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SYFY WIRE The Magicians

The Magicians: Stella Maeve and Arjun Gupta on the new dynamic between their characters in Season 4

By Heather Mason

At the end of Season 3, the world of The Magicians was turned upside down as the memories of most of the main characters were wiped and they're now all living non-magic lives out in the real world. But this change put them in new dynamics.

We sat down with stars Stella Maeve (Julia/Kim/Architect) and Arjun Gupta (Penny 23/DJ Hansel) to talk about what we can expect from their characters in Season 4 and what we can learn about real life from magic.

The timelines play such an interesting part to both your characters. What has it been like, playing this new dynamic between these two characters that wasn't there from the beginning?

Maeve: For me, it was really nice — because I feel like we didn't, after the rape with Reynard, with Julia, we don't really get to see her character sexualized in any way. We didn't explore her with any love interests, or anything romantic, and it's nice to kind of have that come back. To know that this happens all the time, and you're still a woman, you're still a human, you can still fall in love, you can still be romantic, you can still have feelings for somebody. So it's kind of nice to build that in a non-gratuitous way and I thought it was really great.

Gupta: Yeah, I mean it's just, having an opportunity three seasons in to start something fresh. It just keeps everything alive, and hopefully, it'll keep everything alive for the audience too. I think it's fun, I mean personally, I just get to play a new character, which is, as an actor, is just like a really fun challenge. And how you can make it different, but still keep it essentially rooted in who Penny is? And I'm really fascinated to see how the audience responds to a lot of these changes that are gonna be happening, relationship-wise.

Obviously, Julia's being a survivor of sexual assault is part of her journey throughout the show. A lot of people were active on social media with their thoughts about the portrayal. What was it like seeing people on social media chiming in? Was there any fan interaction that really stayed with you?

Maeve: Yeah. I mean, I found the response to be really incredible. It was really rewarding and really great, and from what I know, positive, which is great, 'cause what I don't know won't hurt me. But we got to team up with RAINN, [which was] my idea, and I teamed up with Sera to do it. And when the episode aired, their call center, we had sort of a PSA for RAINN, [calls to the] call center went up by 70%. It was before all the #MeToo stuff kinda happened and it was a great forum to get people talking and to share their experiences and to know that they weren't alone and that this is something that happens so much more often than we know and that we talk about, and it's safe, and it's OK, and we can be there for each other and have a support system.

And it's nice to have that translate through television or forum, to have a format, and a platform for people to connect and to feel safe and be OK. And something that hasn't been forgotten, either, in the show. It does come up throughout all the seasons, which is great. To not just say, "Oh, this thing happened, and now let's sweep it under the rug and pretend like everything's just fine" because it stays with you for the rest of your life. So. I thought that was, I mean, it was wonderful. You know, within it. 

What can we learn about our real lives through magic and how it's depicted in the show?

Maeve: I think magic is real. I think magic is open to interpretation. I think ... you know, spirituality, it's fun to believe. It's nice to believe in something more, because what's the alternative? The alternative is ... whatever your beliefs are, atheist, or whatever, realism, it's that when it's over it's over, and then there's nothing more, and then that's it. But if you have the opportunity to believe, you know, why not? And for people that wanna believe in something more, if that's what's comforting, then why not let other people have it? You know, the control, instead of trying to control everything, relinquishing that, and letting it be open to interpretation, for to each his own, right?

Gupta: I think what magic represents in the show is the external escapes that we think are gonna solve the problems but that don't. And I think that what we can learn about real life through the show is that there are no external solutions to an internal problem. And I think that what these characters face, and what a lot of humans face, are a lot of internal issues. Whether it be self-esteem, self-worth, issues with traumas that you've experienced, and I think that the tragic and empowering truth that the show is talking about, is that those answers are within. 

The Magicians Season 4 premieres January 23 on SYFY.