Interview « Stella Maeve Daily –


The fantasy television series The Magicians is based on Lev Grossman’s bestselling novel of the same name. After a successful first season the show got renewed for 13 more episodes full of magic, drama and tricks.

THE RED BULLETIN: Jason, are you now a skilled magician?
JASON RALPH: I have a handful of tricks I can do because my character Quentin (Coldwater) starts out as sort of a street magician doing a lot of sleight of hand magic. We had a couple of magicians come to the set and teach me a couple of things. Mostly what I know is basic card-handling skills that make it look like I know how to do a lot more than I actually do. Just knowing how to hold the deck of cards and do simple things makes people believe you know so much more than you do. That’s sort of the illusion of it all.

Stella, how are your own skills coming along?
STELLA MAEVE: I think the finger-tugging has gotten a lot better. Julia at first is supposed to be terrible at it and towards the end of the first season she’s pretty great at precise motions. It’s almost like a dance with your hands and it’s very cool. We have a coach who helps us and getting to play with that has been a lot of fun.
JASON: She has good hands for it whereas I have these big, meaty things that can’t do a lot and I broke my middle finger over Christmas so it doesn’t really move as well as it’s supposed to. [Laughs] I think they might have to CGI my middle finger. I’ll get a little green screen cup for it.

Can you tell us a little bit more about the challenge of getting the body language right?
JASON: We call it finger-tugging and it’s sort of like a breakdance with your hands. It has caught on with the internet and there a lot of breakdancers who are doing really amazing things with it.
STELLA: It’s like pop-and-lock but for your fingers.
JASON: In the books Lev Grossman describes the magic as being performed with very specific finger gestures so we’ve taken that idea and added a little bit of a miracle aspect to it which has evolved into finger-tugging. We have this breakdancer who is our choreographer. He choreographs what are essentially finger dances for us and he gives us the opportunity to take them and adjust them slightly to the character. Everyone has their own style. Eliot [played by Hale Appleman] is more presentational with it and I like the idea that Quentin is kind of doing his in secret so you don’t really know what he’s going to do, then he hits you with it.
STELLA: I love how Julia is very direct. Even if it’s terrible, it’s right there in front of you.

The show has been described as Hogwarts meets Gossip Girl. Do you agree with that?
STELLA: I wouldn’t say Gossip Girl.
JASON: I would substitute Gossip Girl for Girls because it has more of that grounded, gritty feeling.
STELLA: Awkward and, you know, real.
JASON: While still being a little bit…
STELLA: Whimsical.
JASON: And self-involved.

Jason, you also did Peter And The Starcatcher on Broadway, which also has a magical theme …
JASON: It’s funny how similar Peter Pan and Quentin are as kids who won’t grow up and how they’re trapped inside of that. There’s something very romantic and very tragic about these two characters and about that idea – as people who are trying to break out of their shell and be something more, but finding themselves incapable.

Quentin hides from the world in books. Is the new generation using magic and superheroes on TV and in film for the same type of escapism?
JASON: I don’t think it’s something people are hiding behind, it’s something that is giving people the ability to experience the world. It gives them a filter and a safety net with which to experience more of the world.
STELLA: It’s also a form of escapism, for people to escape their own realities and go into these alternate worlds. There’s a lot going on right now and I understand why people want to escape from it.
JASON: Fantasy at its best is about taking a lens of something fantastical to look at something very small and human. That’s the goal of what we’re doing on The Magicians and a lot of the good superhero movies do it too. It takes a broad brushstroke to look at something very simple – to learn a simple nugget of truth about humanity. I think they’re important, not just a distraction.
STELLA: I don’t necessarily agree. I love Christian Bale as Batman – he’s awesome – but I’m not a huge superhero fan. I wish we could veer away from that and try other things, like get back to the 1980s where the writing was really important. I do think The Magicians is different. It’s not superheroes, it’s more fantasy.

If you could do magic for one day what would you use it for?
JASON: I’d like to think I would use it for world peace – maybe by just shooting love out of my hands like rainbows.
STELLA: Woodstock. We could redo that.
JASON: Just have a magic guitar.
STELLA: Jason said something good earlier, ‘Boom, all guns are gone’. I was like ‘That would be awesome’.

