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Exclusive Interview: Hale Appleman discusses ‘The Magicians’

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gallery_magicians_portrait_eliot-680I spoke with Hale Appleman about The Magicians. Hale plays Eliot Waugh in the Syfy series. Eliot is spirited, mischievous, spectacularly dressed, and the one character on the show that you just can’t take your eyes off of because you know that the second you do, you will miss something. Intriguing characters, like Eliot, are always my favorite. It was such a pleasure to speak with Hale and get his take on Eliot and so much more. I can’t wait to hear some of Hale’s music, which he has been busy recording and is almost ready to share with the world. The Magicians airs Monday nights at 9/8c on Syfy.

Lena: You were great in Teeth. I think that film freaked a lot of people out. [Laughing.] [It’s a great Valentine’s Day film, so make sure you rent it and enjoy your date.]

 Hale Appleman: Thank you so much. Yes, a blast from the past. It was a lot of fun to make. Mitchell Lichtenstein is a great talent and so is Jess Weixler. It was a great experience. I loved working on that film. It was my second film ever and I really learned a lot. [Laughing.]

Lena: What was your first reaction when you read that script?

Hale Appleman: I saw the potential of it. I was very clear about doing it from a black comedy perspective and I convinced my agents of that. They weren’t really sure about it. They said, “Are you sure you want to do this? Really, this is what you want to do?” I said, “Yeah.” I think it’s so funny and dark and a great horror comedy. I really think that Mitchell was onto something when he made that film. I felt it immediately when I read the script.

Lena: Congratulations on the renewal of The Magicians.

Hale Appleman: Thank you so much. I’m very excited and it’s hard to believe, and not hard to believe because we have an amazing group of people who are just pouring their hearts into this show. I’m really quite overwhelmed.

Lena: It’s a great show and my only complaint is that there is not enough Eliot.

Hale Appleman: [Laughing.] Thank you. I wish I was the guy to talk to about that, but I’m not.

Lena: I’m not just saying that. He’s definitely my favorite character.

Hale Appleman: That’s so sweet. He’s my favorite character too and I think that he’s so dynamic. He’s a character that we’ve seen more limited versions of him on TV, but we’ve never really seen an Eliot before. I’m just so honored that I get to play him.

Lena: He’s so spirited and you just want to know so much more about him.

Hale Appleman: He’s got so many layers. He’s very complex and he’s got a past that he’s hiding. He has a lot of opinions about everything else but he doesn’t want to talk about his feelings or anything that’s happened to him. He’s sort of a mystery in that way. I really do hope that we get to delve deep into his story in the future.

Lena: Were you given a backstory to work with?

Hale Appleman: I don’t know if you’re familiar with the books, but Lev Grossman sort of includes a bit of a blueprint about a kind of backstory for Eliot and where he came from and what he sort of came from. He’s essentially been rejected his entire life by his family and his community. You might think that he would come from a sophisticated, like the upper east side of New York or something like that, or that he might be a cultured boy from an artist’s family or a sophisticated philosophic billionaire’s family but that’s really all an act. He comes from humbler roots. He’s essentially running from oppression. He’s running from the oppression of his family and the oppression of the society that he grew up in. That’s sort of when he finds Brakebills. I think the past, up until Brakebills, has been really hard and really dark. I think that all of his whimsy and his sort of very deliberate elegance, sophistication, and confidence is a construct of his own making.

Lena: Are we going to get an episode that focuses on Eliot this season?

Hale Appleman: You’ll definitely get a bit of a storyline involving Eliot and in a way you could say his relationship to his emotion and his power. I can’t really talk in detail about that but you will see that in episode seven and eight.

Lena: Eliot is the best-dressed character on the show. How would you describe his fashion?

Hale Appleman: Yeah. I think he certainly has all the looks. I think that Eliot takes inspiration from iconic men in history who have proven themselves to be transformative—who have proven themselves to be of substantial artistic merit, class, and style. He’s modeling himself after as many stylish dandies and/or glam rockers that he can find. I think he’s probably taking from Oscar Wilde, David Bowie, and Evelyn Waugh. His last name is taken from Evelyn Waugh, the author of many novels but Brideshead Revisited being one of his most famous. Eliot’s relationship with Quentin is sort of in part a mirror of the relationship in Brideshead Revisited between the two male characters with Eliot being the Sebastian character. Eliot is sort of taking these iconic literary figures—he wants to be this blend of an iconic literary figure and a fashion forward glam rocker dandy. I think that he’s always transforming and always evolving. He’s not really interested in being one thing ever. He’s always on the hunt for the next expression of himself. I think that’s one of the most inspiring things about him. In a way, it’s sort of tragic because he’s running from his true feelings and, on the other hand, it’s part of his own personal artistry. He’s a collage of input that creates his own persona and that is always changing and always evolving.

