Not Your Average Wizard: An Interview with Stella Maeve of The Magicians

Stella Maeve as Julia Wicker in The Magicians

Every generation seems to have a wizard story of origin: our grandparents may remember Frodo and The Lord of the Rings, while our parents might have introduced us to The Chronicles of Narnia. As the kids who grew up with Harry Potter have aged, the idea of magic has remained a fascinating escape. It’s this eternal draw to magic that forms the core of Showcase’s new TV series, The Magicians.

Based on a book series by Lev Grossman, The Magicians isn’t an allegorical tale of good versus evil. Its characters are neither morally upright nor easy to dismiss in their villainy. Quentin Coldwater’s education at Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy runs parallel to his best friend Julia’s pursuit of magic among a more ruthless crowd. Both are magically gifted, and both use that gift in ways they could never have imagined.

I spoke with Stella Maeve–Julia herself–about what drew her to the series, female ambition, and how she sees Julia through the course of the series.

Spoilers for the books, and possible spoilers for the TV series follow.

The Magicians Poster SyFy Showcase 2016What initially drew you to The Magicians? What was it about playing Julia that attracted you to the role?

I loved Julia because I thought–originally, the books were incredible. I had worked previously with Sarah Campbell on a pilot that we did a few years back. It was for the CW, and it didn’t get picked up, but we did work together previously. She’s the showrunner [of The Magicians], and that’s how I first heard about it. And then seeing Mike Cahill [director] be a part of it, I’ve always been an admirer of his work, I think he’s wonderful. And the books, they were great, I loved them.

And I thought Julia–Julia’s so great because she’s such a hero. And you know, she’s a perfectly flawed human. And it’s kinda nice when our heroes, when we get to see their imperfections, and we get to see that we’re all just human. That nobody is that perfect thing, and nobody really has it all together, and if they do, it doesn’t last forever. So it’s relatable, in a sense.

And it’s so great for young women to be able to see that, that it’s okay to make mistakes, and to try and just keep going.

Absolutely. Have you read the books?

I’ve read the first one. I know it’s a mix of the first two books thus far.

Yeah, I was gonna say, I don’t know how far they’re gonna go into the series. But if you’ve read the books, Julia becomes a goddess. It’s like, who wouldn’t want to play that? It’s so cool, like healing animals and stuff. Just really really exciting.

I mean, whether or not that happens in the TV series, I have no idea. But you asked me initially what drew me [to Julia], like that was so cool.

It does sound cool! So leading into that, are there any scenes or plotlines that you hope will make it into the show? The goddess plotline, I suppose…

I hope that makes it into the show! That would be so incredible. And she’s got the power to heal animals, and they do kind of toy with that at the end of episode 13. And I do hope we get to dive further into that.

And we were discussing that about Julia: she’s very intense, she’s very driven, and she knows her worth. That was something I saw in the first few episodes, and in the first book, it comes across that she really knows her worth. What do you think it is about the magical world that appeals to her so much? Cause she seems like she has it all, but wants more.

I think it’s a really good example of life. We always want more. If you have all the money in the world, you want more. If you have all the power, you want more. It’s almost like greed, it’s a human feeling. We never are satisfied. I can relate, being an artist. We’re perpetually unsatisfied, we just want the next thing, and we want to continue. It’s that hunger that never fully gets fed. And if it’s fed, it’s only for a short while. So I think that’s really realistic.

Do you feel that you share some of her ambition? Would you want to go to Brakebills? Or would you want something different?

I think to be able to learn magic, if we found out magic is real, then yeah, it’d be cool to learn about it. What would I do with it? I don’t know. I don’t know if I could answer that. It’s hard. You know, in theory, you’d think you’d want to save everyone and do all these good things. But then it’s like, if you really had it, would you go back in time? Would you use it for your family? Would you use it for yourself?

It’s an intriguing question for anybody. For a little lighter fare, we see that Quentin and Julia’s friendship is very much based in a shared love for the Fillory and Further book series. So as a kid, or even now, do you have a particular thing–book, movie, TV show–that you share with a friend?

Back in the day, I feel like we all loved Saved by the Bell. Me and my best girlfriend–we were weird kids. My favourite movie was The Outsiders, and she loved It’s a Wonderful Life and we were–her name is Isabella, so we were Bella and Stella. I would dress like a 60s cruiser, and she would dress in women’s vintage clothes.

It’s very 90s. I’m remembering my own childhood as you say that.

It was the 90s, yeah!

What can viewers look forward to in the show in general, and with Julia in particular?

Julia’s quite a really crazy storyline this first season. Sarah [Campbell] apologized to me, and she was like “I’m so sorry…” Viewers can expect a a really fun and jarring and surprising and exciting season. I think that Julia is a great character for women in general, and figuring things out. There’s some really dark things that happen to her, that are not to be taken lightly and people struggle with it in real life. It gets really crazy. It’ll be nice for people who have been through similar things to be able to not feel alone in it and relate.

Thanks for your time Stella!

Angel Cruz

Angel Cruz

Angel Cruz is a writer and boy band scholar. You can also find her at Book Riot for endless discussion and flailing over all things literature. Ice cream, Broadway musicals, and Arashi are her lifeblood.