‘The Magicians’ – Jason Ralph and Stella Maeve Interview on Season 2, a Dragon, and Finding Happiness

The Magicians Stella Maeve and Jason Ralph
Stella Maeve as Julia and Jason Ralph as Quentin in ‘The Magicians’ (Photo by Eike Schroter/Syfy)

Syfy’s The Magicians managed a feat most shows can’t pull off: it avoided the sophomore slump. Season two of The Magicians, which airs on Wednesdays at 9pm ET/PT, is just as engaging as season one of the fantasy series. Based on the novels by Lev Grossman, The Magicians stars Jason Ralph as Quentin Coldwater, Stella Maeve as Julia, Olivia Taylor Dudley as Alice, Hale Appleman as Eliot, Arjun Gupta as Penny, Summer Bishil as Margo, Rick Worthy as Dean Fogg, and Jade Tailor as Kady.

Syfy brought stars Jason Ralph and Stella Maeve, along with executive producers Sera Gamble and John McNamara, to the 2017 WonderCon in Anaheim where they participated in a packed panel. Prior to participating in the Q&A with fans, Ralph and Maeve teamed up to talk about the series in our exclusive interview. The interview took place on April Fool’s Day, so it was only appropriate we kicked off with a joke about what’s in store in upcoming episodes.

So the next episode is going to be an all-musical episode with Quentin and Julia singing and dancing?

Jason Ralph: “Yeah. Actually season three is going to be one big musical. It’s going to be an operetta.”

Stella Maeve: “Ballads will be sung.”

Wouldn’t that be kind of fun after all the darkness you’ve had to go through?

Stella Maeve: “Yeah, but I want it to be rock. […]The Talking Heads, we could do a rendition.”

Is Julia being driven just by revenge at this point or has it evolved into something else?

Stella Maeve: “Yeah, I think it’s easy to mask it as revenge but I don’t think that that’s really what it is. I think that she’s just trying to find a way to repair the damage that has been done and heal herself and sort of fill this hole and this void. Julia’s journey…she believes that by finding Reynard and killing him, that will give her the solace and maybe she can be whole again. I think she is hopeful that it can give her some peace of mind.”

Can she be hopeful without her shade?

Stella Maeve: “The shade is a tricky little guy. The lines are really blurred. It was hard to understand the guidelines of the shade. I even had trouble with it. It was sort of very open. It contradicts certain things, and then other elements it doesn’t. It’s a very sort of like grey area. I think that apparently what it is supposed to do is sort of give you a lack…”

Jason Ralph: “At its core.”

Stella Maeve: “Yeah, at its core give you a lack of empathy or sort of skew your subconscious or your conscious, even, into being able to pick what the right thing to do is and the moral thing to do is, and then what the instantanous thing to do is. It’s hard; it’s tricky.”

Jason Ralph: “It doesn’t necessarily make one a bad person or a bad guy, or like a villain.”

Stella Maeve: “It’s just a lack of regard of the people that you’re affecting around you.”

It’s interesting there’s so much grey area in this series. There isn’t really black and white, although there are a few villains.

Jason Ralph: “We do set them up to be understood from a broader perspective, so it is tricky. It’s like is the Beast a villain? He is at his core a little boy trying to stay in a place where he feels safe and doing anything to do that. And so you can’t fault that, necessarily. I mean, it sucks because it’s at odds with what we want.”

Stella Maeve: “That doesn’t make it wrong.”

Jason Ralph: “Yeah, maybe. I don’t know. Which is nice, which is true to the world that we’re in right now.”

It must be really interesting to get the scripts not knowing which direction storylines are going.

Stella Maeve: “It’s interesting, for sure. There are times when we’ve been on the phone and we’re like, ‘What?!’ Jason’s like, ‘I’m walking laps around my apartment. I’m reading the script,’ and we’re like, ‘We’re going to do this!’ We never know. We never know what we’re going to get next.”

Jason Ralph: “We have the novels that are sort of like the base, the inspiration to draw from. So, a lot of that process of reading the scripts is like, ‘Oh, okay. Awesome, this is that part of the book that I love. Amazing. How can I invest and make this a more full experience or as a full of an experience as I have as a reader?'”

Stella Maeve: “He brings the novels to set, and it’s great. It’s nice to be able to infuse the two. Even if something is not written in the script for the show, it’s nice to pull from the book.”

The Magicians Stella Maeve and Jason Ralph
Stella Maeve as Julia and Jason Ralph as Quentin in ‘The Magicians’ (Photo by: Eike Schroter/Syfy)

Is it possible for Quentin to be happy? Does he even know what he’s searching for at this point?