Did you read the books before doing the show?
JASON: I think most of the cast discovered them when we were auditioning for it and became very quick and very rabid fans. What’s nice about that is we have a show about a book being created by fans of it. The whole writing team and all of the actors are guarding the source material and trying to guide it with gentle hands.
STELLA: What’s cool about it is that Lev Grossman knew that these fantastical worlds is what would sell and that it’s what is appealing right now in the culture. It was a way to appeal to people but also poke fun at it and show the ridiculousness. If you read the books he’ll have things in parenthesis like: (Then an elf ran through the forest). A f*cking elf, really? You believe this journey you’re on because it’s like ‘What if an elf really did run in front of us?’ It’s kind of like life, like ‘this is crazy but it’s happening’.

The show has been renewed for a second season. How many seasons do you think it will last, given there are just three books?
JASON: They’re aiming for five or six. That’s what they’ve plotted out. It weaves in and out so we did a little bit of book one and a little bit of book two. With book two half of it takes place in flashback and it’s Julia’s story.
STELLA: Julia isn’t in book one so it was a way to combine and bring these characters together.
JASON: Lev didn’t know he was going to write such a rich story for Julia while he was writing book one so he kind of went back and filled in her story. We had the opportunity to do it at the same time.
STELLA: I think with the showrunners, when they’re done telling the story of these three books and their interpretations, it’s not something they want to push to seven or eight seasons. When they’re done then they’re done.

Is 13 episodes an unlucky number?
STELLA: I disagree with that. I think 13 is very lucky. My mother instilled that in me.

You’re both very active on social media. Has that become important for actors?
JASON: It’s become part of your resume, how many Twitter followers you have, but it’s also an opportunity to get to talk to fans and see what people are saying.
STELLA: And to interact with people. I used to think it was completely isolating and I was not a fan of it at first but now I’ve succumbed and realized this is the world we live in and it’s getting more and more prevalent. There are ways to use it for good. There are ways to communicate with people you would never normally get a chance to communicate with.
JASON: I can get a lot of Twitter followers, then I can get them to donate to a good cause.

Are they good at not giving away the spoilers?
JASON: I don’t care about spoilers so much. It’s not something that bothers me. It’s not something that would stop me from watching, like if I found out the secret about Game Of Thrones.
STELLA: ‘Open the door!’ Is it called ‘Open the door!’? ‘Don’t go through the door!’
JASON: No, it’s ..’Hold the door!’
STELLA: ‘Hold the dooooor!’
JASON: Just stop, Stella! Please, just stop. (Laughs.)

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For Stella Maeve, a career as an actress was a no brainer. After falling in love with 1962’s screen adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird, the New York native was motivated to follow in the direction of her parents, both of whom were accustomed to life in the entertainment industry.

“My mother was an aspiring theatre actress in the ’80s and trained with Stella Adler, which is how I got my name,” Stella told Maxim. “My father toured with a dance company for years and is a musician. As far as ‘breaking into the industry,’ you could say I’m the first but I come from a long line of creatives. It’s in the blood.”

Since landing her first feature film role in 2005, the brunette bombshell has continued to prove she’s way more than just a pretty face, with featured roles on Law and Order, Gossip Girl, House, and Chicago P.D. Despite a penchant for tackling more intense scripts, Stella is game for anything you put in front of her.

“I love all types of roles, from dramatic to comedic and anything in between,” she said of her career thus far. “I’m always up for a good challenge. I was recently talking about this the other day; I would love to play Courtney Love in a biopic about her and Kurt Cobain. That would be a dream.”

While she’s patiently awaiting for that dream to come true, the 26-year old has her hands full living out a completely different fantasy as Julia on Syfy’s The Magicians. Labeled by critics as ‘a more adult take on the world of magic,’ the trilogy-inspired series (formatted by Sera Gamble and John McNamara) follows Quentin Coldwater as he enrolls in fictional Brakebills College to train as a magician only to find humanity on the brink of destruction. Stella’s role as Quentin’s best friend, Julia, finds her denied from Brakebills and living on the outskirts of the magical world while she craves the taste of magic at all costs.

“Julia is a force. She’s intellectual, fierce, wild, beautiful, and passionate,” she said. “To have such a strong female character drive such a huge story line is an honor. I’m looking forward to anything they throw at me this year so, naturally, I’m anxiously awaiting season two.”

While magic may not be real, Stella certainly has us under her spell.

‘The Magicians’ star talked to Maxim about being an island girl, loving lingerie, and her ideal magical power.

1. If you could have any magical power, what would it be?
I’ve been asked this question A LOT. To pick one is just too hard. I’ve been able to narrow it down so here are two of many: I would love to be able to time travel, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure style, or to be able to render myself invisible at any given moment, yet still have the capacity to be the eyes and ears of any situation.

