Tonight The Magicians
, based on the series of novels by Lev Grossman, returns to Syfy for season two. The new season picks up where the series left off, with the students struggling to find a new plan to kill The Beast.
Actress Summer Bishil, who stars as Margo, who is based on the character of Janet in the book series, recently talked to SciFi Vision in an exclusive interview about her work on season two and what’s to come. SCIFI VISION: Did you read any of the books before or after you got the part? SUMMER BISHIL:
I did, yeah. I absolutely did after the pilot. I didn’t have time during the audition process, because I was cast pretty quickly and pretty soon before filming began.
So I started reading them while I was doing the pilot, and lucky for me, there wasn’t much Margo/Janet in the pilot, so if I was not on the right track, there wasn’t too much damage I could do. [laughs]
But I read them as soon as I wrapped, and I just fell in love with my character and the entire world, and I got really excited, actually, after I did the pilot. I was excited before, because I had read the script, but I didn’t have the context of the novels yet. Can you talk a little bit about your audition?
It was a pretty difficult audition. It came in, just like any other, and I read for the casting director and Sera Gamble. And I had a feeling after the audition that I had done well. I was proud of what I did in the room. I usually know after an audition if I’ve done well or not; I can kind of feel it.
Then I got the call that I was going to test, and Mike Cahill, the director of the pilot, was on Skype during the test.
And I still remember I was so nervous about it, and I wanted to get it so badly, that I was sort of flustered for a lot of the audition. And Sera, actually, gave me a couple notes on who Janet was in the books and the journey she kind of goes on, and she provided some context, and that really helped me. Then when I gave it another go, I felt that I had really clicked into the character then. Is there anyone you were particularly inspired by when you were putting together the character? Or did you just take it all from the script and the book?
Yeah, so many. So many. When I knew I was going to play a queen in Fillory, a magical world, I watched Snow White and the Huntsman
, the sequel (The Huntsman Winter's War
), because those are some great performances, and it's high-concept, like The Magicians
. And I watch a lot of TV, so I see performances that inspire me, and I borrow from them and try to incorporate them. But specifically, that was the movie that I did watch, and it inspired me. That movie was visually stunning which makes me think about the fact you guys have got such great sets and visuals. Could you talk about the sets and effects?
I mean, it is tricky, and that was a challenge that I’m glad that I have that this year, since a lot of our scenes were on a throne in Castle Whitespire, and the set is huge. It’s massive; it’s far-reaching. It was almost like doing theater at times, because we would do these grand master shots in a fairly large space, and we would be talking to a person pretty far across the room.
That’s also why I refer to the Snow White and the Huntsman
sequel, because there were a lot of those scenes on thrones, and I didn’t want to come into the trap of overdoing, overacting, and speaking too loudly for the camera, because it still is a camera; it’s not a theater. So I always had to keep in mind that the camera would come in close to me, even though I felt like I had to project and be huge in a huge space. How do you feel that you’re similar and different from Margo? How do you connect to her?
It’s funny, because she’s so different than me. You know, when I first started playing her, I had never not connected more to a series character in my entire career, just because some of the traits she has I still haven’t mastered. She really doesn’t second-guess herself; she’s incredibly confident. She operates from instincts. So I don’t really relate to her in a lot of ways. She’s also a little bit of a sociopath. [laughs]
I just had fun with such an indulgent character to play, that every day, I was like, “This is so fun!” It’s like what you want to do as an actress; you want to talk shit and be crazy! [laughs] Last season I know they took certain parts from the book series, and other things they changed. Will they still being doing the same thing this season, where they kind of follow the outline of the book?
It will always follow the books, but not in the chronological order of the books necessarily. I think the great thing about season one, is that it kind of borrowed from a couple other books, especially with the Julia (Stella Maeve) storyline. You can’t have certain characters disappear for an entire season, and I think it was really smart how they incorporated some of Julia’s storyline from Book Two into season one, and I think they’ve done that in season two as well. They’ve integrated the themes and tone of all of the books into season two, but it maintains major plot points for sure. Are we going to see Margo’s discipline anytime soon? Will we see her ice axes from the book, her "Sorrows?"
I hope so. I mean, that’s the
moment for Janet in the book. She sort of recounts this really badass and epic quest she goes on through the desert and comes into her powers with the ice axes.
And that’s what really got me excited about Janet, and is the core of who she is, that I’ve integrated throughout the seasons, and I come into more in season two. But you don’t see the ice axes yet; she has not gone on her desert quest. Season two is sort of the precursor to what Margo becomes and how Fillory changed her into that, and how being a queen changed her into that. Do you have a favorite line of Margo’s? She has some great zingers.
It’s so hard to pick one [laughs]
, because I love everything that comes out of her mouth. Every time I read scripts I get excited. I would say my favorite line is where she tells Eliot, “That is f**king stupid,” when he talks about wanting to be a more diplomatic ruler. I love the timing of that. [laughs] Well, she does have quite a few - actually, she has most of the funny lines, to be honest. [laughs]
The other thing I wanted to ask, and I know you already kind of answered this person’s question on Twitter when they tweeted it to me, but they asked which other character you would like to play other than yourself, and you said The Beast. I was surprised by that, and I was curious as to why?
Charles Mesure is such a great actor, and watching him play The Beast was a treat every time we had a scene with him. And it just looked like so much fun, and it seemed like such a difficult character to pull off. And who doesn’t want to play the villain, you know? And I love the variety for him this year. I think that the writing for The Beast is wonderful. Can you describe your character in three words?
Badass Bitch. [laughs]**UPDATE: Be sure to read part two of this interview!***