'The Magicians' Star Brittany Curran On What's Coming Next For Her Character, Saying No To Sexist Scripts, And Toxic Masculinity
Brittany chatted with us about Fen's new sense of agency, her 'Jurassic Park'-themed cast parties, and her disavowal of misogynistic Hollywood scripts.
If you haven't seen The Magicians, picture this: A dark and twisted adult Harry Potter meets The Chronicles Of Narnia. The SyFy fantasy series, which was recently renewed for a fourth season, was adapted from Lev Grossman's best-selling trilogy of the same name –– and it's just as fantastical as it sounds. Throw in several epic musical episodes that could give that famed Buffy the Vampire Slayer ep. a run for its money, and it quickly became one of our all-time favorite TV shows.
Brittany Curran, who plays Fen on the show, has got a whopping 16 years of acting chops under her belt. It makes sense, then, that the talented actress was recently bumped up to a series regular for the current season of The Magicians.
We picked Brittany's brain over the phone about what might be coming next for her character, how she likes working with the rest of the cast on the show, and the Jurassic Park-themed parties she throws in Vancouver, where The Magicians is shot. We also discussed the importance of strong female characters, Brittany's disavowal of sexist Hollywood scripts, and the issue of toxic masculinity in today's society. You know, just your average phone conversation with an uber-talented actress.
Livingly: You were bumped up to a series regular for the current season of The Magicians, and the show's recently been renewed for a fourth season. Amazing! What has been your favorite part of playing Fen so far?
Brittany Curran: I really love her arc, because she started out in Season 2 very different from me. She was very much a member of this archaic society, and though there was this flair of rebelliousness in her, at the end of the day, she just wanted to do what was put upon her by her society, and her father. She just wanted to be a good wife, regardless of her own happiness. And I love her growth from that.
Finally, in the last couple episodes, her realizing that she isn't happy, and that Eliot [Hale Appleman] doesn't really treat her that well. And in a very kind way, she stands up to Eliot and says that she needs to do something for herself and go to Earth and have her own journey. I love that she cleaves the space for herself, finally, to take her own path in life that no one else is telling her to go on.
Well, that leads me to my next question –– Fen and Eliot were a really unexpected team, and Eliot didn't start out as the greatest husband, but I think they've turned out to work surprisingly well together. But maybe that's just because I love both of you as characters! So do you agree or disagree? Do you think that they could eventually be a good team?
I absolutely think they could eventually be a good team. But I don't think, from Fen's perspective, they are now. Eliot finally said some really incredible things that obviously took a lot of courage to say. So I think that's a really good first step, but it's one of those things where Eliot can say that he's sorry, but until he actually starts taking actions that show he respects Fen and her individuality –– I don't believe it until I see action, basically!
How do you like working with Hale Appleman and the rest of the cast on The Magicians?
I love working with Hale, and with everybody! Hale and Jade Tailor were the first two cast members that I started bonding with and hanging out with outside of the set. And especially since I've become a series regular, I've started spending a lot more time up in Canada. We're all really close. I talk about it a lot, but I host these themed parties in Vancouver, and I'll invite the cast over. My first one was Jurassic Park-themed, where I bake and make a bunch of food that's dinosaur-themed.
Wait, that's so fun.
Olivia [Taylor Dudley] was the one that was the most excited about it, it was really cute. Her and I nerded out pretty hard over this Jurassic Park theme.
Um, I nerd out over Jurassic Park all the time. It's one of my all-time favorite movies.
It's so awesome. But yeah, I have my little theme parties, and we hang out. Everyone's so much fun. Other than Jade, who's not very much like her character [who plays Kady], and Olivia [who plays Alice], everyone's kind of an extension of their characters. It all very much makes sense that we each play our character.
Yeah, I don't think I could see you playing anyone else.
That's the thing! I'm very much only Fen. It's funny, though, because in a lot of other things I've been in, I've played "the bitch" a lot. So Margo [Summer Bishil] was actually the character, historically, that I would have played in my career, even though you can't tell with me being Fen. I finally get to be this really sweet, nice girl, so it's a fun departure.
Fen's storyline has changed dramatically over the course of the past two seasons. Currently, she has just teamed up with Julia, which I think is amazing. You guys are my favorite characters, along with Eliot. Can you share about what might be coming next for Fen?
Without giving anything away, I can say that Julia and Fen really bring out the best in each other. They end up going on an essentially heroic journey –– with what they both have to get past to do what they need to do. Especially coming up, they both challenge each other in a very compassionate way. It ends up being good all-around, that's what I can say.
I'm so excited to see how this develops! They're both undercover badasses –– and like you said, have both been through so much as characters. I think it's really cool that they've teamed up.
