Who Should Play The Magicians?

After a few false starts, a TV version of Lev Grossman’s slick fantasy series—The Magicians—seems to be finally coming to the SyFy channel. With the recent announcement that the pilot for the show has really, really been ordered, is it too early to start dreaming the possibility of the cast? Nope! And because all possible worlds are seemingly accessed in The Magicians, I’m sure this cast list exists somewhere, and all I’ll need is one of the magic buttons to see it realized. For now, take a look at my bizarre potential cast list for The Magicians.

Disclaimer: I really tried to think emotionally with this list, and as such occasionally strayed away from what the characters are supposed to look like. I was thinking more about what I think would make a cool-looking TV show, rather than trying to be super-close to the “look” of a particular character. Or to put it another way: sorry, Lev.

magicians casting dane dehann

Dane DeHaan as Quentin

The most recent nemesis of Spider-Man, this guy also brought it pretty hard in Chronicle. There’s something about DeHaan’s voice that elicits a kind of trepidatious confidence that would be perfect for the at once awe-struck and angsty Quentin. Not too imposing, but not “regular”-seeming, DeHaan’s recent villainous turn as Harry Osborn might help to inject the hero of Quentin Coldwater with the right amount of darkness the character already possesses. Plus, you can already see this guy rocking the shock-silver hair Quentin switches to at the end of the first book.

magicians casting jon michael hill

Jon Michael Hill as Eliot

A few years older than Quentin, Eliot has to come across as both a little snobby and flippantly in charge at the same time. The imposing charm of Jon Michael Hill could work here, as someone who has played Puck and squared off with Sherlock Holmes seems to fit. Watching him dismiss Jonny Lee Miller on Elementary will convince anyone this guy can bring a dose of both judgment and kindness to his roles. Plus, after playing a few cops, I think Jon Michael Hill could stand to sit on a throne of Fillory.

magicians casting allison williams

Allison Williams as Janet

Eliot’s best buddy and eventually a more political member of the short-lived Fillory royal court, Janet, like Eliot, needs to be played with a bit of snobbery. And while her role in the second book is less-plot essential than in the first, it’s important to have Janet’s presence firmly established with a memorable actress. As Marnie Michaels on Girls, Allison Williams might not immediately seem like the top choice to play party girl Janet, but her overall self-assured cockiness is ideal for the character who will eventually get the nickname “Fillory Clinton.”


Tatiana Maslany as Alice

Along with Quentin, Alice gets to turn into a fox! Who wouldn’t want to be cast in such a role! More relevant to the plot, she also shapes Quentin’s thoughts about stepping up as a person and, oh yeah, she sort of loves him too. Alice needs to be nice and dangerous. So, the clone with the most—Tatiana Maslany—might fit. Though she might seem too edgy for Alice, I think that’s exactly what the character might need for the screen incarnation to jar us.

magicians casting anna kendrick

Anna Kendrick as Julia

I think this is a no-brainer. Kendrick is memorable in a girl-next-door sort of way, but also seems potentially dangerous and legit crazy. Julia has to be able to go on that journey, and eventually give us the creeps with her all-black eyeballs. Because of her massive role in the second book, the casting of Julia has to be someone super-strong and memorable. Kendrick can pulls this off, though there is a part of me that thinks you could almost swap Kendrick to play Alice and have Maslany play Julia. But, of all the castings, this was the first one that slipped into my brain, so I’m sticking to it!


Tony Revolori as Penny

Sort of an outlier here, but Penny’s punk-rock, I don’t really care about you quality seems like it could work with the unflappable talent of Tony Revolori. Again, I know this is coming across a little random, but I kept thinking about how little actually fazes Penny in the second book, and how, in The Grand Budapest Hotel, Tony Revolori’s performance is similarly rock-solid. This could give the character a different, more humorous spin, but it could work!

Magicians casting Alex Karpovsky

Alex Karpovsky as Josh

My first thought was to actually put Rupert Grint of Harry Potter fame in this role, but it probably be just a little too much. (I actually do think a Harry Potter alum should show up in the cast of The Magicians, I just can’t figure out who it should be.) I was also tempted to use more than half of the cast of Girls in this wish-list post, but I opted for just this one addition. Alex Karpovsky is hilarious, self-aware, and sharp. He’s also got a kindness that’s perfect for Josh, the character who seems to actually think of himself as the comic relief in a group of otherwise heroes-in-their-own-minds. As with the Alice and Janet casting flips, Karpovsky could also make a good Eliot, but I think I’ll keep him here simply because I want to this actor hanging out in that sweet Venice pad in The Magician King.

Magicians casting Jenna Coleman

Jenna Coleman as Poppy

This was a tough one! I know Poppy is Australian and Jenna Coleman is English, but there’s just something about Coleman’s spunky skepticism that seemed right for the academic, dragon-happy Poppy. Plus, the agency of this character seems like it would give Jenna Coleman a little more range than she’s had on Doctor Who. Could she do an Australian accent?

Macigicians casting Christopher Lambert

Christopher Lambert as Martin Chatwin

I want to put Christopher Lambert in just about everything, so casting him as the messed-up lost boy-turned-Beast Martin Chatwin seems perfect for me. When he goes into full-on hand-biting monster mode, you can already hear that trademark Christopher Lambert laugh. I know thinking of this guy in Mortal Kombat makes him seem ridiculous, but I truly think any movie or TV show with magic in it should have Christopher Lambert somehow central. Imagining him as the first bad guy just makes sense to me.


Peter Sarsgaard as Dean Fogg

Maybe Sarsgaard is too hot for Dean Fogg? Would Sarsgaard really do a show on the SyFy Channel? Well, I don’t know, but there’s a quiet weirdness to Peter Sarsgaard that I think could cut through some of the supposed stuffiness of Fogg. Plus, if you’ve seen An Education, then you know having Sarsgaard hang around a campus and act like a weirdo sort of already works.

Magicians Casting Avery Brooks

Avery Brooks as Ember

Because Ember is one of the good “Gods” of Fillory, and also half-ram, I imagine this would be more of a voice-over situation. I for one, miss the judgmental tone of Avery Brooks permeating all of our science fiction and fantasy minds. I think it’s time for him to return from hanging out with the Prophets and tell the mortals of Fillory what’s what. Ember as been called the faux-Aslan of Fillory, and I can’t think of a growl I’d like more than Avery Brooks.

PHEW! I went a little nuts there, people. If you’re a fan of The Magicians please, please, please chime in and make your own list below. I know A LOT of these choices were weird or unorthodox, so tell us what you think! Plus, there are a bunch of characters I didn’t cast! (Who should play Bingle? I also didn’t cast ANY of Julia’s cronies from Free Trader Beowulf) Who are your favorites? Start casting your spells below!

Ryan Britt is a longtime contributor to Tor.com.


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