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Stella Maeve, ‘The Magicians’ star, on mixing magic with real life

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Actress Stella Maeve joins 'The Morning Show' to talk about starring in 'The Magicians,' a new series based off the best-selling book series – Jan 22, 2016

If you ever wished that the Harry Potter series was more “adult,” complete with swearing, sex and some graphic gore, then you’re in luck. Showcase’s The Magicians, a dramatic series based on the trilogy of books by Lev Grossman, premieres tonight with a special two-episode start, and it has those elements in spades.

The Magicians, which shot in Vancouver, B.C., centres around Brakebills University, a secret institution specializing in magic. There, amid an unorthodox education of spell-casting, a group of 20-something friends soon discovers that a magical fantasy world they read about as children is all too real — and poses grave danger to humanity.

Global News spoke to series co-lead Stella Maeve, who plays Julia, a woman living on the cusp of discovering her own natural magic ability. She spoke about how the series differs from the much-loved books (and why that’s OK), and the valuable message this show carries for audiences of all ages.

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Global News: Had you read the books beforehand?
Stella Maeve: Oh yes, absolutely. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to sign on, because you see a lot of movies based on book trilogies, but not many TV shows. I thought that was cool. Also that we get to use the concept of magic and mix it with reality — it makes it more for an older audience, so it’s not as comparable to Harry Potter.

It’s more Harry Potter meets Bret Easton Ellis. All of these characters are socially inept in their own ways. They’re not great with people and they’re forced to deal with people. Through magic, they’re brought together, then torn apart, then brought back together… [Laughs]

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How much does the show differ from the books? Are there a few changes?
Yeah. I think, for TV, you have to. We did the best we could to follow as closely to the books as possible. The author was with us every step of the way. From what I was told, he was saying, “Take the reins and let’s take risks we couldn’t take in the books.” He was sent all the scripts and had approval for everything.

Does your character get beefed up a little bit in the TV show?
Julia, in the books, doesn’t really come into things until book two. She’s mentioned in book one. For show purposes, they’ve put book two and book one together to show Julia and Quentin’s storylines simultaneously. Maybe don’t try to be married to the books — try to be open.

What can you tell me about what happens to Julia as the first season goes on?
You get to really follow Julia, and see this woman find a depth that I’m not even sure she knew was there.

Every time you think something’s gotta give, it doesn’t. Or: we’re in the clear! Totally not. [Laughs] It’s disappointment after disappointment, perpetual disappointment. But it makes her a better person and she realizes at the end of it… um, she maybe realizes at the end why she wants to know magic and be good at this thing. It’s not just about being powerful or wanting to win, it’s the death of the ego.
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It’s funny how Julia is like “Screw Yale! I want to go to Brakebills!”
In Julia’s defense, forget Yale if you knew magic was real. Forget Yale. [Laughs]

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Now, what about romance?
She has a boyfriend, James, just like in the books.

But there’s some sort of connection between her and Quentin [her male co-lead], yes?
I’m glad you said that. A lot of people were like, “She was the girl that Quentin longed for, she was the girl he wanted that he could never have!” People insist that she knows about his love for her all along. I disagree with that. In the books, Grossman says that he’s in love with her, but the question is whether or not she knew. It’s never specified.

I think there’s an unconditional love and a friendship and they’re bound to one another in a way.

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There’s a strong theme in this show of abandonment, and leaving your childhood behind to “grow up.”
The show is a brilliant metaphor for life. Don’t become these vegetables in this hostile world. Let’s be open and not be jaded. Let’s have communication with one another and bring magic into our lives. If everybody were just a little more magical, maybe everyone would be a lot happier. [Laughs]

‘The Magicians’ has its two-episode premiere on Monday, January 25 at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET/PT on Showcase. Going forward, it airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Showcase.

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