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The Broadway musical star who traveled to the Underworld for The Magicians
Plus, how milkshakes and potato chips inspired the writers of this episode
Written by one of our true genre aficionados, Alex Ritter's Episode 510 "Purgatory", is one of the rare times on this show that we get to have almost all of our characters on the same mission. In this episode we writers, like our characters, set out with one question and goal: Where's Josh and how do we get him back?
In fact, the only characters not on this mission in some capacity is 23rd Timeline Penny and Plum. They have their own Purgatory to deal with, but a Purgatory nonetheless. Hence the title… Even still, Underworld Penny is trying to help Josh and that counts right? That's the thing with genre. Mindfucks abound!
One of the funny realities behind some of these decisions though was just simply contractual. Although we always want as much Josh as possible, according to Trevor's contract, we needed an episode where Josh wouldn't appear. So, our creative solution was that when Josh doesn't appear in Episode 509, our characters will now have to seek him out and save him in Episode 510. The most exciting version of this was taking Josh, one of our most fearful characters, and tossing him into the Taker Realm.
The location we shot The Taker Realm was actually just a heavily filtered paintball park because Vancouver (Bless them) has a lot of conservation laws protecting their forests. Because of this, the production needs we had could only be met on private land. Needless to say, every production in Vancouver runs into similar issues so this paintball park is an often-rented location. We were told that another popular sci-fi series shot there that week as well.
Yet in this mysterious realm, Josh is forced to survive and fight The Takers with a little girl that is definitely braver than he is. And yes, from the get-go, this idea was an Aliens reference. We even referred to the character as Newt through the pitching process until the script was written because that's how our brain pans work.
Since we we're on the topic of Jell-O holes, in the scenes where Kady, Alice, and Fen create Margo's eyeball projector, they were having so much fun that a lot of Fen's jokes were added on the day!
Another decision made on the day was in the scene where Seb gives Josh to the Takers. We had built a hole in the ground for Trevor's stunt double to get yanked down into, but Trevor was so game to do it on the day himself, that it is actually him getting pulled down into the ground.
Needless to say, the excitement and fear on his face is pretty real.
A lot of the props were also real in the sense that our props team had a blast smashing them to pieces in Eliphas' Room Out of Time. I'm told the demolition party was a sight to behold on set.
Also, in Benedict's Map Room, the caricature drawing of Penny and Benedict was not in the script. It was an inspired idea from our incredible production designer, Margot Ready. We just loved it so much we made a meal of it!
We also made a meal out of the scene where Julia drinks Eliot and Charlton's potion and "goes into labor." At least Stella did because the concoction she had to drink was actually a chocolate milkshake from McDonalds. Luckily, there's a McDonalds half a block away from our stages.
Pure movie magic.
Michael Luwoye, who plays Hades, was also magic. Michael most notably played the title role in the incredible Broadway Musical, HAMILTON. Michael is staggeringly talented and although given massive chunks of dialogue, always came prepared. He nailed every word from start to finish, every single take. While eating Cheetos. That was his idea, actually. A true master of the craft. Also, the video game he's playing in the background is the Untitled Goose Game that we were obsessed with at the time. If you've never heard of it. Find it. Play it. It is ridiculous fun.
And it's this type of fun that needs to be had if we are to explore such heavy themes. Because ultimately, it's this relatability that draws us in enough to care. And the more that we care, the more we are able to surrender to our journeys into darkness. Our take on genre is just like life, sometimes it's exciting, sometimes it's hilarious, but most of the time it's both. Life doesn't stop for us to figure out our feelings, it just keeps coming!
View more exclusive behind the scenes photos from episode 510, HERE. And be sure to tune-in for the final episodes of The Magicians, Wednesdays at 10/9c, only on SYFY.