How far will the first season of The Magicians go?
That’s a hot question for fans of Lev Grossman’s fantasy book trilogy, which Syfy has adapted into an unmissable TV series premiering on Jan. 25.
The series follows Quentin Coldwater (Jason Ralph), a talented loner who discovers he can perform magic and attends a college dedicated to teaching the art. With three books in question (and the obvious specter of that other famous fantasy show that played fast and loose with its books), it’s reasonable to wonder where the season finale of the 13-episode first season will place its bookmark in the trilogy.
The Magicians producers teased — coyly, to be sure — their plans for the length of the freshman trajectory during the show’s panel at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour in Pasadena on Thursday.
“A lot will happen in season 1,” said executive producer Sera Gamble. “We’re even dipping into book 2 a little.” The big change of note is that Julia’s (Stella Maeve) story, which falls “off the page” in book 1 but picks up in the second book, The Magician King, will be pulled into the first season. “We’re getting a fair amount of the way through book 1 as we are telling Julia’s story — actually, the origin story of her story — in book 2.”
How many seasons is the show aiming for overall? Depends who you ask. The Magicians is a completed trilogy, and executive producer Michael London noted the TV series’ potential in continuing beyond the three books. “The collection of books can go off in a lot of different directions,” he told reporters. “We’re actually excited about doing more than exists in the three books.”
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But executive producer John McNamara jokes, “We think there’s enough material for six seasons, [but] you don’t want to see us six years from now.”
“Our main goal is to stay true to the spirit of the book,” said Gamble. “There’s so much about the spirit and the world-building that Lev Grossman did that really compelled us.” She calls the writers’ room process almost a “Talmudic interpretation” of Grossman’s text and said a lot of the first season was inspired by the writers’ experiences in college. “Sometimes we veer left, sometimes we veer right, but most of the big plot points, we’re getting to them,” she continued.
Don’t go running to Fillory, though: The producers promise Grossman’s full involvement and blessings for veering turns along the way. Olivia Taylor Dudley, who plays shy but brilliant Alice, said Grossman is on hand to help the actors interpret the characters: “He came and visited us in Vancouver and was just so excited to see his characters come to life and see all the different things we’ve done with them. It’s nice to know we have somebody in our corner to email or call and say, ‘What would Alice do in this situation?’ And he volunteers that information.”
The Magicians premieres on Jan. 25 at 9 p.m. ET on Syfy.