‘Aquarius’ and ‘Magicians’ Bosses John McNamara and Sera Gamble On Listening to Fans
They spend their days making fantasy a reality, whether it’s bringing the mean streets of 1960s Los Angeles to life on NBC’s Aquarius or exploring the world of young sorcerers in training on Syfy’s The Magicians. Producers John McNamara and Sera Gamble also have a robust slate in development, including adaptations of bestselling novels The Lizard King and Rage Against the Dying.
The Hit List
Aquarius (both), The Magicians (both), Supernatural (Gamble), In Plain Sight (McNamara)
How did you get your start as producers?
McNamara: I was a playwright who couldn’t make a living as a playwright, so I backed into it.
Gamble: I was on reality TV as a finalist on HBO’s Project Greenlight. John gave me my first job in television in 2004 with Eyes on ABC.
How would you define the role of a showrunner?
Gamble: TV is essentially a collaborative medium, but somebody has to hold the ultimate vision for the show. On a day-to-day basis, there is a certain amount of keeping the trains running. For Aquarius, what challenges did you face in adapting historical events into a fictional story?
McNamara: Our goal was not to make Charles Manson sympathetic but to make him understandable. But even more important to me than Manson is David Duchovny’s character, Sam. Because he’s fictional, we can put so much into him that is idiosyncratic and unusual. In Season 1, Charles Manson didn’t kill anyone, but Sam kills two people, yet Sam is a much nobler entity than Manson. And that might upset people.
How often do you listen to fan outcry?
Gamble: Fantasy and science fiction tend to attract a really vocal fanbase. Supernatural has a serious fanbase that has gone to the trenches for it many times. We experience a slightly calmer version of that for The Magicians. Viewers aren’t supposed to love everything that happens. We have to move the characters forward and, for better or worse, they get to be a more mature adult by going through s–t.
What advice would you give aspiring producers?
McNamara: Work hard, persist and be weird, but be weird on purpose.
Aquarius, Thursdays, 10/9c, NBC.
The Magicians, Returns January 2017, Syfy.