Adapted from Lev Grossman’s bestselling fantasy book series of the same name, Syfy’s “The Magicians” follows Quentin Coldwater, a twentysomething bored with his mundane life. He yearns for the same kinds of adventures found in the fantastical “Fillory and Further” book series he loves so much. You see, Quentin isn’t The Boy Who Lived as much as he’s The Boy Who Is Living (Just Barely). Surprise acceptance to a prestigious magic school, however, changes everything.
“What it takes from the books, I think, is a certain tone, the settings, most of the characters come from the books, and the general arc of the story comes from the books,” Grossman says in our exclusive video below. “But the specifics, what they do on a daily basis and how they move the arc forward, in some places, is very different from the books, which is quite exciting.”
After his Princeton grad student interview is hijacked by some elite magicians, Quentin is accepted to Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy, a secret magic school in upstate New York. If you know anything about upstate New York, then you know all there is to do is party and bulls–t, even if you practice magic. So that’s exactly what Quentin and his new friends, The Physical Kids, do.The Physical Kids — Eliot, Josh, Margo and Alice — are a group of students who study Physical Magic, and they’re the definition of #SquadGoals. They know that magic school is really effing hard, so to blow off steam, they do what most normal young people do: drink, have casual sex and get demon tattoos. Oh, and they occasionally transform themselves in arctic foxes and polar bears just for fun.
“It’s a difficult thing to adapt these books to television because a lot of it is Quentin’s journey, and what’s going on in Quentin’s head,” Olivia Taylor Dudley, who plays Alice, shares in our video above. “And now we get the chance to explore all these other beautiful characters that Lev wrote.”
It even gives the show more opportunities to explore the world of Fillory, a Narnia-esque fantasy land that is more than just the setting of Quentin’s favorite book. In fact, it’s very real — and very dangerous. (Like “Game of Thrones,” hands are severed.) That’s when he kinda becomes your atypical Hero Guy.
But every Hero Guy needs a Hero Girl, and in “The Magicians” that girl is Julia, Quentin’s best friend since childhood. After getting rejected from Brakebills, Julia practices her magic on the DL. (Unlike Hogwarts, Brakebills is an elitist establishment; it doesn’t just let any old magically inclined student through its doors.) As we watch Quentin excel at Brakebills, we will also see Julia struggling to learn magic by any means necessary in the real world.
“This is one character that I was never able to map out,” Stella Maeve, who plays Julia, says in the video. “It was one of those things where I kind of showed up and let her takeover. He looked at me and said, ’It’s so funny that you should say that because that’s exactly how I wrote her.’ He said, ’I didn’t know how to write for the twentysomething-year-old girl. But once I put the pen to the paper, she wrote herself.’”
Despite having a limited role in the first book, Julia will have a prominent presence in the series from the very first episode. MTV News has already screened the pilot episode, and trust us, it might make you want to trade in that old Gryffindor scarf for some Brakebills merch.
“The Magicians” premieres January 25, 2016 with two back-to-back episodes. But if you simply cannot wait, an early unannounced showing of the premiere will air on December 16 at 10 p.m. ET on Syfy.