‘The Magicians’ Postmortem: Olivia Taylor Dudley Talks Alice's Battle with the Beast
Warning: This article contains spoilers from the “Divine Elimination” episode of The Magicians.
Sometimes being a hero has consequences. On this week’s episode of The Magicians, Alice certainly learned that lesson when she lost her life in order to rid Fillory of The Beast and save her friends/fellow royals. Saving the day on screen also had side effects, although far less dire, on the woman who played her.
Olivia Taylor Dudley hopped on the phone with Yahoo TV to discuss Alice’s journey from zero to fallen hero, the likelihood of a corporeal comeback, her personal favorite scene to shoot, and why she may never eat lychee again.
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Let’s start at the beginning. What attracted you to The Magicians in the first place?
I wasn’t familiar with the books when I got sent the pilot script. But I was intrigued [by] the title alone because I’ve been obsessed with magic and the paranormal and anything of that nature since I was a kid. So I was like, “Oh. Magicians. I want to read this.” I quickly realized that it’s more about human nature and the relationships between these people. Then I binge-read all three books, and my favorite thing — and the heart of the books to me — was this relationship between Alice and Quentin. So I was just dying to do it. I wanted to play a character like this. Playing a strong female on television is very important to me, and I got to play this really intelligent, beautiful, complicated person who has so many layers. When I read her, I couldn’t wait to get a chance to do it.
Were you prepared to say goodbye?
I knew what was going to happen eventually. I didn’t know at what point; neither did the showrunners. It’s not like we sat down on Day 1 in the beginning and they were like, “You will be dead in the second season, third episode.” I feel like she had a great run, but it’s sad and I was dreading the moment actually airing. I love Alice. It’s sad.
I feel like your character really takes viewers on a journey. She is so quiet and meek in the beginning, even though she is basically the strongest magician of the bunch, and by the end, she sacrifices her life to kill The Beast in order to save her friends, Fillory, and magic in general.
I’m very proud of Alice and the journey that she’s gone on. It’s so funny: If I go on the internet and read comments about Alice and people’s judgments on her [from] the beginning of the first season, I’m like, “You just wait and see. It’s all on purpose; all for this journey she goes on.” She’s very different than all the other female characters. I love that they’re all so different and we get to see many different feminine views on the show. I recently looked at the pilot and Alice is just so quiet and uptight and buttoned up. It’s not something that I’ve ever played [before]. I’m so proud I got to play this onion and slowly got to peel her back throughout the whole first season and into this second season. I wanted it to be a very slow process. It was important to take my time with Alice [despite] knowing that she is the most powerful of the group and would be the hero of the group. It would have been so easy for her to just do it. She was born the most powerful magician in the group. Why doesn’t she just let loose and handle s–t? It was much more interesting to make her human and make it hard because that’s what life is like. Even if you’re the smartest person in the room, it doesn’t mean you’re totally ready to see your potential.
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She always felt very relatable to me. In fact, at its heart, this is a coming-of-age story.
There’s a deep sadness in Alice. There has been her whole life. We explored some of her family issues in the first season and why she is as messed up as she is. She’s got a lot of issues that she’s trying to keep below the surface. We get put in these situations, whether they’re a relationship situation or a supernatural magic situation, that give us a glimpse into her growth in every little area. Again, it doesn’t happen fast. That’s the beauty of the show — everyone’s growing at the pace that a normal human being is. I don’t think Alice would just all of a sudden go, “I’m so great at magic. You’re right, Quentin. I’ll be the one.” That’s still a hard thing for her to swallow because she doesn’t believe in herself yet. For most people it wouldn’t be magic, but the feeling of not believing in yourself is universal.
It is sad that finally realizing her potential also spells her demise.
It’s so sad that she ends up dying, but she knows that she’s doing it. She goes into that battle knowing that there’s a very good chance she’s not going to survive it. She cares deeply for these people. They’re the first people in her life that were there for her. Her family wasn’t. She lost her brother. To her, this is the ultimate sacrifice that she’s definitely willing to make. I think that’s a beautiful hero’s journey for her to go on.
Can you tease how her death will affect the group?
Everyone ends up mourning Alice in a different way. She’s the only person out of our main group that has died, and it is a big deal. Watching everybody else deal with that in different ways is interesting. The bottom line is that magic and the Wellspring are still an issue, and without somebody like an Alice to help them try to get the magic back, Fillory’s kind of screwed. It will be interesting to see how they all pick up the pieces. I feel bad for everybody without me [Laughs].
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Might we see her again? It is a fantasy show after all.
The Alice that we know is dead. There’s no bringing her back. On our show, we don’t do cheap tricks like that, so Alice is definitely gone and we have to say goodbye to this version of Alice. But I am allowed to tease that my journey on The Magicians is not complete just yet. You will see Alice come back as something different later down the line. I think fans will be very excited by what is coming up and it will be this season.
Did you have a personal favorite scene?
I really loved shooting the carriage scene in episode 3 with Jason. Jason and I have done so much work together, and we care about these characters so much. We’re constantly checking in with each other about our thoughts on the scenes and the characters’ journeys. Then, we get to that scene where the subtext of it is Alice is probably going to die and we’re still in love. It all happened so naturally. I was completely moved in the scene and terribly sad. As an actor, it’s nice when you get to have genuine, real moments that take your breath away on screen. You don’t always get that [because of] the pace in which you shoot television. But they gave us the room to shoot that scene like that. But there are so many. I love the character stuff, and the intimate moments between the characters is what we live for, but it’s also fun to get to do the action scenes like The Beast battle, too.
Not surprised you did not pick the scene where Alice has to drink Ember’s man juice in order to wield the blade. But I’ve been dying to find out what it was you actually had to drink, as it looked too close to real for comfort.
It was a mixture of lychee yogurt and water. I mixed it myself. The props department presented me with some different recipes, and I was like, “Let’s do this one and let me make it.” So I mixed it myself, thinking that would make it less gross to me. It didn’t work. I definitely took one for the team. It wasn’t easy to get down. It was gross. I can’t eat lychee now. I did it in one take and all at once, so I handled it. I’ve got a video of me making it. I’ve got to post that.
Or maybe save it for the future Magicians cookbook tie-in.
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I noticed you have done quite a few horror and supernatural films, like The Vatican Tapes and Paranormal Activity. Are you a fan of the genres or was The Magicians just coincidence?
I would say it’s a coincidence. I love working in this genre, but honestly, indie drama is where my heart’s at. But it doesn’t always line up that way. Projects present themselves to you, and if it feels right, you just do it. I’ve done a lot of comedy, and I have an action movie coming out. I do end up coming back to the supernatural world because I think it’s a very powerful way of telling stories. I think our show does such a fantastic job using the glitz and glamor of magic, but at the end of it all, it’s just about human beings.
The Magicians airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on SyFy.
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