for Season Two in terms of upping the game?
A) One hundred percent they have upped the game! I mean, Sera [Gamble] and John [McNamara] have done everything possible I felt in Season One we blew through it with Book One and Book Two that is like, “What’s left?” There is PLENTY left! There is definitely a minute that goes to waste in Season Two. It’s cool because you get to see a lot more of Julia and Fillory and you get to see a lot more of our main cast interact with one another. We got to see Julia and Penny (Arjun Gupta) have a scene together this season and Margo (Summer Bishil) and Julia and Eliot (Hale Appleman) and Julia towards the end of the season have a scene together. Spoiler alert right there! It’s kind of nice to see the cast come together in more than one way and have different relationships in the core group. It’s nice to discover that as opposed to season one where everything was so separate. Now, there is three different worlds we get to divulge in. It’s hard because it is such a plot driven show that it is not really character driven. So, it’s hard to sort of squeeze in all of these emotions throughout the course of the season and even in an episode. But we have a great group of actors and a lot of them come from a theater background and I think we make a meal out of whatever we can. It’s nice because in interacting with each other when there are characters that haven’t interacted before we get to see more sides to them. So, that’s cool. It definitely fleshes it out more, which is great.
Q) What can you tease is in store for Julia this season?
A) I feel like you are going to get to see a totally different side of Julia towards the middle to the end of the season. I don’t know how much I’m allowed to reveal, but you might see a lot more of the beast in Julia than you may have thought. We play with the topic about “your moral compass” and your empathy (or the lack there of). There are some layers we get to play with there. IN the beginning we get to talk about shame stuff and it was nice to have an opportunity to play with that as the series goes on.
Q) The cinematography has a great immersion feel to it. To what do you attribute that kind of connection from viewers?
A) Whoa! That’s good. That’s great! Honestly, we have a great crew in Vancouver. I’ve been doing this for what – twenty years! More now…But it is probably the greatest crew if not the top two greatest crews I’ve worked with in my career. Rachel O’Toole who is our production designer built these beautiful worlds and having the landscape of Vancouver – which is so beautiful and the nature of it all was able to incorporate that. Then, with our cinematographer Elie Smolkin she tries to get us in there. They really do it justice. We are taken to these magical lands, but we don’t have to pretend too much because they make our jobs that much easier – which is wonderful. It’s nice and good as the viewer that you feel you are in it with us because we’re definitely in it. It’s great! I’ve never seen so many crew members reading the scripts and watching it. They are so involved in a way that is really kismet and magical, if you will. It is really special. Having everybody who wants to build something that is bigger than themselves, something that is essentially a machine. But it is great that it translates. I’m happy to hear that.
Q) How has the show being on the Syfy networked helped it to push boundaries?
A) Full disclosure, I’m not a sci-fi fan. [laughs] that’s not my genre of choice. I’ve never really been into it. But what they did with this show was so cool. This was their baby. They wanted this to be that vehicle that breaks sci-fi open and not stick to the quintessential sci-fi genre. Include more of a fantasy element like The Princess Bride in it and I think they do that quite a while. “The Magicians” brings that to the table. It also grasps a younger audience, which I don’t think Syfy had before. And everybody over at NBC/Universal and works for Syfy – the top dogs over there are such great people. It’s like working with your friends. So, it’s kind of quite lovely. Whenever they come to set we have a great time. Whenever we have to do the press junkets they are always there and so supportive and so great. We text! It’s nice to feel that familial bond and support. It’s really great to work with a group of individuals who is not about playing with the TV formula and format – clocking in and clocking out. I think it runs a lot deeper than that, which is great. I think it did accomplish what they hoped it would, which is nice too. Something I learned not being a fan of the sci-fi or superhero genre is that good sci-fi is a metaphor…I guess when making good sci-fi the ultimate goal is to be able to be metaphoric in the sense of talking about real issues and diving deep into the resolution while being able to use fantastical and scientific notions as a way to mask it. If you can master that and use that veil to discuss real issues and bring all sorts (political, sexual, etc.) to the surface and find that resolution that means you are making good sci-fi. If people can relate to it then you have mastered it. I do feel that from our viewers. Especially with Julia, with the rape, it was in the novels and also whether or not it was an actual man or a demigod or demon or trickster it is still treated as such. I feel the connection with other victims and people who have been through sexual trauma. I feel that really strong> I feel like they were able to relate and empathize. I had so many people reach out and so many connections made. It created a safe space for people to talk about that and I loved that. It’s so gratifying that I don’t have the words to say it. If we can do that it’s wonderful! One small step for human kind!
Q) What has been the most challenging aspect to filming this season?
A) I guess what was so hard about this season was it is difficult to play a character that is many awful things incessantly continue to happen. Julia has to go through all these awful series of events. I guess that is life for all of us in one way or another, but it is so hard being able to take hit after hit as this woman and also not necessarily make the right decisions or have something that maybe me, as Stella, might not agree with. It’s hard to sort of find a way to defend your character when you know they are headed in the wrong direction. You’re like, “Wait! No! Don’t do that!” you want to be able to stop them, but I guess that is kind of life. I’m sure like having a child you have to let the ones you love go through traumas and make mistakes. I love Julia and watching anyone I love is extremely difficult. That’s been tough and I can only hope that people will empathize and have patience and know that these characters are human. Humans are flawed and none of us are perfect but we are all trying, right? The thruline that all of these characters share is that they have a hard time connecting. They are all, in one way or another, socially inept and that’s kind of American right now. [laughs] We’re all just trying to connect, empathize and relate and there is such a huge lack of that in the world. Who knows? Maybe in Season Three they can let themselves feel and be one.
Q) What do you hope people take away from watching Season Two of “The Magicians?”
A) I just hope people watch it and have fun and enjoy it. Sci-fi and fantasy is a nice form of escapism for what is going on today and I think it is definitely hard with my storyline in particular since it is such a fun, fantastical show and yet Julia’s storyline is so ark and so real that I can’t do interviews and say, “tis fun and happy!” It’s actually brutal and crazy. We had a fun time making it. We put our heart and souls into it. For what it is worth, I hope that people can empathize. I hope that people can relate to it and that before judging a character or relationship maybe empathize with it before placing judgement. See every side. Not everything is black and white. I hope we can create a forum for people to connect and come together.