2. Do you have a favorite curse word to use?
I would say “cunt” because it’s just so volatile and vile. It really expresses whatever the sentiment is. It’s better than any other curse word.

3. What do you wear to feel your sexiest?
Lingerie. I may have a slight addiction. In fact I know I do. Kiki de Montparnasse and Agent Provocateur are my favorites.

4. What’s something on your bucket list that you’ve yet to accomplish?
To be directed by Terrence Malick. He’s my favorite. It’s my dream to be in a Malick film. I think he is incredible. One of the greatest directors of all time.

5. Do you have a favorite part of your body?
Aren’t we perpetually dissatisfied with all our parts?! [laughs] I guess if I had to pick, I’ve got great feet! I also like my freckles on my nose, across my face. I think imperfections are beautiful.

6. Is there a movie that you can watch over and over again without getting bored of?
Along Came Polly is fun, I could watch it over and over again. In fact, I have and I have yet to be sick of it. I think the supporting roles (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Alec Baldwin) in that film change the game of secondary characters. They’re incredible and hilarious.

7. How can a man go about getting your attention?
By fully being comfortable with themselves (and not to say awkward isn’t ok, just if it’s authentic). Being passionate about what it is they do and being passionate about me, or us, together. Being present. Funny, witty banter. I’m a sucker for romance and passion. I love when a man chooses me, initiates contact and shows his interest in me. But it’s got to last, it can’t just be about the conquest.

8. What is the worst pick-up line you’ve ever heard?
I’m from New York so I’ve heard the best of them. I have to say, the best one is, “Damn ma, how’d you fit all that in dem jeans?” That one is pretty brutal.

9. If you ever have any downtime, what’s your favorite spot to just hang?
On an island in the sun. I’m planning a trip to Jamaica and then a surf trip to Nicaragua. I love the hot hot heat and a warm, sandy ocean. What can I say? I’m an island girl! I also always love a good spa day. But when time doesn’t permit for travel, beach visits on a 90-degree day in California aren’t too bad.

10. So what’s next for you?
I currently have a film premiering at SXSW called Long Nights Short Mornings, directed by my friend, Chad Harbold, starring Shiloh Fernandez.

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Bellus Magazine (BM): How did you get into acting?
Stella Maeve (SM): I started acting when I was 4… My step dad showed me “To Kill A Mockingbird” and I fell in love with film.

BM: Tell us about your character, Julia, on “The Magicians”?
SM: Julia is a force. She’s one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever gotten to play. She comes from a background of privilege; she’s highly intellectual, deep, intense, passionate. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. She gets exposed to the world, this world, and a world of magic in ways that put everything she ever knew – or thought she knew – into question.

BM: It seems like Julia’s tapped into the “darker” side of her magical talents compared to the other characters studying at Brakebills. Can you expand on this?
SM: I think it’s darker compared to what Julia was accustomed to. I don’t think she ever would have imagined herself in this realm, which is why it’s so interesting. Without Brakebills as an option, this new “path” has become a part of her journey, one of her many hurtles to be able to practice magic in the format she desires.

BM: Throughout the course of the season, do you find that the television adaption closely follows the novels by Lev Grossman?
SM: I think the show does an excellent job of incorporating the spirit of the books. Granted, storylines must be formatted for the TV, but Lev gave his sign-off to everything, so fans of the book can find comfort in that.

BM: Did you have any experience with magic prior to this project?
SM: Ha! Which type of magic? I like to believe I’ve had some pretty magical encounters with the universe. Also, one of my first jobs was above a Sbarros Pizza in a magic shop, as a magician’s assistant in Madison Square Garden.

BM: What’s next for you? Any other upcoming projects to look out for?
SM: I just finished a film called, “Long Nights, Short Mornings” starring Shiloh Fernandez and directed by Chadd Harbold, which is premiering at SXSW.

BM: What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
SM: Great question. Never stop creating, whatever it is. No artist is ever “finished” or for that matter, satisfied. I don’t believe in boredom. No such thing. And remember, the dark days never last, the sun will shine again.

BM: Bellus is Latin for ‘beauty’. What does beauty mean to you?
SM: Another awesome question. I was recently talking about this with my friend. I’m working on a Polaroid series for what defines beauty. I think it’s all perception. “Beauty is within the eye of the beholder”. What one person deems beautiful, another might not. Just like art. Luckily, I had parents who taught me that beauty comes from within. A person’s soul is what makes them beautiful. We’re just wearing these outer shells, these skins we’re in won’t last… they fade and it’s about what’s left beneath the surface. You can find odd beauty and fascination in anything on this planet. Just look around.

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