It feels like they've led such different lives, but Stella [Maeve] and I were so excited to be working with each other, and the more we talked about our characters the more we realized how similar our journeys have actually been. . . . They've both been outsiders, they're both people that have been left behind on other people's journeys, but they're both incredibly compassionate and loving people that have just had a lot of shit happen to them. And they're ready for some redemption!
Seems like everywhere you look today, there are women breaking boundaries in typically male-dominated fields. That couldn't be more true when it comes to the entertainment industry, especially with movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp. Were there any particular setbacks you've faced as a budding actress? How did you overcome them?
Well you know, there's this constant thing throughout an actress's career –– and it's obviously getting better and better –– but reading scripts with characters that are unintentionally sexist. I'm fortunate where I haven't encountered assault or a lot of the really, really awful things that [some] actresses have encountered, so I could never compare my experience to any of theirs.
But in terms of growing up in this industry, reading so many scripts that have powerful women, but at the same time reading scripts and stories where women aren’t the ones fighting back.
I read a script very recently and I said no. I wouldn't even audition for it. It was just so sexist and misogynistic. The content itself and even the way it was written: A lot of the female characters, in the action, in the description, it would say, "hot," or "slutty," and none of the men were described as attractive. And there's nothing wrong with describing a character as attractive, but only women were described that way. Even the guy characters in the script where you could tell they were supposed to be, the writers [described them] in a different way that wasn't objectifying. I don't care, call an actress beautiful, you know what I mean? But don't make it so incredibly one-sided. It was just so offensive.
I'm so glad you said no to that. Boy, bye!
I think it's just this culture of getting used to seeing women as the ones who don't take action. And you still see that in movies, where women are just pretty props. They're just sexy and half-clothed, and the men aren't. And again, sometimes that is necessary. Look, if it makes sense with the storyline . . . Obviously it's not just black and white, but [there's this culture of] being told that you're not as valuable as the male characters. I think that obviously is echoed in life sometimes.
That's why I love the show so much, because with your character, with Margo's, it's nice to see such a drastic change! To see these strong female characters that can be vulnerable, but then they can also exhibit this new agency for themselves. Even for Alice's character, I can appreciate that she doesn't have to be this likable female character who's just pining over Quentin [Jason Ralph].
Oh, is it likable? What does that even mean?
I like the unlikable, at this point. Because I can appreciate that, I can lay a finger on that and think, okay, well that's unique; maybe I'm not supposed to like her, but maybe that's a good thing.
For women and men alike, that's life. We're not always gonna be likable to everybody. And if your biggest concern is being likable, then you're probably not living your best life.
But you're right, because it's not just about being blindly confident. Being vulnerable is very much a part of being confident. Which is also a problem with what society puts on men, like, oh you can't be vulnerable, you can't cry, [that means] you're not a man. But that's such bullshit!
That's what feeds into toxic masculinity. No, men should absolutely be allowed to be vulnerable. I think if you hide your feelings and you don't allow yourself to cry if you want to, if you don't allow yourself to be vulnerable, that's what's weak.
Men who can actually acknowledge their emotions and be able to live in the uncomfortableness of being vulnerable –– that's the strongest type of person, and also the healthiest type of person.
I couldn't agree more. And we have to support shows and literature and anything that continues to dismantle that image, because it's not doing anything for us as a society.
Exactly. It's not helping men or women, you know?
Any upcoming projects you want to talk about, or anything else you'd like to share with our audience?
I just did this film that's actually coming out on DVD/Blu-ray this month. It's called The Man from Earth: Holocene. It's the sequel to this science fiction cult classic that came out 10 years ago. And I have another film that's called Captured, which should be coming out end of this year or beginning of next.
Also, it's not film-related, but I'm working with this charity called Donate Life. They're a charity for organ transplantation, and we're doing a 5K at the end of April. I started my own team, and people can actually join my team, and come walk or run with me if they want. Or they can donate to the cause. So I've been putting a lot of time into that too, lately!
At Livingly, we strive to "live life beautifully." What does living beautifully mean to you?
Living beautifully means living a life that's true to who you are and what you actually want. Allowing yourself to be human and learning from that. That sounds so general, but whatever version of that is you –– because I think everybody can abide by that, and then take your own path from there.
You have to stay true to your own vision.
Yeah, absolutely! We all want different things, and sometimes what we want changes, and you have to allow that in yourself, and you have to forgive yourself for when you make mistakes in life. People who don't forgive themselves just get stuck; but people that do can grow and learn and laugh at themselves and move on. Laughing at yourself is definitely an important element.
Follow Brittany on Instagram here, and tune in to SyFy to watch 'The Magicians' on Wednesdays at 9|8C.
* Parts of this interview have been condensed for clarity.