[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers through the Season 1 finale of Fate: The Winx Saga, “A Fanatic Heart.”]
From creator Brian Young (The Vampire Diaries), the Netflix series Fate: The Winx Saga — a live-action reimagining of the Italian cartoon Winx Club from Iginio Straffi, which has already been picked up for a second season — follows five fairies who meet when their paths cross at a magical boarding school in the Otherworld called Alfea. While learning to master their magical powers and fight monsters, so that they’re prepared to fight for their very existence, they’re also still teenagers with all of the drama that brings along with it.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Elisha Applebaum, who plays mind fairy Musa, talked about her audition process, why she was drawn to her character, creating Musa’s look and style, how her first day of the season compared to her last day, shooting in Ireland, the shocking season finale, her personal wishlist for Season 2, and the most memorable night she had with her co-stars.
COLLIDER: Congratulations on the success of this show! What reactions have you been getting since the series came out, either from friends or family, or on social media?
ELISHA APPLEBAUM: It’s always like, “Where’s Season 2? Why am I not seeing any more episodes after Episode 6?” There’s also been a lot of, “I can’t believe that Rosalind killed Farah. This is crazy!” That’s a spoiler, for those who haven’t watched yet. There’s been a lot of response and it’s been a lot of love. There’s been an overwhelming amount of love and I appreciate it, massive amounts.
What was the audition process like for this? Was it a long process that you went through?
APPLEBAUM: The audition process was maybe three or four months. I don’t know the exact time, but that’s pretty much what it was. It was a lot of group auditions. We had chemistry reads, but we’d be rotating with all different people. There was one day where we were in for a whole day, auditioning with different people. I was put up with Precious [Mustapha], actually, in one of the chemistry reads, which was great because the one scene that we were doing was the one where she says, “How’s the hunt for Mr. Green Jacket going?”, where we meet Sam. It was really nice. And then, we both finally got the roles. Precious and I both kept in touch, throughout the whole process, so we were going for it together, essentially. After that, we found out we each got the roles and we went for a cup of tea. It was lovely. It was really nice.
With a show like this, it must be a little bit like putting a band together, where you each bring something different to it.
APPLEBAUM: When we were all together, it did feel like that. We did actually create a mini-band when we were offset. It was fun. They definitely picked a good bunch of people to work with. It was amazing.
What were you most drawn to, when it came to this character? What have you liked about her from day one, and are there things that you’ve grown to appreciate about her, the longer that you’ve played her and gotten to know her better?
APPLEBAUM: What drew me to Musa is that without knowing, she’s effortlessly cool. She’s got her headphones on. She’s very honest and outspoken with how people are making her feel. Because of her power, her magic is being a mind fairy and an empath, so she’s feeling everyone’s emotions all the time. I really appreciated that she was so honest with everyone about it because otherwise, she’s gonna feel really crap about herself. That’s really what drew me to her. We didn’t get all of the scripts until further on into filming. We filmed Episodes 1 and 2, and then we received Episodes 3 and 4, by the end of filming Episode 2, so I only found out about Musa’s parents near the end of filming. It really explained a lot about Musa for me and why she’s always a bit standoffish. It made a lot of sense, by the end. I really appreciated how emotional that was and how much her barriers came down, in the end. It explained a lot of her actions.
What did you most enjoy about getting to explore how Musa has to confront her past to deal with her present, and see how that really makes her grow?
APPLEBAUM: I think it was really interesting. The thing about Musa is that I don’t think she’s been open to love since her mum passed. Sam shows her this calm that she’s never had before and she’s like, “Yes, I have to have this because it makes me feel good.” It explains her jumping into something so quickly because she hasn’t really processed her feelings yet and this person is doing it for her. It was really interesting trying to understand why she did these things. She’s helping all of the girls. She’s like a counselor, in a way, by telling the girls how they’re feeling, but she doesn’t deal with her own feelings until the end, and her past is the reason for that.
Did you get to be a part of creating Musa’s look and style? Was there a process for putting her wardrobe together and even finding the right headphones to wear?
APPLEBAUM: There were only two instances where I maybe had a part in it. At the beginning, she’s in military wear because she has her barriers up. She’s got these pants, boots and a bomber jacket. It’s as if she’s going out to war. She’s there for a reason. And then, throughout the series, she starts getting comfortable in her knitwear and her jeans, and she’s got shorts on, and it’s more comfortable. The only thing that I stepped in to say was, “Maybe take off the hoop earrings because headphones will be very uncomfortable.” She was a dancer in the past, and I used to dance and I know that influences how I wear things, so that I can move properly and feel comfortable in my posture. But that was it, really. All of it was done through the amazing costume department.
