The Brakebills admissions office has its hands full. With each passing season, Syfy’s The Magicians grows in popularity, and the cast can feel a spike that typically happens around when the latest season is released on Netflix. Jason Ralph, who plays Quentin, says recognition comes in waves when we spoke to him on set back in November.
Recalling a recent fan encounter, Ralph said he was in Brooklyn walking his dogs through a crosswalk when a car slammed on its brakes. In dramatic fashion, Ralph leaps out of his chair to act out the scene: “This guy jumps out of the car, his wife jumps out of the car, he’s like, ‘are you Quentin?’ I was like, ‘yeah!’ And he gave me a big hug and he’s like, ‘good spot honey, good spot!’”
“And got back in the car and drove off,” Ralph says. “So maybe he was a Netflixer, I don’t know.”
More Netflixers are bound to either find the show for the first time or binge the recently added third season, but for Ralph the task at hand is finishing off a satisfying finale for The Magicians Season 4, which premieres on January 23rd on Syfy. Sporting a new haircut for Quentin, we caught up with the series lead just moments after he wrapped an emotional final scene. It was spoiled for the reporters on set, but we promise this article won’t spoil it for you. In our Q&A, we discussed Quentin’s relationship with Fillory, Magic, Alice and… well those are the three most important things in his life, right?
How did it feel to lose the classic Quentin hairstyle?
Liberating. It’s TV so we have a good long time to carve out a journey and nice to start with this guy who I don’t know. In the books he’s written as a severely tall human being. He’s always kind of crouching down because he’s afraid of like if something were to fall, it’s going to hit him first. So that kind of idea kind of led to this hiding quality. As an actor I don’t have height on my side necessarily. So that was something I really gravitated towards, the idea that it was an opportunity to hide and that sometimes there is strength in hiding. But it was nice to allow the character to evolve past that and to have him slowly become more of the person he was meant to be, outside of the shroud.
I know you have the books to look back and reference, but when you signed on for this project did you have any idea you’d be playing so many different roles and variations of this character in different timelines?
No, I mean I don’t think the writers knew either. I think the books were a really strong base for us. We all cared about them and still do a tremendous amount. It’s something we’re always looking back towards. But it was absolutely a springboard towards new ideas and new worlds and new ways to explore these characters.
What is Quentin’s relationship with magic and Fillory like in season four?
The idea of it was so romantic and it was something he needed. In some ways it was the thing he attributed to keeping him alive. It was hope. There was world out there where things worked out for people like him. That idea is somehow enough sometimes. Then he got there and it was the opposite of what he was told it would be, opposite of what he needed it to be. So,when his crutches failed him, he had to find a way to stand on his own. That’s where I think we find him near the end of season three and definitely in season four. I think this guy who’s using the tools around him but is not dependent on them necessarily anymore and he’s ready to tackle the world head on.
How does the dynamic between Quentin and Alice change this season? Are they in a better spot?
I mean, as the season opens up, no. The last he had seen of her, she kind of screwed everyone over without much explanation, and seeming without much need. I think we could have had a conversation and worked it out for everyone but that’s not how this show works.
But these people are always going to be in each others lives, and so throughout a lot of the season, we’re not granted the whole luxury of sitting down and having conversations. It’s a little bit like life or death, save the world kind of thing. So there is a lot of tension about what wasn’t said and what we can’t say, we won’t have time to say, and we don’t want to say, how it’s easier to stay in this new land where we’re just mad at each other.
But there does become a point where that comes to a head and they make a decision to start over. Not start over, but to start anew. We’re not throwing away the past, we’re just not building upon it and saying, OK here we are as adults. What if we start here and there’s a possibility for the future?
What’s going on with Quentin’s relationship with his father this season? Toward the end of season three he made a pretty big decision that would have a big impact on his father’s well being moving forward. Does that come back to kind of haunt him or does he have to reconcile with that at all during season four?
Yeah, that’s definitely comes back. It was definitely a rash decision that he made last season. And one made out of desperation and from the perspective of someone who felt hurt and abandoned and unheard. It’s easier to make those kinds of choices if you feel and then force detachment. But I think he was forced to really confront those things this season and figure out how to come to terms with them and figure out what his dad actually meant to him.
Does Quentin and Elliot’s relationship resurface?
What’s nice about this show is that these things don’t go away. We didn’t come back from that journey and shake the etch-a-sketch and start over. Those are memories that are present with these people and it’s especially like that experience, that for me really shifted the way that I play Quentin. At this point, he’s like 120 years old, he’s lived an entire lifetime. The amount of wisdom that comes from the amount of times you’ve failed and succeeded and experienced different things and experienced different kinds of love, like love for a child and love for a friend. And he was married and there was so much that got experienced, that person can’t be the same anymore, can’t respond to stimulus the same way.
And it’s nice that the show allows that. Then plot wise, yeah, there’s a little of that flavor of that episode and those experiences that do come back. For me, it was about how transformed this got. I think it’s similar for Hale. I think would say something similar. But he’s a big monster baby now so I don’t know.
Do you notice more fanfare around the show now with it streaming Netflix after the initial runs on Syfy?
I don’t know how to quantify that necessarily. I know that it goes in waves. There will be like a month where I get recognized all the time. I think a lot of the fans hold it very dear and it doesn’t feel like necessarily like Game of Thrones where everyone in the world is watching. It is a little niche in that way and I think people are more protective of it in that way, like it feels like their show. And so the relationships with the fans is unique in that way because it’s more precious to them.
The Magicians Season 4 premieres January 23rd on Syfy. You can keep up with the latest trailers and news here.