Immersive and convincing set design in movies and TV can sometimes be the crucial stumbling block for many well-meaning, promising new films and shows, something the creators of Syfy's The Magicians have nothing to worry about. During Blastr's recent set visit to Vancouver, B.C., last week, the inspired creations of production designer Rachel O'Toole wowed the assembled group being led by showrunner Sera Gamble and author Lev Grossman. The attention to detail witnessed was an amazing feat for a television show, and in many ways equaled or surpassed many slick sets observed in fine feature films.
We were ushered into the main laboratory classroom set, crammed to the rafters with occult curios, framed portraits of past headmasters, fantastical hand-tinted maps teeming with mystical creatures, strange medical equipment composed of old wood and silver, grinning skulls housed in tall showcases, oblong beakers, bubbling vials, a Periodic Table of the Elements chart noting substances both natural and unnatural and all manner of eclectic electric ephemera gathered from the shadowed corners of the globe.
Author Lev Grossman held back while the rest of the media group shuffled around the elaborate lab set and eventually entered the relaxing atmosphere of O'Toole's impressive work on the Physical Kids Cottage, a shabby-chic clubhouse bungalow and game room frequented by the main cast in their off hours. Prowling the comfortable living space, past the pool table, frayed velvet loveseats, a vivid Howard Thurston poster and reading nooks lined with stacks of spellbooks, I sidled up behind the award-winning author and asked him if any of this ever felt completely surreal, meandering around the manifested landscape of his books, to which he smiled and answered, "Yes, every single day."
Escorting us deeper into the magical mirage, executive producer Sera Gamble seemed amused as visitors admired the subtle intricacies, rich craftsmanship and authentic scale of these cinematic illusions, describing the look O'Toole was going for in the cottage set as "an opium den gone wrong." Vintage glass ashtrays, liquor bottles and forbidden books decorated the room and shelves, hinting at the rampant partying inhabiting the novels, with the puzzling remnants of a drinking game gone awry stuck upside down to the ceiling.
If these startling set shots are a precursor of the marvelous sights to come, Syfy's The Magicians may entice eager new converts into the loyal throngs of the Lev Grossman faithful. Have a look and tell us if these behind-the-scenes images capture the true essence of the Brakebills experience for you.
The Magicians apparates into the airwaves on Jan. 25, 2016, on Syfy.
For yesterday's full rundown of the entire cast and creator panel discussion, click here.