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‘The Magicians’ Star Arjun Gupta on Penny’s Growth After Death

Last week’s episode of “The Magicians” left fans with quite a cliffhanger: the death of everyone’s favorite Traveler, Penny (Arjun Gupta).

Penny had been suffering from “super cancer” for months, but Julia (Stella Maeve) and Kady (Jade Tailor) managed to summon a demon that feeds on cancer to cure him. Unfortunately, it proved too little too late, and Penny died while the demon was feeding. The procedure was so excruciating that Penny astrally projected himself from his body so he wouldn’t feel the pain with just enough time to watch his body die — which trapped him on the Astral Plane where he can’t interact with anyone or anything.

Variety spoke with Gupta about learning Penny’s fate, what his new status quo is now, and being stuck in a suit and tie.

What did you think when you first found out about Penny’s “death”?

We’re kept on our toes a lot. I was pretty surprised, but I was really excited — excited that they were going to take that risk and that the show was creating a world where consequences were real. Penny’s almost died two or three times already, so I think that if Penny didn’t die and face a new challenge, the audience might get complacent and thinking, “Oh, stakes aren’t really life or death if everyone always finds a way out of it.”

Does being stuck on the Astral Plane change Penny’s status quo in the long term?

This is a complete game changer for him. What’s been exciting about this season for Penny is the character arc and growth. With the first few episodes, you saw him reacting to death in a way I don’t think he would have years before this. He’s more accepting and present. He’s less of a fighter and more accepting of things. Now, with him stuck in Astral Projection, I think it accelerates that growth even more. He has to try to connect with someone, and Penny’s not someone who connects well with anyone.

Being stuck on the Astral Plane, Penny can’t interact with anyone, so does he experience this “attending your own funeral” vibe as he wanders around Brakebills?

Yeah, there’s an aspect of that, but it kind of became Penny becoming the audience a bit watching the show. That leans to a lot of comedy. This episode puts Penny in a situation where there’s a surprising amount of comedy.

Which character’s reaction to learning about Penny’s death was your favorite?

Margo’s [Summer Bishil] reaction is quite epic. Any time that Penny and Margo get to interact is always fun. They’re such dynamic characters together, and I think they’re a really fun combo. But everyone’s reaction is quite true to form.

How is it acting as a character stuck on the Astral Plane opposite people who don’t technically know you’re there?

It’s so fun, and definitely trippy. We had to shoot the scenes in a new way — sometimes twice, sometimes I’d be there and sometimes I wouldn’t — and it presented a unique challenge that actually other people in the scenes had to deal with more than me. If I’m standing there it’s hard to pretend I’m not there.

Penny wears some of the comfiest-looking outfits in the show, but he died in a suit and tie. Does that means he’s stuck wearing that forever?

I’ll be very honest. I was a little upset initially. Because you’re right, Penny’s clothes are so comfortable. I was a little upset putting on the suit and tie all the time, but by episode four I was like, “Oh, this isn’t terrible. This is kinda nice.” But yeah he’ll be stuck in a suit and tie right now, which adds to the suffering for Penny.

The Magicians” airs Wednesday at 9 p.m. on SyFy.

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