V.E. Schwab’s world-hopping fantasy novel A Darker Shade of Magic and its sequel A Gathering of Shadows travel across three very different Londons: our own boring, magic-free Grey London; the thriving magical Empire in Red London; and the decaying city of White London, where magic fights back and only the most powerful survive. Then there’s the lost fourth city, the one now called Black London, but no one likes to think of what happened there. Only a few Travellers remain—those with the ability to travel between worlds.
Kell, a Traveller from Red London, finds himself partnered with Delilah Bard, a pickpocket from Grey London who’s looking for adventure. Their escapades would be fantastic for the screen, which is fortunate, as A Darker Shade of Magic has been optioned for TV. This is also fortunate because if there’s one thing we love, it’s dream casting our favorite books!
While the setting(s) of the book is of utmost importance (NPR lauded the books, saying: “Schwab isn’t just world-building, she’s four-worlds-at-once building. In particular, she has to establish her peculiar and subtle rules of magic, equal parts manipulation of blood, will, and subtler factors like respect.”) casting the right actor for each role will be key to the show’s success. We talked to editor Miriam Weinberg to get her dream cast—plus came up with a few suggestions of our own—and we invite you to let us know your picks in the comments!
For streetwise criminal Lila, Miriam suggests “Daisy Ridley, because while I was watching (and re-watching…) The Force Awakens, I kept being struck by the story similarities of Rey and Lila’s journeys. And secondly, Antonia Thomas, because I think she is particularly talented at portraying strong women without failing to remember the flaws of greater humanity—the vanities, the regrets, the depth in emotional progression. She has a perfect complexity to offset Lila’s brash and yet fluid and secretly honorable moral codes.”
We also love the thought of Brianna Hildebrand as Lila. Hildebrand recently won our hearts as Negasonic Teenage Warhead in Deadpool and to tell the truth, we want her to be in everything. But Lila is tough, resourceful, deadly when necessary, and desperate for adventure, so we think Hildebrand could easily fill her stylish top hat.
From compassionate-but-somewhat-tortured young scientist Beast in the X-Men films, to and tragic-brainwashed-Warboy Nux in Mad Max: Fury Road, Nicholas Hoult has proven he has the range to portray Kell, the adopted prince of Red London, ambassador (or glorified messenger) to the other Londons, and part-time smuggler.
Miriam admits that casting Kell is “a little bit harder, probably because when we were drafting ADSOM, Victoria and I sent each other a lot of Tom Hiddleston gifs (for PROFESSIONAL REASONS YOU GUYS) but he is a tad too old for Kell in the novel. We need someone who looks endearing and attractive while frowning, so I’m going to say either Sebastian Stan or Alfie Enoch, because this gif looks almost exactly like a scene in A Gathering of Shadows.”
Prince Rhy is heir to the throne of Red London, and at the start of the series he’s about to turn 20, and is throwing a huge party to celebrate. Things get a bit rougher for our Prince Charming from there, but we think Arjun Gupta—currently playing a similarly complex character as Penny on The Magicians—would do Rhy justice.
Miriam laments that “just like his adopted brother, everyone I tend to think of as visually perfect (Fawad Kahn or Sendhil Ramamurthy) is also a bit too old. Particularly for ADSOM Rhy, the beloved Prince living a charmed life, who works hard to hide any darkness within himself. But Avan Jogia might be perfect at switching between insouciance (true or performed) and the later series evolution of Rhy!” She adds, “if they age up Rhy and Kell, I am pretty sure this is ACTUALLY them in a modern real-world AU?” And we have to agree—David Anders and Rahul Kholi look perfect!
For the Traveller from White London who won’t stop talking about blood, Miriam declares, “EASIEST ANSWER: Mads Mikkelsen, always and forever.” And we can’t argue with that.
The Dane Twins
When it comes to the Dane Twins, rulers of White London, we need actors who can exude haughty menace while rocking white blond hair. For Astrid this is actually pretty simple—both Elizabeth Olsen and Kate Mara could embody the character’s quiet power as well as her more sinister, masochistic tendencies. Her brother Athos posed more of a challenge, primarily because we kept picking dark brunettes. But you know what, Ben Whishaw and Hale Appleman are both perfect in everything (we especially love this gif of Appleman on The Magicians), so we don’t even mind the need for a cosmetic overhaul—if Harry Lloyd could pull it off in Game of Thrones, we’re sure these guys are up to the peroxide challenge.
Miriam included suggestions for Alucard Emery, a character first introduced in A Gathering of Shadows: “the swooniest of swoons, Sea Captain of my heart, I think of him as either Rami Malek or Anthony Ramos (you knew I was going to cast at least someone from Hamilton, #notsorry). And, a fun fact: one of the Arnesian favorite magicians competing in the Essen Tach is Alucard’s childhood best friend, Jinnar, who was actually inspired by a beloved k-pop star, G-Dragon (originally of Big Bang).”
And continuing the Hamilton theme, we had to include Jonathan Groff as Grey London’s King George III! Sure it’s just a cameo, but add a little make-up to age him up and Groff would be perfect for the Mad King’s brief appearance in ADSOM. Heck, he can even bring his usual costume.
Are these choices as magical as the books themselves, or should they be banished to Black London? Let us know your own dream casts in the comments!