'The Magicians' Stars Tease Character Changes

by Shaun Fitzpatrick

As a huge fan of the Lev Grossman book series The Magicians , when I heard that Syfy was developing a show based on the trilogy I had a ton of feelings. I was both incredibly excited to see the books brought to life and absolutely terrified that it would not do my favorite series justice. What if it totally changed the plot, or, the worst fear of all, ruined my favorite characters? That's why, when speaking with The Magicians stars Jason Ralph (Quentin Coldwater), Hale Appleman (Eliot Waugh), and Summer Bishil (Margo Hansen, called Janet in the novels), the biggest question on my mind was: how much did their Magicians characters change from book to screen?

Luckily, it seems that while some changes were made, they'll be the same characters we know and love from Grossman's books. Ralph is especially reassuring, as he clearly knows how important Quentin is to fans of The Magicians. "Reading a book is such an intimate experience for a reader, in that you're forced to kind of create all of these characters yourself ... it's something that you do alone, your version of Quentin Coldwater, and your version of Harry Potter or Frodo, are all different from my version of that person, the one that I envision in my head, and from everyone else's, but all of those versions are still that character," he says. "So to me, I'm trying to play the Quentin that I know and love in the books, the one that I read off the page and who I related to. So as far as things changing, I'm not sure. I'm trying to stay true to Quentin as I understand him to be."

It's always comforting to hear that a character is in the hands of an actor who obviously knows and loves the original story. As far as changes, Ralph does say that the show delves a little deeper into Quentin's struggles, whether in regards to his rocky relationships with others or his clinical depression — a point hinted at in the novels but explicitly stated in the Syfy series.

The fact that the characters are a bit older on the show leads to some changes in their portrayal as well, which Appleman explains in regards to playing Eliot. "I think in part, the idea that we're a little bit older in the show, we're in grad school, I think that it gives me a little bit of wiggle room to throw in ideas about what may have evolved in him ... In the series we're sticking him more in his early twenties or his mid-twenties, and I think that that sort of allows for a little more weight."

This Eliot, according to Appleman, is a little darker and more vulnerable than the snarky version in the books. But this change also lets fans learn more about Eliot's past and what he gets up to when Quentin isn't around. "That may be a slight difference, or that also might lie more in the realm of coloring in what we didn't necessarily see a lot of in certain parts of the book," Appleman says. Personally, I'll never complain about getting more Eliot, so I'm excited to see his character get a little more attention and depth on TV.

Some changes besides age were made in the transition to television, but according to Bishil, that just means it may take a little longer to see the characters we're familiar with. "I think who Margo is is very much in line with who she was in the book," she says. "Her essence is very much the same. She's fearless and she's intensely loyal to Eliot and funny and inappropriate and all of the things she was in the book, she is in the series. I suppose you just see it played out a little slower, would be my only observation of it being a little different. You really don't get to know Margo right away, it takes time." In the case of Margo that's definitely a good thing, as in the first few episodes she doesn't have the bite Janet possesses in the books just yet.

But Bishil promises that will change as we see more of Margo throughout The Magicians. "Towards the end she starts emerging as the little badass, and I love that it's so surprising because she starts out as being a little vapid, and then all of these other elements of her personality start emerging and she becomes so much more layered and you discover so many more aspects of her." So worry not, bossy, badass Janet is hidden inside Margo and will make an appearance before the show is over.

While fans may notice these and other changes when The Magicians premieres on Syfy on Jan. 25 at 9 p.m., we can still look forward to seeing our favorites characters come to life and evolve over the course of the series.

Images: Lorenzo Agius/Syfy, Syfy (2)