Jason Ralph used his appearance at the 2018 San Diego Comic Con to not just promote The Magicians and its upcoming fourth season, but also to help promote an important cause. Ralph was wearing a T-shirt that read: “If you see this shirt, donate $5 (link in the bio).”
The first question I asked Jason Ralph during our roundtable interview at Comic Con was about the shirt and the charity he’s supporting. We also discussed what’s happening with Quentin and where we’ll pick up with the group in The Magicians‘ much-anticipated fourth season.
Jason Ralph The Magicians Interview:
Can you talk about the message on your shirt?
Jason Ralph: “I’m raising money for Covenant House, which is a homeless youth shelter. I’m trying to raise $10,000 today. It’s an extraordinary organization that not only gives homeless youth the necessities of food, shelter, clothing, they also provide them with the resources to not only get off the streets but stay off the streets – education and all sorts of things, life experiences, job training.
The thing that I found the most profound about it and something that I hadn’t thought of before…I’ve been working with this organization for the past four years and visiting numerous locations, teaching acting classes and stuff like that. The thing that I was struck with the most was a lot of these kids have never been told – sorry, it’s emotional for me – have never been told I love you or you’re good enough, or you can do this – you can succeed. That is something that I have so taken for granted. Everything that I have in my life is because of that, is because I was set up with that very base level of humanity. And, that is something that needs to be given.
It is shocking to me, but I think it’s something that this organization does very well. So, I’m trying to raise some money for them. It’s important to me. If you want to visit my Twitter or Instagram, click the link in the bio and every little bit helps.”
Have you witnessed a lot of success stories in the four years you’ve been involved?
Jason Ralph: “Very much so. A lot of the kids who graduate from the program come back and give back and get back involved with the system in trying to get other kids off the streets. And a lot of kids just go off to live very full lives. It’s very high success rate. It’s an international organization; it’s all over the world.”
In season four of The Magicians, what’s happening with Quentin’s alter ego?
Jason Ralph: “Quentin doesn’t exist. His name is Brian. I like to call him Bri Guy. He has a sunny disposition. It’s fun. From an acting perspective, we’re doing sort of like a hard reboot. We get to see these people experiencing magic all over again, but from a brand-new perspective.
I think Quentin came at it with a lot of skepticism and was sort of perpetually disappointed with what he found magic to be. He was someone who suffered – felt like he suffered in his life and wanted a quick fix, and magic could do that. It was something that he always fantasized about it and then when it actually came true, it wasn’t like (he thought). There are no quick fixes in life, even with magic, and he learned that it wasn’t going to fulfill him in ways that he needed it to. I think he has a complicated relationship with it.
Brian’s relationship, on the other hand, I don’t think he’s someone who ever even thought about magic. He never read the Fillory books. I think maybe he read like half of the Lord of the Rings books and he was like, ‘It just talks about leaves and grass. I just can’t take it anymore! Elves? What?!’
And then he’s like thrust into the clutches of this evil monster with sort of like an insatiable appetite for blood and carnage and is learning magic from that perspective. I think it’s a little bit more wide-eyed and shocking.”
Do you miss Quentin and Alice together? Do you have a relationship in mind for Quentin?
Jason Ralph: (Smiling broadly) “It’s just so complicated. I think he’s on a solo journey for the moment. I think he’s been spending a lot of time learning about himself. This is a person who we learn now has the emotional wisdom of someone who is 120 years old. After the episode where he lives a full life, that’s something they remember to an extent. Maybe not vividly, but I think it lives (inside them). Because of that he’s a very different person than when he started. Alice has gone through an equally complicated journey. I think they’re intrinsically tied to each other in the same way that Quentin and Eliot are.”
So, Quentin is learning to love himself?
Jason Ralph: “Yeah. That’s where I’m at with him. We’ll see what the writers throw at me.”
One of the things the series does so well is tackling mental health issues. How do you prepare for those scenes?
Jason Ralph: “It’s something that I take very seriously. It’s something that I always fear being flippant about. It’s a conversation that I don’t think we have enough, and because we don’t have it enough it’s delicate. I just try to do my best to try to make it important.”
(At this point in the interview, Jason Ralph’s friend and co-star Hale Appleman pulls up a chair. They share some water and Hale places his arm around Jason’s shoulders before leaving to do another interview.)
So, you take mental health issues very seriously?
Jason Ralph: “I do take it very seriously. It’s something that I put a lot of focus onto. It’s something that we as a cast were drawn to the story for. It’s something that I think the books talk about in a way that I’ve really never experienced fantasy broaching. I think it’s a nuanced perspective.
It’s rewarding to come to Comic Con and interact with the fans because so often we’re up in Vancouver making a show about magic and it can feel flippant and silly. And it’s nice to know that when we come back here…last year we were in a hall of 2,000 people, 2,000 strangers, and 90% of the people who wanted to come up and ask questions wanted to talk about their own experiences with depression and anxiety and sexual assault. And to be a part of something that in a room full of strangers your innermost demons or struggles are on the tip of your tongue is pretty profound. It’s nice to know as an artist that the things that we are fighting for are coming across and that it’s worthwhile.”
That said, are there any light moments in the next season?
Jason Ralph: “I’m less drawn to the light moments. There is a fair amount of physical comedy coming your way from me in one of the first episodes. Like a lot of like falling and choking… It’s a series of unfortunate events for whoever this character is.”
Tone-wise, what do you think about this season compared to the others?
Jason Ralph: “We’re right at the beginning. The tone of the show is kind of all over the place in an exciting way. Sometimes it’s a drama and sometimes it’s a comedy. Sometimes it’s both, and sometimes it’s a musical. Sometimes it’s a mystery and sometimes it’s an adventure. Sometimes it’s a thriller. That kind of stuff. The writers have provided themselves a lot of freedom to explore genres.
This season so far has been a little bit of horror. I’ve spent 90% of what we shot so far covered in blood. It’s sticky.”
Is it your own blood or someone else’s?
Jason Ralph: (Smiling) “I can’t say.”
What is it like playing scenes with Hale given the history between Quentin and Eliot now that Eliot is a monster?
Jason Ralph: “Supposing we’re in a world where Quentin comes back and someone would remember those sorts of things, I would imagine that it would be difficult and that someone might devote their lives to trying to get their friend back. Supposing…”
More on The Magicians:
- Interview with Hale Appleman
- Olivia Taylor Dudley Interview
- Stella Maeve Interview
- Summer Bishil Interview