The Magicians: Summer Bishil on ‘Off the Wall’ Scripts and Margo’s Bond with Eliot

Jeff Weddell/Syfy
Jeff Weddell/Syfy

The Magicians took a slight breather from the main plot last week to give us a glimpse into some of the show’s big relationships. Quentin (Jason Ralph) and Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley) got to have a rare heart-to-heart about having a mutually beneficial sex life, and Margo (Summer Bishil) was able to see the extent of the post-Mike/Beast emotional damage done to Eliot (Hale Appleman) while dealing with a certain Margolem. Elsewhere Penny (Arjun Gupta) was stuck in an in-between place called the Neitherlands, where he got closer to learning the truth about The Beast, while Julia (Stella Maeve) and Kady (Jade Tailor) found themselves knee-deep in magic a little too out of their league.

We had the chance to chat with Bishil to discuss Margo’s relationship with Eliot, the show’s distinctly female perspective and whether Margo gets involved in the fight with The Beast.

The TV Junkies: In the last episode we saw Eliot really spiraling into a dark place and admitting that he’s not okay. How does that storyline and his relationship with Margo progress into the rest of the season?

Summer Bishil: I think Episode 10 is when Margo is becoming aware of just how bad Eliot is doing, and just how much he is spiraling into alcohol and drug abuse, and how much difficulty he’s having with managing it all. I don’t think she was that aware of it, she was gone in Ibiza, and she comes back to find him completely not in his body and really struggling. So, she’s concerned, but she’s also dealing with finding out that someone out there has given her a magical STD of sorts, and trying to get to the bottom of that and fix that situation. She wants to be able to rely on Eliot, as she has always, and soon discovers that she can’t.

TTVJ: I’m glad you mentioned that magical STD because sex was a big part of that episode, as well as with Quentin and Alice. They had to have a serious conversation about the problem of faking the orgasm, which isn’t something we see covered on TV. With Margo’s story it was really about the idea of consent. The Magicians has such a unique tone and perspective on these stories, so how did you guys react to seeing scripts like that?

SB: I was always surprised by the scripts coming in, just how interesting they were and every week it was sort of one-upping the last one, and I always enjoyed it. As far as how sexuality is treated in The Magicians, I feel like it’s more of a female perspective than most shows really explore, which I loved. It’s done more sensitively and more interestingly than I’ve seen done in television.

I found it really interesting how Quentin and Alice are exploring how to pleasure each other and give and take. It isn’t something you see talked about on TV and it’s also something couples struggle to talk about in real life, so it’s interesting to watch, definitely.

TTVJ: Do you think that female perspective comes from the fact that you have a female showrunner in Sera Gamble?

SB: I think so, definitely. I think that has a huge part of why I respond so well to the show. I can only say personally why I’ve responded so well to how sexuality is treated. I think that it had to have something to do with the female perspective, being [a show] with a female showrunner.

TTVJ: Margo has had a lot of scene-stealing moments this season, in particular with that Djinn story, I found it so funny.

SB: Oh my god, I loved that so much. The actor playing the genie was fantastic to work with, he was such a funny guy outside of the scenes that we were doing. But, I liked it, it was challenging. I knew going in that that would be the role Margo was going to play this season, and it’s not something I’ve ever done. I’ve always done drama and very intense roles. So it was a huge challenge for me, I was nervous about it and I was constantly being pushed. I still look at the episode and it’s hard not to be a critic and say, “oh, I should have done that, and I should have done this.” For me it was really a learning curve on how to do comedy.

TTVJ: I thought you were great. Your delivery on the “so literal” line was so spot on.

SB: [laughs] Oh man, I just loved that episode so much. That one was just so off the wall, but I know Sera always wants everything to still feel grounded in the real world. You don’t want to fly off the chain with your performance, but at the same time these storylines are sort of flying off the chain.

Jeff Weddell/Syfy
Jeff Weddell/Syfy

TTVJ: Will we be seeing Margo more involved in the main Fillory storyline?

SB: She absolutely is. We all have to discover Fillory; it’s a group effort and each character is emotionally invested, it’s not just the group collective, and also The Beast is threatening all of us. So, when we step up and have to fight and discover who he is and stop him, it’s definitely something that Margo is invested in.

TTVJ: Margo and Eliot have a really strong bond in the show. How did you go about creating that on-screen chemistry with Hale Appleman?

SB: You know, I have a very strong bond personally with Hale, I think we bonded organically on the pilot. We felt passionately about our individual characters and their relationship, strengthening it, deepening it, and making it believable on screen. We never wanted to diminish the gravity of their relationship and what it means to each of them. It was challenging because we still have to play so much levity, so bringing the idea that these two are very much dependent on one another, but also [being in] these insane, funny situations was a difficult task.

It was a lot of collaboration between Hale and I, we worked together a lot off-set and talked about our characters, talked about their backgrounds, where each of them came from, and possibly how they were bonded.

TTVJ: Will we be seeing more on Margo’s background in the future?

SB: I certainly hope so. If you’ve read the books, there’s definitely a wealth of material for Janet, who’s Margo in the script, for us to discover her and a chance to learn about where she comes from, and hopefully what magic means to her, how she hopes to use it in her life.

TTVJ: In comparing the books to the show, the show’s writers have been able to expand a lot on the side characters, while the books were mainly focused on Quentin. How have you reacted to some of the changes from the books?

SB: I like all the changes. Obviously things had to change in order to make it compelling for television, and I like the way that the showrunners have done that. As far as the Julia storyline, you couldn’t have her sit out an entire season, you had to know who she was, so how they’ve made it parallel to the Brakebills experience has been interesting to watch.

As far as having to let go of certain ideas I had, reading the books and negotiating the differences in the television version, it was definitely a negotiation process in my mind as performer because you read the books, you get attached to the character, you have these ideas about her, and then you’re presented these scripts and where the script is in the storytelling of this character, or the whole piece, may not be where you’re at psychologically after reading the character. You have to be patient and allow the evolution to take place.

TTVJ: Were you able to have any conversations with the author, Lev Grossman, about your character?

SB: Yeah, Lev was definitely part of the process. I’ve met Lev and spoken with him. He’s wonderful, and he definitely left it open for any cast members to reach out to him for any questions that we may have. I didn’t personally reach out to him, but I know some of the cast members have. He’s definitely there if we need him.

TTVJ: What can you hint about what happens in the next episode?

SB: I would say our needs become more clarified, and we start having to work together in order to stop The Beast and figure out who he is and figure out a plan.

 

Are you ready to see Margo step into the fight with The Beast? Sound off in the comments below.

The Magicians airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on Showcase and Syfy.