Off screen, Hale Appleman, who plays Eliot Waugh on “The Magicians,” is curious, observant and open. You feel you’re in the presence of a man who follows his instincts, knows what he wants and passionately goes for it. Whether with his acting or music, he doesn’t disappoint. And just like Eliot, there’s much more to Hale than meets the eye.
Tina: It seemed fitting to shoot you on the streets of the Lower East side in New York, since you grew up around there. Now you’re living in LA. Can you share some of the positives and negatives of living on both coasts?
Hale: It was so nice to take some photos around my old neighborhood. Especially in the wake of the snow storm it felt calmer than usual and a little nostalgic. I enjoy and desire life on both coasts, but several years ago I was a little burnt out from living in New York and freezing, and knew I needed a change. I could barely pay my rent, was struggling, running in circles, and it was starting to feel oppressive. Now that I live in Los Angeles, I miss the energy of New York, walking endlessly, running into old friends, access to the arts, and the streets teeming with life. Going and staying up and riding the energy of the city can make me feel accomplished in the course of an afternoon. In LA, I love feeling the space and light. I love stretching out and allowing myself to have more time, settling my mind. It’s good for looking inward. Sometimes I need that space and quiet to realign myself or replenish my creativity. The qualities of day to day life are very different.
Tina: When did your love of theatre begin?
Hale: My parents are theater people. My mother, Ara Fitzgerald, is a modern dancer and performance artist. I grew up watching her rehearse and started acting for fun when I was about 9. So it’s been a while.. But I’d go see plays with my family as a tradition from as early as I can remember.
Tina: The new season of The Magicians is getting raves! How are you feeling about that?
Hale: It feels good. I think the show continues to find its voice and is finally expanding into the scope it set out to achieve. Season one was a big introduction to so many characters and storylines and season two was an ambitious expansion of the worlds created by author, Lev Grossman. Season three is really immersive; the context for these characters and disparate places has been well established. It really feels like the tone and style of the show are gelling with confidence. I’ve enjoyed watching the first few episodes from this season.
Tina: Do you think the chemistry and work with your cast mates has gotten even tighter?
Hale: At this point we know our characters inside and out, so there’s an immediacy and ease within our roles which allows us to play more freely with each other. In season one we were hoping to find and establish these people for the first time, while recreating characters from a beloved book series, so the pressure was intense. Working regular hours on television is generally intense, but we’ve all grown over the last few years, and have overcome a lot of challenges together. I think it’s allowed us to deepen our level of trust. It’s rare to feel connected to so many of your colleagues, including cast, crew and creatives. As far as chemistry is concerned, I don’t think you can create it; I think it either exists or it doesn’t. I’m especially grateful I get to work so frequently with Summer Bishil, who I felt an immediate connection and chemistry with, both on and off screen.
Tina: Eliot’s costumes are awesome! Have you ever found yourself incorporating a bit of his style into your real life?
Hale: They are incredible. I feel incredibly fortunate to work with our brilliant costume designer, Magali Guidasci. She’s fearless. She is also the most consistent creative collaboration I have on set over the course of our six month season. She and I have detailed conversations about what Eliot is wearing, his style icons and influences, and the emotional context for why he might be wearing a given look in a particular scene. She always has a story in mind that comes with the wardrobe. She inspires me and makes my job so much easier. I’ve definitely taken a few tips from Eliot, and may have a couple of his pieces hiding out at home. But while I appreciate Eliot’s flair, I think my personal style is a little more reined in. You probably won’t see me wearing a lavender pantsuit to lunch, but never say never.
Tina: We hear there’s some music coming our way from you. Is that also one of your biggest passions?
Hale: Yes, most definitely. I’ve been singing my whole life. Some years ago, I turned to developing my own style of singing and songwriting as a safe harbor against a lot of the ups and downs of the industry. There was a long stretch when I wasn’t finding much of an opportunity to act, and investing in music for myself really kept my creative spirit alive and allowed me to begin exploring my own authentic expression. I’m learning a lot about myself and I’m looking forward to sharing something very soon.
Tina: Who or what inspires you the most in your work?
Hale: I guess I’m always chasing an idea of freedom within the structure of whatever it is I’m working on. Finding spontaneity within structure and always seeking to connect more authentically. I’m always trying to let go more, receive more, listen, and exist as simply as possible. For a character like Eliot, there are layers of artifice on top of a much deeper nature, so that’s also been really fun for me to play with. I always try to examine what’s happening internally for a character or for me in a given moment, and how to honor that internal machinery in a pure form of expression. Otherwise, I’m really inspired by observation, other people, nature, natural beauty and what’s outside myself.