Syfy Showrunner Sera Gamble on Inheriting Great Female Characters For The Magicians


Syfy is getting ready to debut a new fantasy series based on Lev Grossman’s The Magicians trilogy and I couldn’t be more excited. Or could I? I recently got to speak with showrunner Sera Gamble about their wealth of female characters.

If you’re not familiar with the book series, it’s often been called an adult Harry Potter mixed with some Chronicles of Narnia and that would be right on point. The new series ages the characters up just a bit from college to graduate school and stars Jason Ralph as lead character Quentin Coldwater, Stella Maeve as Julia, Olivia Taylor Dudley as Alice, Hale Appleman as Eliot, Arjun Gupta as Penny, and Summer Bishil as Margo. Quentin learns Brakebills University for Magical Pedagogy is a real school in upstate New York and the story takes countless twists and turns from there.

The project was in development with Michael London (producer of The Final Girls, Sideways, and others) as far back as 2011 when a pilot was written by X-Men: First Class/Thor screenwriters Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz. Fox was interested at that time but it never got off the ground and eventually London started work over with Gamble and John McNamara (who wrote episodes of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman). Syfy ordered a pilot from them and eventually a 13-episode season.

Gamble, who you may remember from her time writing and showrunning The CW’s Supernatural, was a big fan of the books and actually inquired about adapting the series when she found out it was already tied up at Fox. Some serendipity found her attached just a few years later.

“We inherited such great female characters from Lev and one of the great things about making this as a TV show is we get to deep-dive into more of the characters. I think when you read the book, The Magicians, you first and foremost are kind of inside the experience of Quentin Coldwater,” Gamble told me on a recent conference call. “But because we spend many hours in this world, we get to spend a lot of time in Julia’s point of view and a lot of time in Alice’s point of view.”


But Gamble said she doesn’t necessarily think about the balance while writing. “You know, we break the story in the room and we do what makes instinctual sense to us.” That doesn’t mean she doesn’t get excited as a fan watching her creative work with these female characters play out.

“I do have to say that in the editing room there are times when there are scenes that are three female characters talking about these important things that are happening in their lives and all the conflict that’s going on, and as a viewer in that moment I get a little charged,” she told me. “I get excited to see all of these interesting, three-dimensional female characters kind of figuring their shit out together.”

Fans of Grossman’s books may be at a fever pitch for the new series (myself included) but what stories grabbed Gamble in that way growing up?

“I loved The Chronicles of Narnia when I was a little kid. I read those many, many times. And I also gravitated strongly towards just classic fairy tales. I wore holes in my books of Grimms’ Fairy Tales and Hans Christian Andersen,” she explained, “I remember being a little kid and trying to write my own version of those classic fairy tales so I was kind of born ready to do this show.”

Mike Cahill, writer/director of Another Earth and I Origins, directed The Magicians pilot, “Unauthorized Magic,” which you can watch in its entirety on YouTube. I did earlier today and give it two thumbs up. I can’t wait for more.
The Magicians premieres Monday January 25th 9/8c and Episode 2 airs directly after that at 10/9c on Syfy.

One Response to “Syfy Showrunner Sera Gamble on Inheriting Great Female Characters For The Magicians

  1. Rebecca Jean says:

    With this in mind I might give the series a try. I’m just worried about so many shows pushing into adult matter. Do we really need to SYFY series with floating sex. I get super uncomfortable with such snd and find it harder and harder to find accessible high quality shows that insist on selling with sex.

    I’m not being a prude, but I would like my programming to stop making me feel like one..

    Thank you. I’m stil getting curious and hope this show works for many especially if the women are so, err, powerful.