Season 1 of Syfy’s The Magicians has just been released on DVD and Blu-ray, and to celebrate we sat down with Lev Grossman to talk about the series and how different it’s become from the novels.
With season 1 of The Magicians now complete and available for purchase, we’ve now been able to assess the series as a whole to see how different it is from the book. As we look forward to season 2 we took an opportunity to talk with author of the book series, Lev Grossman, to discuss those differences and how he felt about them.
When they first approached you about doing the show, how did you feel and how do you feel now that the first season is over?
It was actually a lot to process, getting The Magicians to screen. It involved developing the whole thing at Fox and then having it fall apart, and I had just given up on the whole idea but Hollywood never forgets, and the day after the option lapsed at Fox people started calling.
Did they have any specific phrase that hooked you in or something they said that made you realize this was going to work well?
They really knew the books very well. I won’t say that I quizzed them but there was a little question in my head like, “Have they actually read this or did they just read the Wikipedia entry?” They really read the books and they knew them well.
One thing we talked about was depression and that’s something that a lot of the characters in The Magicians have to deal with, and it’s not an aspect of the books that everyone is ready to confront and talk about but [that topic] came out pretty early and these guys are tied into the heart of what’s going on here.
Now that season 1 is over, are there any changes that they’ve made you wish that you thought of when you were writing?
There’s a couple of times where I sort of did the cartoon thing of snapping my finger and going, “Dangit! Of course!” They did a cool thing with Julia being rejected from Brakebills, which was obviously a key plot point in the series and something I never really went back and explained. I left it as a mysterious Brakebills thing, but they went back and explained why that happened and made it a key part of the mechanics of the plot going forward. I wish I did that.
The whole fact that they told Quentin and Julia’s story in parallel — I did Quentin’s story in the first book and then Julia’s story didn’t expand until the second book really. Putting them side by side, a lot of interesting things came out and I thought, “I wonder if I thought of that if I would’ve done it in the books.” And maybe I would have!
What element of the show was your favorite? What was the one thing that was extremely special that started in your mind that you saw the end result of on screen?
There’s a couple of things. One would be the magic because I love sitting there and describing magic, I can do it all day long. There’s something about seeing it on screen and seeing the effects done and the hand gestures they use to do the spell casting. It was always a little vague in my head but Sera Gamble and John McNamara (the show’s creators) sat down with a choreographer and worked out the exact hand positions, which were slightly augmented with visual effects. The result, to me, really worked because it looked like real spell casting.
The other thing would be the humor. A lot of fantasy is very earnest. While there is definitely a sub-genre of funny fantasy, mixing in humor was really important to me. There isn’t a lot of humor in Tolkien. The show is very funny, they brought that to the forefront and they had actors there who are much funnier than me. I thought the humor really popped in a way that you can’t get enough of.
Is there a character on screen that you feel translated better on screen than in the books?
It’s really interesting. I think what they did with Margo was very good. Margo is someone who is very unlike me, and in the books I play Margo — or rather, she’s called Janet in the books — with my impression of a really tough, wounded, really mean and funny woman from California. There’s no way I’m going to do that as well as the way Summer Bishil does it in the show, and I often looked at her and thought, “Wow. That’s a place I could have never gotten in the books,” but she got there.
And they did Penny very differently. They made him much tougher and more impressive and much sexier in the show. At first I thought, “What? Where is that coming from?” But I’ve come to really like TV Penny and they made him a tougher, stronger person that Quentin. It changes the group dynamic of the characters, but in a really interesting way that I’ve enjoyed watching.
Be sure to check out ‘The Magicians’ season 1, now on DVD and Blu-ray!
Whether you’re a fan of the book series or not, the first season of The Magicians has proven to be quite the thrill ride! If you haven’t gotten a chance to check it out you can now purchase the series for yourself.