Lena: They need to come out with a T-shirt line because I want one that says “Love Wins” with Eliot and some mating books. [Laughing.]

Hale Appleman: [Laughing.] Oh my gosh, if that happens I would lose my shit. That would be really cool.

Lena: What T-shirt quote would you want?

Hale Appleman: It’s hard to pick one. “I’m a supervillain.” I say that in one episode and it would be a good one. There is a line from I think the first episode and from the first book, “ If you tell the dean you saw me smoking, I will banish you to the lowest layer of hell, which I’ve never been there but if it’s half as bad as I hear it’s almost as bad as Brooklyn.” That’s a really good one. “Smoke it, not fondle it.” That’s another great one. He’s got so, so many. Lev Grossman wrote so many of them, so I would definitely just take a tour through the books and all the scripts that John and Sera wrote and compile a huge list. There is room for a whole line.

NUP_170407_0947-680Lena: Yes! That episode where you guys had to carry around that box made me laugh so much, probably more than it should have. [Laughing.]

Hale Appleman: Me and Jason had so much fun manipulating that box because it just had a book in there for some weight and it was all us just shaking the box and making it seem as if there was something trying to escape. We both came from a pretty theatrical background, so that was in our wheelhouse and in the spirit of what we grew up doing and the way that we grew up acting and playing. It’s fun on this show that we get to do things like that, that are so out of left field and so far from what you would normally see on a mainstream American TV show. We get to do box acting and things like that just blows my mind. I think we looked at each other like this is our job today. [Laughing.] We get to walk around and fling this box everywhere. That was fun.

Lena: If you had Eliot’s powers, what would be the first thing that you would do?

Hale Appleman: I would fly. I hope we get to see him fly at some point. I would fly and then I would go to the woods and light a fire with my hands or something.

Lena: The last episode, in the mental hospital, was perfection on so many levels.

Hale Appleman: [Laughing.] Oh my god, I loved that episode. I think it’s so great and stands out and serves as an example of what the show can do in all the ways that it came to this outside the box. No pun intended. I think that episode really took the show to another level and I’m so proud to be a part of the show overall, I can’t believe I get to be in it. Four was so great. Jason is so amazing in episode four that it kind of blows my mind. I think the whole cast is incredible and I’m enjoying watching the show. I really get to see people shine and it’s such a gift to be able to work with people who you love and respect and that’s not always true across the board. I think, on this show, we are really lucky in that way.

Lena: Can you talk about filming that music therapy scene?

Hale Appleman: [Laughing.] It wasn’t too complicated. We had a choreographer for the day that was wonderful. I’m embarrassed to admit that I can’t remember his name but he was fantastic and he works all the time. We had some dancers that were the extras in that scene that were wonderful and really fun. Everyone was just open to playing and there are so many moments that we captured on film that I don’t think made the cut. I think what made the cut is awesome and I would be interested in seeing a full DVD extra version of that. I think there’s a lot in there. It was super fun. That scene was a lot less challenging than I think we thought it was going to be. It just fell into place in a really easy way.

Lena: It was so good. If it came about, what song would you like Eliot to sing?

Hale Appleman: I would throw out a few ideas like a Frank Sinatra song—something really Rat Pack-ish and old school glamour or something more in the vain of David Bowie or Lou Reed. I don’t know. That would be an endless conversation with me because I can think of so many things that would be awesome to have Eliot sing. It would depend on the setting, the scene, and the context of what the scene is about.

NUP_170679_0907-680Lena: What can you say about what’s coming up on the show and what people can expect from Eliot?

Hale Appleman: I think people can expect Eliot to have a bit more fun and pull some more mischief out of the ether and then we can expect to see the darkness re-emerge for him and him having to deal with that, which is really devastating and also hilarious in some moments.

Lena: He’s a tortured soul, isn’t he?

Hale Appleman: I think he is. I think he doesn’t want to be but he is.

Lena: What other projects do you have coming up?

Hale Appleman: Right now, I’m looking for my next acting job. I’m reading a bunch of stuff and checking out my options, but nothing is set in stone as of right now. I’m also working on music in my spare time. I’m writing and recording some of my own personal music and that’s a passion of mine that I’ve been quiet about, but it’s something that I hope to share in the next few months.

Lena: Are you done filming The Magicians?

Hale Appleman: We are done filming the first season and we will head back to Vancouver in the spring or early summer. We’ll get back in the saddle and see what we can do. See what magic we can make.

The Magicians airs Monday nights at 9/8c on Syfy.

Follow Hale on Twitter: https://twitter.com/hale_appleman


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