'Boys Can Be Fairies

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Not too cool for school ... Elisha Applebaum as Musa, Hannah van der Westhuysen as Stella, Abigail Cowen as Bloom, Precious Mustatrộn as Aisha và Eliot Salt as Terra. Photograph: Netflix
Not too cool for school ... Elisha Applebaum as Musa, Hannah van der Westhuysen as Stella, Abigail Cowen as Bloom, Precious Mustapha as Aisha và Eliot Salternative text as Terra. Photograph: Netflix
The writer và star of the new Netflix series explain the myriad challenges of turning a manga-style kids’ cartoon inkhổng lồ a live-action teen drama



How vày you make teen TV magic? You Điện thoại tư vấn Brian Young. The writer cut his teeth on The Vampire Diaries, a supernatural teen drama that emerged from the Twilight era of sexy-horror fandoms, but it soon established its own identity, resulting in a successful eight seasons. So, when Netflix wanted to lớn turn Winx Club – the hit Italian cartoon about fairies – inlớn a live-action fantasy series for young adults, they recruited Young.

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To hyên ổn, the challenge of re-imagining the Winx world for a more mature audience was clear: “Tone. It’s trying lớn figure out how we ground this show in real character moments, things that any audience thành viên would relate khổng lồ. And this is coming from a massive fantasy tín đồ – I had my Dungeons và Dragons character when I was a kid – but it is very easy lớn spiral off into lớn absurdity with stuff like this.”

Fate: The Winx Saga, which lands on 22 January, is dense with mystical lore – và requires a steady hand for the world-building required. Our nhân vật is Bloom (Abigail Cowen, AKA Dorcas from Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), a 16-year-old fire fairy. Raised by human parents, she arrives in the Otherworld direct from California khổng lồ enrol at Alfea, a prestigious boarding school. This is where wingless fairies learn to lớn master their powers – & where trainee warriors, known as “specialists”, guard the realm from the feared “Burned Ones”. It is all new to lớn Bloom, but she has guidance from Alfea’s imperious headteacher, Ms Dowling (Nurse Jackie’s Eve sầu Best), và her four roommates.

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Nickelodeon’s The Winx Club. Photograph: ViacomThere is the tenacious water fairy Aisha (Precious Mustapha); the grounded và chatty earth fairy Terra (Eliot Salt); the mind fairy Musa (Elisha Applebaum), an empath who keeps her headphones on lớn bloông xã out other people’s emotions; & Stella (Hannah van der Westhuysen), a snooty light fairy who also happens khổng lồ be fairy royalty. It is the novice, though, who is our way into Fate’s universe – và Young believes he has found a star in 22-year-old Cowen: “She’s stunningly beautiful, but perfectly relatable. The camera loves her.”

Cowen did not feel so confident when she stumbled inkhổng lồ the audition room, en route khổng lồ the airport. “I was like: ‘Oh my gosh, they think I’m some crazy person!’ I just sat in the waiting room with my giant suitcase và everyone was staring. I walked out convinced I’d never be invited baông xã.” As it turns out, that adorably awkward entrance was exactly right for fish-out-of-water Bloom, who trips over a few suitcases of her own in the pilot.

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She và Young soon bonded over their shared “Florida weirdo” identity – Young’s term. According to lớn Cowen, the Sunshine State could be considered an otherworldly realm: “I mean, we’re taught at a young age how khổng lồ combat alligators. Like, that’s what you’re learning at school!” Growing up amid the orange groves of a Floridomain authority farm also inspired her professional interest in fantasy worlds, she says: “Nothing’s really a coincidence when it comes to lớn roles that work out, I think, because clearly you’re connected to lớn it for a reason … I was just always playing outside & creating magical scenargame ios.”


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Brian Young previously worked on the supernatural teen drama The Vampire Diaries. Photograph: NetflixAlfea will feel familiar – and not just lớn the 14- to 25-year-olds who grew up watching Winx Club on Nickelodeon. The austere buildings và eccentric teaching staff – Downton Abbey’s Robert James-Collier is a dashing fencing instructor, while The Inbetweeners’ Alex Macqueen pops up as a botany master – sets up Fate for an inevitable comparison. The script gets this out of the way early with a scene in which Aisha accuses a wide-eyed Bloom of being “the one person in the universe who’s never read any Harry Potter”. But magical boarding schools make a potent premise for a reason, says Young: “It’s a fantasy that I think a lot of people have sầu when they’re that age, because you’re just trying to lớn find somewhere where you don’t feel so alone & so different.”

Contrary khổng lồ the usual clique-based hierarchies of high school drama, however, Fate depicts friendships forming between teenagers who come from different worlds – literally. For Cowen, who was bullied in middle school and home page schooled for several years as a result, this is a particularly compelling theme. “It’s not just the ‘cool girl’ hanging out with the ‘cool girls’,” she says. “It’s people with different stories, interests and experiences. I think embracing difference is important.”

The younger cast members had the intense boarding school experience replicated for them – they were housed in the same building for the duration of the six-month shoot. “Usually, at weekends, we’d go to one of our apartments and hang out, drink wine, talk, just bond,” says Cowen. “It was cool; it was like college.”

For the show’s many exterior scenes – outdoor learning is key khổng lồ the Alfea curriculum – locations were found around County Wicklow in Ireland, which is a good fit for most people’s internalised image of a magical fairy kingdom. “We were filming around, lượt thích, castles!” says Cowen.

The Irish landscape gives Fate its connection khổng lồ ancient faerie magic, but the show also had to lớn feel relevant khổng lồ the concerns of modern teens. That meant challenging the outdated gender roles of the original animated series. “In our show, boys can be fairies, girls can be specialists,” says Young. “We’re in the 21st century.”


He also opted to lớn ditch the look of the Winx Club fairies, all of whom have sầu bouffant Disney-princess hair, giant anime eyes & skimpy outfits to lớn show off their impossible body toàn thân proportions. “Look, again, I’m a massive manga anime tín đồ, & a người of the cartoon itself, but, of course, those are cartoons,” he says. “Nobody toàn thân looks lượt thích that. It was the most important thing to lớn me that every kid can feel like they see themselves in it … Real girls, real people.”

Cowen is on board with Fate’s commitment lớn finding the reality in fantasy storytelling, even if she does seem daunted by the prospect of her impending role Mã Sản Phẩm status. “You think of ‘role model’ & you think of ‘perfect’ và I am far from that,” she says, although an Instagram following just short of 1 million suggests she is well on her way all the same. “If I were khổng lồ be a role Model, I think my approach would be khổng lồ be as real as possible, for young women. Because I feel lượt thích social truyền thông media so often is just a facade and that is really detrimental lớn everyone.”

Cowen và Young are getting the chance to create the kind of emotionally authentic fantasy drama that might have offered them solace during their own difficult high school years. “When I was that age, I was coming out & I think that’s a really important journey,” says Young. “It doesn’t have to lớn be that you’re gay, but, in a lot of these stories, it’s learning that we all feel different & then trying khổng lồ shift what makes you feel different into lớn what makes you special.”

This is the truly magical transformation taking place, he says: a slow recognition of the fairy power that is in us all. “It’s always the thing that makes you feel different & like an outcast that is your gift khổng lồ the world.”