Exclusive Interview: Olivia Taylor Dudley on ‘The Magicians’ and Horror Movies

Olivia Taylor Dudley Jason Ralph The Magicians
Olivia Taylor Dudley as Alice and Jason Ralph as Quentin in ‘The Magicians’ (Photo by: Carole Segal/Syfy)

I saw a lot of The Magicians star Olivia Taylor Dudley last year. She starred in two prominent horror films, The Vatican Tapes and Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, and I even saw a Kickstartered horror spoof she was in called Dude Bro Party Massacre III. She played the killer, Motherface.

When Syfy brought The Magicians cast to a panel for the Television Critics Association, Dudley was the magician I wanted to speak to. She plays Alice, one of the young magicians in training on the new show, and I could tell how excited she was to talk about it. The Magicians airs Monday nights at 9pm ET/PT on Syfy.

Olivia Taylor Dudley Interview:

I feel like I’ve seen you a lot in a number of movies. Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, The Vatican Tapes and I even saw Dude Bro Party Massacre III.

Olivia Taylor Dudley: “Oh, you did? Awesome.”

Has it been a really good time for you?

Olivia Taylor Dudley: “Yeah, it’s been a great time. I had quite a few projects come out this year and I’m a big fan of horror. I love it. I love fantasy so it’s been a really fun year for that. I’m really proud of Dude Bro. It’s a project I’ve been working on for many years with my partners. I’m really glad it’s getting well received.”

It’s such a crazy movie but Motherface is actually a really great villain.

Olivia Taylor Dudley: “Thank you. I came up with Motherface many years ago and I thought having the female as the villain and getting to wear a mask an entire movie was fantastic.”

Was being the villain a somewhat easier job than being the screaming victim?

Olivia Taylor Dudley: “I don’t really play the victim that often. I don’t know how often I’ve ever played the victim. I’ve gotten really lucky to fight for the more powerful roles, but I had so much fun playing the villain. Are you kidding? I had a great time.”

After doing so many horror movies, was it important to do something a little different?

Olivia Taylor Dudley: “Yeah, I definitely got a little burnt out on doing horror films for now. I love them so much but I really wanted to do fantasy or drama, and The Magicians is such a lovely combination of the two.”

How aware of the Lev Grossman books were you when The Magicians came along?

Olivia Taylor Dudley: “I wasn’t aware of them at all. I haven’t been reading many books as of late, so I wasn’t aware of what books were out there. When the script came across my desk and I just saw the word ‘Magicians,’ I freaked out because I’m a huge fantasy fan and magic is something that’s been a part of my life forever. So I called my agents before I even read it and said I want to go in for it. Then I read it and I was blown away. Then I fell in love with Alice and I read the books. I just feel really lucky to be part of it.”

How into real world magic, like illusionists, are you?

Olivia Taylor Dudley: “You know, I’m more into magic that just happens, like in life. I’ve never been one to go to magic shows, although I love them and I have some friends who are great magicians. But we got to have quite a few illusionists come to set and teach us stuff and show us stuff. It’s a very impressive skill and I think I’m probably way more into it now than I was then.”

Olivia Taylor Dudley in The Magicians
Olivia Taylor Dudley (Photo by Rodolfo Martinez/Syfy)

They never want to tell you their secret, but I would rather know how they do it because if you can make it look like there’s real magic, that’s cooler than if you just had magic powers.

Olivia Taylor Dudley: “I don’t know, I want magic powers. One of the guys who came and did it for us, there’s no way it wasn’t magic. The things he was doing were unbelievable.”

Why did you fall in love with Alice?

Olivia Taylor Dudley: “I just related to her on a level. I’ve never been a very social person. I just put my head down and do the things I want to do in life and that’s what Alice is like. She’s very driven and doesn’t put up with anyone’s nonsense. I really understood that.”

Has acting brought you any further out of your social shell?

Olivia Taylor Dudley: “It forces me to, like in situations like this when you’re promoting stuff, yeah. I’m most comfortable in life when I’m on set so outside of that, it’s a weird world. It was really crazy some days when I’d read the new scripts and there would be a scene with Alice and I’d be like, ‘Oh, this is literally something that’s happened to me many times in my life.’ They were very good at writing towards us as people and the characters.”

How hard was doing the first season of The Magicians?

Olivia Taylor Dudley: “It was the hardest work I’ve ever done but the most rewarding. It was amazing. We worked long hours. I think I worked almost every day of production and it was wonderful. The cast and crew were the best I’ve ever worked with. It was hard work but the best kind.”

How did the visual effects of The Magicians compare to some of the movies you’ve been in?

Olivia Taylor Dudley: “I think some of my past films had a lot more visual effects involving my characters. On this show we did so many practical ones that I think I worked with the green screen maybe once, for five seconds. Other than that, everything was happening practically. We got really lucky with that. I know there’s a lot of visual effects that go into the spell casting and the tutting that we do with our fingers, but it felt like we were doing magic every day at work.”

Are the finger tuts hard to memorize and choreograph?

Olivia Taylor Dudley: “Yeah, we had a choreographer who came to set every day and choreographed each spell for us. Then we’d have to work on it in our own time. We got the hang of it. Some are way better than others. Everyone has their own style.”

Do you know all of Alice’s secrets?

Olivia Taylor Dudley: “I do, yeah. I love Alice. I love her deeply.”

I can tell. Is it fun to have those secrets and dole them out?

Olivia Taylor Dudley: “Yeah, it is. He wrote so many great things in the books but to get to discover things on my own as Alice has been an amazing journey and I hope we get to go back and do more, because the story of where she came from is really messed up and really fascinating. We get into it a lot actually in the first season.”

How much backstory is in the first season?

Olivia Taylor Dudley: “I think everybody gets a little bit of background on where they came from and why they are there. Everybody has a story in life. It’s why they have all the baggage that they have and that’s kind of what the show is about, who these people are and why they are the way they are. Yeah, we dip into who Alice is and where she came from.”

Where does your Alice diverge from the books?

Olivia Taylor Dudley: “I can’t really think of anything. They’ve done a beautiful job of writing everything pretty close to the books, like the characters and the storylines. It’s just like some of the events kind of move around, but I can’t think of anything that’s different than the books, really. It’s just more or less where things happen and when they’re revealed.”

Have the fans of these books reached out to you since you were cast?

Olivia Taylor Dudley: “Yeah, we’ve had great responses from the fans and I love when people tell me Alice was their favorite character in the book because I feel so strongly about it. Yeah, the fan response has been great and it’s so hard when you adapt a beloved piece of literature into a TV show. There’s a lot riding on it. We feel the pressure but they’ve been really supportive. Having Lev have our back, he’s been really supportive on social media about the show, I think that really is encouraging to the fans.”

Are you on Twitter with the fans?

Olivia Taylor Dudley: “I am. I’m not the best on social media but I’m learning.”