Published on February 1, 2016 via parade.com
by Alison Abbey
Based on the best-selling books of the same name, The Magicians is a series about twenty-something students at Brakebills University, a secret school that specializes in magic. The story centers around Brakebills newbie Quentin Coldwater, played by Jason Ralph, who is learning the ins and outs of the school and of magic. We talked to Ralph about real life in a fantasy world.
What drew you to The Magicians?
I started reading the book and became a very quick and very rabid fan, and it became really important to me to make sure we were doing these books justice. I found myself in an opportunity to sit down with the creatives and chat about what we love about these books and I came away from that meeting very sure that these were the people I wanted to tell this story with. I’d never been afforded that opportunity before and it was an extraordinary way to begin this process. It felt like I was a part of the creation.
What do you love about the character of Quentin Coldwater?
Most people’s critique of the book is that Quentin annoys them. [Laughs] I love that! I love that he’s not your classic hero and he’s never really going to be. That’s the thing that makes him relatable. It’s a more honest and objective look at what it would be like to have magic in the real world because he’s a real person who behaves the way that I think we all would in these types of situations. It felt like a very honest human journey to me, and one that is exciting to play.
Do you think people watching the series will feel differently about Quentin than those who read the book?
I am drawn to the unlikability of him. At first he is and should be unlikable, but in time he will grow on you. He will begin to become the man that you want him to be. But he takes time.
The show brings in a character who has a greater role in the second book, Quentin’s childhood friend Julia. What is their relationship like?
We have the luxury of playing both stories at the same time and getting to really see the differences between their two journeys very directly. They are best friends and, for much of their lives, the only people who were there for each other. I think Quentin finally gets one step ahead of her in a way [by getting into Brakebills]. He is so excited by this new life that he kind of throws out everything about his old life and that includes Julia. There are a lot of mixed feelings in there, like loss, envy and then anger when she tries to become a part of the magic world, too. It’s is an adolescent feeling but not an untrue one. But they come together in many ways and are forced to look at each other in a new light.
What’s it like to go from shows based in reality—like Aquarius, Manhattan and Madame Secretary—to a show so rooted in fantasy.
That’s what I was drawn to about it, it’s not a traditional fantasy. It felt more grounded than anything else that I had watched or read before. Acting is a funny job because you’re always playing a hundred levels of pretend, but when you’re working with great designers who end up doing a lot of that work for you, you can focus on the things you want to focus on. So much of the magic we did was done practically on set. I did very little standing in front of a green screen looking at tennis balls.
What do you believe will keep people tuning in to the show?
It’s a surprising, new look at this classic what would it be like to have magic? question. All of these characters are extremely relatable and they’re all people that you know that make choices you and I would make, and that’s enticing to me. I live in New York City and the show takes place in New York City, so to be able to imagine what if that happened right here? really sparks my imagination. It’s so real that I think people will leave thinking about it.
The Magicians airs on Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on Syfy. You can catch up on the first two episodes at syfy.com.
This article was originally posted here and has been included on this page as an archive of Jason Ralph’s interviews/articles.