The Sexy New Yorker Mystifies us in ‘The Magicians’
Bringing together a clever combination of mystery and humor, Hale Appleman brings to life Eliot Waugh on SyFy’s latest series, ‘The Magicians.’
By Inez Barberio
Brakebills University is your average Ivy-League graduate program with one caveat: its students possess extraordinary magical abilities. Hale Appleman stars in SyFy’s freshman drama, ‘The Magicians’ as the whimsical Eliot Waugh. Handsome, smart, clever, with secrets of his own, Eliot has become a fan favorite of the series, based on author Lev Grossman’s best-selling trilogy of the same title.
Born and raised in New York, Appleman discovered acting was his calling at a young age. Initially drawn to the visual arts as a child, Appleman caught the acting bug by the age of 10. With the support of his parents, he quickly became involved in as many theatrical pursuits as he could find, including community and regional theater productions, summer camp programs (French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts), and children’s theater (TADA! NYC). Eventually he attended “Fame School” Laguardia High School of the Performing Arts in New York City.
“At LaGuardia, I really committed myself to honing my skills every day. My teachers were incredibly supportive, which truly opened up heightened avenues of expression and allowed me to flourish. The intensity and privilege of training there in NYC and coexisting with 3,000 other young artists is a feeling of freedom unlike anything I had ever felt,” recalls Appleman.
Appleman briefly attended the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama before booking his first film role and setting out on his own.
Now, with several movies and prestigious theater productions to his name, Appleman has created a breakout role in ‘The Magicians.’
When first given the opportunity to audition, he was not aware of the trilogy.
“My best friend handed me the first book when I told him I was auditioning for the show. I started reading it right away, and quickly fell in love with the stories, characters, and the world that Lev Grossman created. And the big idea behind the books hooked me – a childhood fantasy seen through the reality of an adult lens. I read all three books long before I booked the role.”
Appleman cites the books as a blueprint and real point of grounding for his characterization.
“You don’t always have a novel to turn to with such detailed information to help you construct the human that has to live on screen. It’s amazing to have access to Lev’s books. They are such a valuable tool, and I’m grateful I had them to help build the character. It’s a rare luxury as an actor to have that kind of backstory set up for you from the get go,” Appleman explains.
Interestingly, Appleman first auditioned for the character of Penny while cast-mate Arjun Gupta auditioned for Eliot. Fate would have it the other way around. “I think we ended up where we belong,” laughs Appleman.
Watching ‘The Magicians,’ Eliot first appears to be a fun-loving yet snobby playboy. However, Appleman manages to portray the truly complex nature of Eliot in a brilliant fashion.
“He’s a mass of contradiction. He presents himself as mischievous, snobby, and sophisticated, but he’s also using that persona as a kind of armor to protect himself against the shadows of his past, the dark chapters of his history that he doesn’t necessarily want to look at or live through again. He’s very much a collage of influences. He’s acting a persona onto the world, in part as a retaliation against the world that doesn’t accept him.”
Appleman is delighted to be part of the cast of ‘The Magicians,’ and enjoys the unique environment that he works in with his fellow actors onset in Vancouver, Canada.
“It’s pretty wild. Every day we find ourselves playing out unusual circumstances in the most beautiful and impeccably designed locations. I think because of the nature of the story, which is one that spans many words both real and fantastical, every day on set is kind of like waking up in a different dream.”
‘The Magicians’ has been compared to two other best-selling fantasy novels, ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘The Chronicles of Narnia.’ Appleman understands that the comparisons are inevitable. While having a magic school setting clearly reminds many of ‘Harry Potter,’ Appleman believes there is a pure distinction between the two schools of magic.
“What sets ‘The Magicians’ apart from those book series is the attention to the challenges that come with becoming an adult. The stories written for children often adhere to good and evil, black and white binary. There are more shades of gray in ‘The Magicians,’ more room to shake up your expectations of what might happen in these magical realms we grew up reading about.”
The shooting schedule is rigorous with each of the 13 episodes taking about seven days to shoot, a season lasting between five or six months.
“I’m definitely enjoying some time to decompress and relax before we launch into the next chapter,” says Appleman.
During his time on hiatus, Appleman continues to audition and read scripts as he explores other characters. In addition, Appleman also has a talent for writing music which he plans to share one day with the public.
“I write music in my spare time. It’s something that I have mostly kept to myself. It’s a mediation at this point. I’ll probably put some stuff out in the next few months, but we’ll see. I’ve been working on it for awhile. Now that I am talking about it, I have to do something about it!”
A native New Yorker, Appleman currently resides in Los Angeles. He does not necessarily prefer one or the other, but rather enjoys the benefits of both coasts.
“I grew up in New York, so I have strong roots here, but I also love the West Coast. People told me that I would hate LA and I don’t. I found time, space and a community that I could not have found in New York. I definitely feel like I have a life on both coasts.”
Appleman adds, “They both inspire me in completely different ways. If I feel I am getting a little too soft and floaty, I’ll head back to New York for a little while. If I start becoming overly skeptical, if I can no longer live a life in squares, I take time out West.”
As theater and Broadway are true to New York, one actor that Appleman truly admires is the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman, a staple of New York theater, Appleman considers him to be an actor’s actor.
“He (Hoffman) had a theater company and showed up backstage and did a lot of plays in New York. He was supportive of the young actors just starting out. There was something in the way he transformed, he was vulnerable and completely surprising in every role. He was someone who will always inspire me.”
Appleman has a strong appreciation for actors who are artists and who have the ability to dig deep and transform into a character in avenues one has never seen. One such actress that Appleman greatly admires is the iconic Tilda Swinton.
Taping for the second season of ‘The Magicians’ begins late June. Appleman is excited to get back into Eliot’s world.
“I just love playing the character so much. I think that it is a really potent time for this character to be on television and I am excited to see what we get to do with him. It’ll be great to see him develop and to explore his idiosyncrasies, struggles, and internal rhythms again. I’m pretty sure he’s going to have a lot on his plate in season two.”
While we wait for season two to air, be sure to catch up on season one with Elliot and all the other students at Brakebills University!
Hale Appleman is fairly new to social media, so be sure to send him a tweet: @Hale_Appleman!