The Magicians' Stella Maeve on Julia's Season 2 arc (and whether she's even still Julia)

Contributed by
Mar 15, 2017

SPOILER ALERT: The following discusses plot points from "Word as Bond," the eighth episode of Season 2 of The Magicians, which aired on March 15.

Trigger Warning: The following article discusses topics of sexual assault.

During a second season of crazy magic, Fillorian political intrigue and, of course, a lot of spellwork, Stella Maeve as Julia Wicker has been one of the most captivating characters in The Magicians.

As an actor, Maeve has had to deliver some of the most grounded performances in the fantasy show as her character copes with sexual assault, an unwanted pregnancy and abortion. But her portrayal of Julia has been impressive to watch. And with tonight's episode, when Julia loses her Shade -- essentially the part of her that allows her to remember her pain, and empathize with others -- the character begins on a scary new path.

To discuss Julia's arc this season and tease what's ahead (like a Julia/Eliot scene!), Stella Maeve joined me for a chat. In the interview below, we talk about whether a Julia without a Shade is still Julia, what her path to happiness includes and whether Julia could become a villain.

Is Julia more dangerous without her Shade?

Stella Maeve: That's a good question. Define 'dangerous'! I think in order to be evolved human beings, we all need empathy. Sera Gamble, our showrunner, has spoken about what a common thread among serial killers is a lack of empathy. Or people who can't associate with society. With the lack of empathy of not having a shade? She's unknowingly dangerous.

Is this even still Julia? If we are without our pain and tragedy, are we still ourselves?

Exactly. It is a facet of Julia. Without her Shade, I don't think it is Julia. It is a version of Julia that we get a peek at, a version that could be possible. When the good, the bad, the ugly, all these things happen to us, we get to a crossroads, and it's like, 'What do you want to do with your life?' Do you want to turn the other way, or continue? It is up to each person. But we could all be a little bit of a monster if we wanted to be.

In the beginning of the season, we got to see The Beast play with her. He would take away the Shade, and should say put it back, I need it. Like you said before, without our pain, how are we as humans? She needed the pain to keep her going.

With all she's gone through, even before Reynard, does Julia herself see a path to peace and normalcy?

I hope so. I need to believe that to keep going in my own life. Everything she has endured has been quite awful, but I'd like to believe it is all on her journey to getting back to herself, and becoming the whole her.

There is a lightness to this show amidst the dark, heavy magical elements. But less so for Julia. Is it tough for you as an actor to wear this character without drowning?

It is so hard to be part of a show that is super fun and magical ... and then there's Julia’s storyline. I don't get to embrace that side of things. It is hard. I want to have fun, too! I want to take it light, but these are real issues.

As a result, she ends up being the most grounded, most realistic, most relatable character. What reactions have you heard from fans?

I try to stay away from the social media side of things. But from a lot of fans, I've gotten a lot of response about the rape and our reaction. When that episode aired, we made sure to do a reach-out program with RAINN. Their callers went up by 70 percent that night, I think. It is important we create an open forum for anybody that has been a victim of sexual assault. Hopefully through TV and film, we can create a forum where people can feel they can speak up, and that they're not alone. That is super vital to me.

Julia could easily become a villain, and it would be well-earned. Would you want to explore that?

Umm … honestly, it could be interesting. But I'm leaning more towards, as in the books, turning into a goddess and speaking to animals. I am going towards the white light. But it was interesting seeing The Beast and Julia in a partnership. That was a grey area. And it's always fun to play the bad guy. But given the choice, I would love to see Julia talk to the animals and be a goddess … I would like to see more of her in Fillory. That would be a fun land to play in, and hopefully we can hope for good for her. That might be the place she could find it.

But right now, without her Shade, to what length is she willing to go to stop Reynard? Is there a limit to what she'll do?

Without the Shade … that's the inhibitor. I don't think she is fully aware of the impact of what she's doing and the impact they have on people. It is more like mathematics, like we kill A to get to B, so we get Reynard. It is more strategic than empathetic, but it is not intentional. But I don't know what she's willing to do. I don't know if she is fully aware.

Quentin is her best friend, but she has gone through a lot with Kady. Who does she have a stronger bond with at this point?

At the end of the day, Quentin and Julia are best friends. That is an unspoken bond, no matter what happens. It is family. Kady and Julia, we get to see their friendship start to blossom, but they have this friendship that evolves this season, but it is more so a co-dependency, and a need to use each other, to help each other gain prospects in the magical world. They don't really have anyone else, so they come together. At the end of the day, Julia and Quentin will hold strong together.

Julia has these time loops in her past and those other lives may be less violent, tragic. So what did they look like?

When Julia was at Brakebills, I think she was a perfectionist. She wanted to be the best, and if they were to explore her going through Brakebills, she would be the Alice of the group, in the sense of being an overachiever. Had she not endured all these horrible things, she would have been very different. She would have been with the crew, a lot happier, a lot lighter, a lot more beautifully naïve.

In last week's episode, you got to gather with the whole cast in the heist episode. Is that something you're excited to do more of?

It is really nice to see Julia (and myself) play with the other actors. In Season 1, we didn't have anything together. Season 2 has been great. I got to work with Summer [Bishil] as Margo and Julia. And towards the end of the season, you get to see me and Eliot [Hale Appleman] have a really great scene together. It is nice to get to play with my teammates.