As showrunner of Syfy’s “The Magicians” and Netflix’s “You,” Sera Gamble has two writers’ rooms, right across the street from each other in Hollywood. But, because she has been in her space for “The Magicians” longer, she says that office feels like her “home base.” Gamble says every writers’ room has its own personality, and the one for “The Magicians” is “a nice mix of horror and fairytale whimsy,” which has “always been my aesthetic.”
Woman’s Best Friend
A common fixture at Gamble’s side is her dog Franklin, whom she adopted about a year and a half ago. Although she never brought her previous pooch to the office, “everyone knew that he was my heart and soul” so after he passed away and she got Franklin, everyone wanted to meet him. “Part of climbing the ladder as a TV writer is that you are subject to the whims of the people making the show for good and for bad,” she says. “To me, having a dog friendly office is just important. It’s part of the vision that I have a cool workplace that allows people to be themselves. He kind of symbolizes me getting to that point in my career even if he does pull focus.” Gamble shares that often her team greets her with a “Where’s Frank?” before saying hello to her.
The walls of Gamble’s office are covered in framed poster art from previous seasons of her shows, as well as carefully curated art pieces, such as a mosaic made of Japanese beetles and other bugs that she saw in a shop window in New York City when she was in town for the premiere of “You” last year. “I like to find a little gift for myself when I’m having a big moment like that,” she says. At that point, she and executive producer Greg Berlanti had been working on the project for years and were excited to finally share it with the world, and she was looking for something symbolic to commemorate the occasion. “I think bugs are beautiful but I also don’t like to encounter them, and that’s one of my favorite essential tensions: I love the tension of something that is beautiful but also makes you uneasy,” she says, adding that’s also the balance for which she strives in her writing.
Cloak of Confidence
When it comes time for a writer on “The Magicians” to submit the full-board pitch for an episode, it is tradition for that person to don a unicorn hoodie, hold a wand and pose for a photo before beginning. “Sometimes bringing in something childish or whimsical just allows people to do something with that part of their brain,” Gamble says. When she notices writers look tired, she also has toys or things to color brought in to stimulate creativity. A personal fan of unicorns, Gamble says they are symbols “of not taking things so seriously and also how psyched I am to work in genre because I truly love building creatures.” In between pitches, the hoodie hangs on her coat rack. But it has become a representation of “Here’s your chance to pitch the whole episode, ask questions, get excited,” she says.
Will Bates composed the theme song for “The Magicians” on the mechanism that makes a music box play, which now sits on a small side table in Gamble’s office. “He is this fantastic artisan who is always looking for weird shit to use as instruments,” she says. “You feed a paper into it and it has punches that are notes and it plays.” After the first season of the Syfy series, Bates gave her the mechanism as a gift and explained to her how “he was trying to capture something that was like a child story, but also like a horror movie at the same time” when he came upon this device.He just kept punching holes in paper and feeding it through until he got the right sound. “You can play it faster or slower, but that’s the sound you hear when you see the Shadow Tree,” she says.
“This is like the closest thing I have to a Bible, in terms of something that makes me feel connected to my own soul every time I read it,” Gamble says of a copy of Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet.” She keeps many copies of the book around, in her offices, as well as her home and her car, and often finds herself giving them out as gifts. She first read the book in college and connected to the “combination of really sound advice about being a writer, but there’s so much about love and there’s so much about grief and loss, and then this very deep advice about how to live your life.” The narrator of the book is writing letters to someone asking if the person could read his poems and give him some notes, and it starts with “don’t be so quick to ask for criticism; is it burning inside you? Those are the kinds of things you should care about for how to be a poet in the world,” Gamble says, noting that you can replace “‘poet’ with whatever your thing is.”