Jason Ralph: “His is a process of self-discovery. Like, what does happiness mean? I don’t know what that means. I think he had very specific ideas of what happiness would be and how he would achieve that, and in achieving all of those steps along the way he still found himself unhappy, unsatisfied mostly. I think this season has been a journey of looking inward. And so, maybe, in some way.”

Stella Maeve: “That’s a good question though, because that’s what the books question. It’s kind of like can you ever really fully find happiness always, continuously? You know what I mean?”

Jason Ralph: “Because what is that? What does that mean?”

Stella Maeve: “Exactly. It’s undefined.”

And next up is the dragon. What did you interact with on set?

Jason Ralph: “Nothing. Not even a tennis ball. Well, no, we had an X on the wall, remember?”

Stella Maeve: “We did. We had a neon X. We had a green neon X and then a neon orange X.”

Jason Ralph: “Yeah, depending on where the dragon was. At different points we would look at a certain X. But at the time, the day before shooting had been cancelled because she was so sick.”

Stella Maeve: “Deathly ill.”

Jason Ralph: “She couldn’t do anything.”

Stella Maeve: “The underworld scene we were both [sick].”

Jason Ralph: “Yeah, that whole episode I was dying of the flu. That whole scene we were just trying to stand up.”

Stella Maeve: “It was hard.”

Jason Ralph: “And not be coughing.”

They couldn’t just give you time off?

Jason Ralph: [Laughing] “I know, but time is money. So, I don’t even remember most of that. I was so high on DayQuil, just like rubbing oil of oregano…”

Stella Maeve: “I heard you got an oil rub! I never got one of those!”

Jason Ralph: “Literally everyone on set had a different remedy for this cold, so they were all slipping me their things. I just had so many vitamins and oils and drugs.”

You could have gotten worse mixing all this stuff together.

Jason Ralph: [Laughing] “Maybe.”

Stella Maeve: “We had homemade chicken noodle soup.”

Jason Ralph: “Dani made the best chicken noodle soup I’ve ever had in my entire life. I can’t tell if maybe because I was high…”

Stella Maeve: “No, no, no. It was really good.”

You have to have it when you’re not high and compare it and see if it’s still the same.

Jason Ralph: “She sent me the recipe.”

Are you a cook?

Jason Ralph: “I love to cook. I grill and cook. I research recipes online, do the whole thing.”

If there’s a season three, what do you hope for your characters?

Stella Maeve: “I’d like to see Julia and Quentin, much as the books, maybe go on their journey. Maybe with the ship. I’d like to see it sort of follow that storyline. I’d like to see more Fillory and some of the aspects that that has with the talking animals.”

Have they hinted to you at all that that might be coming up?

Stella Maeve: “No.”

Jason Ralph: “We don’t know anything. The season ends with a really big cliffhanger.”

Have you been keeping track of what fans say online about your characters? What do you think about the reactions on social media?

Stella Maeve: “I love the love, the positive reinforcements. Some fans are making incredible fan art. They’re painting pictures and drawing us. That’s so cool. It’s such an honor. It’s incredible. Very, very cool. Anything that gets you going and inspires you and makes you want to create is very cool. Very impressive.”

And there’s the controversy surrounding the abortion storyline and the fact that she lost her shade immediately after that. How did you interpret that?

Stella Maeve: “Honestly, I can’t judge the material. I’m literally just the puppet from the puppeteers, you know? Whether or not I understand or agree or disagree, I kind of just have to leave my own stuff at the door and do what’s on the page. I am powerless in that sense.

As far as the rape went, that was something that was in the novels. That was to be expected. That was something that I prepared for and was aware of. It was very important to me to handle that as if it was a real rape and to be able to create a forum where people felt safe. And teaming up with RAINN and having their call center run a PSA after the episode aired, I have had a lot of people come up and connect with me on that and say that it really helped them. That’s all I can ask for, to be able to have that forum. That meant the world to me. That was great.”

Jason Ralph: “I think a lot of the characters on the show go through traumatic things and are dealing with a lot of real world problems. I think, especially as performers, we’re careful not to prescribe right or wrong answers. These are the experiences that these particular people had and how they’re dealing with it. With the rape and with depression and how they are depicted, it’s like none of these are answers. They are just these people’s journeys.”

Episode 10 showed Quentin and Julia are coming back together a little more as friends. Are we going to see more of that moving forward?

Jason Ralph: “Yeah, I think so. It seems that way.”

Stella Maeve: “Yay!”

Jason Ralph: “Yeah, I think we’ll have an epic adventure together.”

Stella Maeve: “I hope so.”

Watch the full interview with The Magicians stars Jason Ralph and Stella Maeve: