This is a dandy time for fantasy fans, with their genre showing up on HBO, NBC, ABC, Fox, USA and more. But what about the Syfy Channel, which used to have the genre to itself. It has to keep getting more ambitious, with shows like "The Magicians," which starts its second season Wednesday (Jan.25); here's the story I sent to papers:
By Mike Hughes
Young people – and
others – seem to savor the notion of a magical mystery land.
Past generations had
the wizard's Oz and Alice's Wonderland; current ones have Harry
Potter's Hogwarts school. Imaginations stir; possibilities soar.
And the stars of
Syfy's “The Magicians” definitely know the feeling. “I used to
wait for the Hogwarts Express to take me away,” Jason Ralph joked.
Now that's happened,
sort of. As the second season begins, his character and others are in
a land that most people considered sheer fiction.
Ralph plays Quentin,
a pensive sort. He and his childhood friend Julia (Stella Maeve) used
to immerse themselves in novels about the land called Fillory. As
grad students, both applied to the Brakebills magic college; he was
accepted, she wasn't.
That led to the
cascading events of the first season and the new world of the second:
Now these young magicians can wander throughFillory.
make-believe, Maeve said, that can be impressive. “Most of it is in
one studio – 6,000 square feet .... They have columns of fire and a
And anything that
isn't in that studio can be found nearby, said Olivia Taylor Dudley,
who plays Alice. “Vancouver has beautiful vistas; drive 20 minutes
and you can find anything.”
As the season
starts, Julia is negotiating with The Beast and others are wandering
Fillory ... where Eliot was chagrined to learn he's the king. It's a
neat twist for young actors who grew up on fantasy.
“I loved 'The
Neverending Story,'” Dudley said, referring to a Wolfgang Petersen
epic that reached movie theaters in 1984, before she was born. “I
think I watched it dozens of times.”
Maeve's favorite was
“The Princess Bride” (1987), which also arrived before she was
born. And Ralph? Oddly enough, he said he doesn't particularly see
movies; he was a book kid, including Harry Potter.
These three come
from opposite parts of the country and took different routes to their
Dudley, 31, started
fairly quickly. Growing up in California, she went straight from high
school to holding day jobs while auditioning for acting roles. A
horror-film fan anyway, she got her big breaks in “Chernobyl
Diaries” (2012) and “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension”
Maeve, 27, started
even quicker, growing up in New York. “When I was 4, I did a
commercial for Rooms Plus.” Early in her teens, she was doing
off-Broadway shows and “Law & Order” episodes. Later, she was
the kid sister on CBS' “Golden Boy” and then landed a key role on
“Chicago P.D.,” as the reformed prostitute and drug addict who
was killed during a crossover episode.
Ralph, 30, was a slow-starter, in McKinney, Texas. “I went to the
local community college,” he said. “It turned out that they had a
really good theater school that was a sort of a feeder college for
All three share a
love of fantasy ... and a Charles Manson connection. Ralph and Dudley
were both in “Aquarius,” the Manson series on NBC; that show's
producer, John McNamara, then cast them in “Magicians.” Maeve was
cast to play a Manson woman in a movie, except it never got made.
Instead, all of them
ended up in “Magicians” ... the sort of show where it's possible
to step inside magical mystery worlds.
Magicians,” 9 p.m. Wednesdays, Syfy
-- Second season
starts Jan. 25; that morning, the final episodes of the first season
rerun from 6-8 a.m.
reruns at 11:40 p.m. Wednesday, then Friday night (technically,
Saturday morning) at 1 a.m.; also, 8 a.m. Sunday. The USA Network
airs it at 10 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31.