Do you hear the people sing? Well, you’re about to, once again. Syfy’s The Magicians is doing another musical episode for season four, and it’s the biggest—and zaniest—one yet.
io9 learned about the planned musical episode during a set visit last year. Boasting multiple songs and an impressive cast of talented singers, the episode is connected to Margo/Janet’s (Summer Bishil) journey in the desert, an event from Lev Grossman’s The Magicians book series. Bishil talked about the experience filming the desert journey, and how emotionally raw it was for her—not just to undergo something so personal for her character, but to burst into song while doing it.
“I just wrapped yesterday. I was telling everybody, I woke up today crying from just, like, fulfillment,” Bishil said. “It was a struggle because I have a command over my speaking voice as an actor—and I’ve changed it for Margo, it’s lower and guttural. So, I wanted there to be a physical transformation at the end of [this] quest, and I wanted it to reflect vocally. I feel pretty good about it.”
At the time of the set visit, the cast had just finished filming most of the musical episode—and while we can’t reveal details about what’s going to happen yet, let’s just say it’s going to be...intense.
“This definitely takes it up a notch,” Trevor Einhorn, who plays Josh, said.
According to Einhorn, everybody gets to sing this time around—including Dean Fogg, played by Rick Worthy. When I asked him about his part in the musical episode, he responded by immediately bursting into song. It was heart-melting. Worthy said he’d been wanting to do a musical number for The Magicians ever since Quentin (Jason Ralph) sang in the first season. When he got the musical episode script, which showed he was going to sing too, he was thrilled. “I’m like ‘Yes,’” he said.
But of course, as Worthy eventually discovered, you’ve got to be careful what you wish for, once you actually get it.
“I was terrified! I’m not even kidding. I can do Shakespeare in front of anybody, it doesn’t matter how big the audience is, I’ve done it. Singing terrifies me,” he said. “We went to the studio, and I went through two and a half hours of torture. I would say the first 20 minutes my hands were actually shaking.”
The Magicians has been around for four seasons, and every year it has done some form of a musical number or episode. In the first season, it was Quentin singing “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift in a magically created mental institution. Since then, we’ve had a massive battle preparation sequence set to Les Misérables, as well as an entire musical episode centered around Josh. Not only have the musical numbers been getting bigger, they’ve also been growing in number.
When asked why The Magicians has embraced doing musical numbers and episodes each season, co-showrunner Sera Gamble said it’s because she’s surrounded by a writer’s room full of musical theater fans who are constantly challenging themselves to try something new, different, and exciting.
[Executive producer John McNamara] really loves musical theater, and he has been writing television brilliantly for a long time. And, as is often the case with people who are really smart who have been dong something for a long time, you don’t want to let them get bored, or phone it in. And he doesn’t want to phone it in, because this show is important to us.
I think one of the things that keeps it fresh and challenging all around is it’s really hard to justify a musical number on a television show, and that’s a challenge that I think all of us—even those of us who do not default to believing people should sing about their feelings—it’s something that’s really good for the health of the show. And for John, it’s why he gets up in the morning.
However, just because the show has done a musical number every season so far doesn’t make it a guarantee for future seasons. Gamble said she and McNamara and have no interest in making it an annual thing, mostly because they don’t want to box themselves into a corner of expectation. We could get more musicals in the future, but we shouldn’t count on it.
“We might have six musical episodes next season, or we might have zero. We never promise,” she said.
The Magicians’ new season starts January 23 on Syfy.
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