The Magicians guest star Marlee Matlin talks the black magic of clickbait

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Jan 8, 2019, 11:00 AM EST (Updated)

Spoilers ahead! The following discusses plot details from The Magicians Season 2 episode "The Girl Who Told Time."

The Magiciansgrabbed a little Oscar-level gold this week when Academy Award-winning actor Marlee Matlin joined the action as a media exec who clickbaits as well as she casts spells.

Matling plays Harriet, a woman who runs FuzzBeat, the viral website with coded magic instructions -- as well as lists of drunk guys eating kids vitamins and vomiting rainbows. And in this week's episode, "The Girl Who Told Time," Matlin comes across the path of Librarian-in-training Penny, and Kady, who is helping him with his job transition but also looking for tips on killing a certain trickster god.

And although things end up working well for Kady, who eventually gets the name of the book she needs, Harriet runs afoul of the Librarians when she curses a checkout card in an attempt to gain access to the Poison Room (you know, that special spot where dangerous knowledge is kept? Apparently "Big Bad Book Nook" is reserved for another area). Harriet's curse to force Howard the Librarian to access the Poison Room slightly backfires when the book-pusher kills himself instead of giving in. Hey, but on the upside, Harriet does provide helpful intel to Kady that the book she's looking for is in -- you guessed it -- the Poison Room.

Well, when you bring a big-time guest star like Matlin on the show – who won the Oscar for Best Actress for Children of a Lesser God (1986) – you can bet your Brakebills dining card that she's going to be an important character. While there is still some mystery surrounding Harriet, and when we may see her next, Matlin joined me over email to discuss her involvement with the show and her own experiences with less-than-enchanting clickbait.

Can you share the process of how you were cast in the role of Harriet? Were you already aware of the show?

Marlee Matlin: I was slightly aware of the show because I'm friends with one of the producers, Laurie Lieser. Laurie, my producing partner Jack Jason and I have been friends for a while and I knew she was working on the show. But it was Jack who saw a casting notice for the show and suggested my name to Laurie. The next thing I knew I was being asked to play Harriet! Sometimes the idea to make a character fit me makes sense.

What backstory did they give you about Harriet?

I got the idea that Harriet wasn't someone who did things in a conventional way and who used her powers of observation to her advantage. She worked in an environment where being a firebrand worked to her advantage and being able to hear or not hear didn't make much difference!

What is Harriet's long term goal, and will be seeing more of her?

I guess I can say that I appear in the last episode of the season and as far as her long-term goal, I guess it's to keep on finding ways to get around the rules, of making up her own rules to insure that the truth prevails.

In this world, magic is 'cast' through precise hand movements; so do you find there is a parallel to be made between casting and signing?

It was funny that finger tutting has a lot of similarities to fingerspelling in sign language. I guess that's one reason that having Harriet be deaf didn't seem so far out. Harriet already has her own language going, much like the Magicians have their own!

What was the last clickbait you were sucked into, and did it reveal anything magical?

I have always been suspicious of websites that advertise "What We Found Was Shocking" or "What Happens Next Will Surprise You!" Probably because I am an old hand at the mother of all clickbait (in old-school form) – tabloids like The National Enquirer and Star. They all use the same method; some sort of catchy headline that draws you into something else. So, to answer the question, I've avoided being sucked in because I've seen enough to know what they're trying to do!

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