Syfy fantasy series “The Magicians,” about a group of college students who travel through time and worlds to battle wildly imaginative creatures, draws to a close April 1 after five seasons, having taken viewers on a Harry Potter-meets-video-game thrill ride. Knowing that this is the end of the run gives MastersFX founder and president Todd Masters and his team one last chance to showcase the program’s most popular characters — using their own magic to deliver the makeup effects.
Series creators Sera Gamble and John McNamara had specific ideas about what they wanted in the show’s seven so-called questing creatures, which, when discovered, must grant the magician a wish that helps fulfill a quest. For instance, Sir Effingham (played by Sean Maguire) is half man, half pig, and he looks a bit like Benjamin Franklin.
Whether working on characters like Lord Fresh (Anthony Ingram), Napster (Lynn Andrews) or Sir Effingham, the process begins by getting the actor into the studio, where body and facial impressions are taken. “We hand-build the prosthetics and creature suits,” Masters says. The team typically has a three- to four-week schedule to work with.
Gamble is effusive about the FX work. “The MastersFX team brings so much creativity, skill, fun and yes — mastery — to the process of creating each new creature, for our little multiverse,” she says.
Masters himself executed the makeup effects for fan-favorite creatures the White Lady (Emma Dumont) and Sir Effingham, designed by MastersFX artists Sarah Pickers-gill and Chris Devitt, respectively.
It’s not uncommon for other members of the MastersFX team to have preconceived ideas about the types of actors who should cast. For Sir Effingham, for instance, special effects coordinator Jason Ward had imagined someone “chunky, or larger, so we could elaborate on the pig aspect. They showed up with [the trim] Sean Maguire,” he chuckles.
The one note that was imperative for the effects team was that whether members were designing Sir Effingham or any other creature, the actors had to be able to use their faces as much as possible. That meant not laying on the makeup and prosthetics too thick, so that the actors’ expressions could be seen. “It’s really easy to build too much out to create the characters,” Masters says. “But they’re such amazing actors, the last thing we wanted to do was bury them in rubber.”
Pickersgill’s initial designs for the White Lady were inspired by albino humans and animals, and delivered as advertised. “That was one where we had one concept and knocked the design out of the park,” Masters notes, adding that he’d like to see a spinoff series for the character.
Yet the White Lady’s facial prosthetics were simple: a brow piece and a bit around her nose accentuating actor Dumont’s features. Still, Dumont had to come in six weeks early for the body casting process.
The FX exec notes that viewers won’t be seeing any new creatures in this year’s magical world of Fillory, following the recent return of Fillory’s twin gods Ember (Dominic Burgess) and Umber (Nico Evers-Swindell). But he does reveal a sliver of information about the upcoming series finale.
“We’re finishing the season and series with Sir Effingham,” he teases, “and it’s going to be fantastic.”