Was it ever strange to get used to wearing the headphones? Did it ever make lines of dialogue sound muffled?
APPLEBAUM: It was all right. When I was wearing them, they didn’t actually go round my ears. They just sat on them, so I could hear quite a lot, which was lucky. They didn’t actually stop my hearing. And I didn’t actually have any music on, spoiler alert, so it was fine. She didn’t actually wear them that much in the series, so it was fine.
If you were a fairy yourself, would you want to be a mind fairy like her, or would you personally prefer one of the other types of fairy?
APPLEBAUM: If I was talking from the beginning of the series, definitely not, no way. It’s just a massive burden, having that. It’s just sad, really. But if you’re talking about the end of the series, I would love to have her powers because she’s helping people. She’s found that she can heal people, and especially in today’s climate, I would happily have that power, even for this COVID situation.
What was your first day on set this season like and how did that compare to your last day on set?
APPLEBAUM: There was a lot of nervous excitement, on first day of set. It was mad because we were on location and we were hit by so many midges that we were eating them whilst we were doing the stone circle scene. Both Eliot [Salt] and I had our faces covered with our hands before they yelled, “Action!” Until then, we were trying to cover ourselves from these midges, but we couldn’t. There was an army of midges that we couldn’t get away from. But the final scenes were really lovely because we were all family by then and it was more comfortable. The last couple of scenes were more epic, so we couldn’t have fun. It was when the real shit goes down. We luckily had become a huge family and were more comfortable with each other, so doing those scenes was really nice, as heartbreaking as they are.
What’s it like to shoot the moments where you have to use magic or the moments which involve special effects? Is it just surreal and strange and a little bit awkward when nothing is actually there?
APPLEBAUM: Luckily, I had a power where I only had to use my eyes, but with things like the Burned One, we did actually have a person there with a Burned One mask on. The majority of it, for me, was quite physical. Abby [Cowen] and Hannah [van der Westhuysen] had to use their imagination for the lights on their hands, and Precious had to imagine the water. It was strange. It was really weird.
How did you find the experience of shooting this in Ireland, both in studio and on location?
APPLEBAUM: It was as beautiful as it shows on screen. A lot of the locations were as you see them, especially the stone circle. There’s that massive waterfall in the background, and that’s not even CGI. It looks like CGI, but it’s really as amazing as it looks. And the sets that they created, I’ve never done any filming to this scale, but it was incredible. It was amazing.
Fate only had six episodes, with this big, shocking finale that’s left viewers with all these questions. What was your reaction to learning about where things would end up this season, and what would happen in that last episode? Did you have a lot of questions of your own as well?
APPLEBAUM: We were shocked. We were so upset that Farah has gone and we were asking her, by the end, “Please tell me, if there’s a Season 2, that you are coming back. We cannot have you dead.” We’ve still got a lot of unanswered questions, like why was Andreas bringing up Beatrix instead of Sky? I’m still shocked.
We also hear a few times that these fairies are only just starting to explore their powers and that they’re capable of much more. Have you had any conversations about how things could evolve in Season 2? Do you have your own personal wishlist for what you’d like to see for your character?
APPLEBAUM: I definitely have a personal wishlist, for sure. I would love to understand Musa’s past a bit more. I think there’s so much to delve into there. I know that from reading about the animation, Musa’s past is very dark and really emotional. It’s really a sad past that she has, and I’d really like to get into that, if it’s the same as the animation. I’d like to delve into her doing some more fight scenes. She hardly did any fighting because she struggled with trying to hone in her powers. It’d be nice to see her hold her own, at some point. I’d love to see that. I’d also like to see all of the girls banding together and creating this bond that you can’t break.
You get to do so many different things on this show, including quiet personal moments, big scenes with lots of people, displays of magic, and a variety of fight scenes, and you’re also doing comedy, drama, romance and action. What did you learn about yourself, as an actor, from having an experience where you are doing so many different things?
APPLEBAUM: I learned that I just need to let go and not think too much or try to push myself to be a certain thing. I have to just allow myself to be the character in the moment. I came into filming with a bit of imposter syndrome, from not doing hardly anything before that was like this. I definitely went in overthinking a lot of things and making sure that I was the best that I could be, but actually, the best that I could be was me just letting go and going with it and riding the wave. That’s what I learned.
Do you have any favorite stand-out moments with your castmates, either from during filming or offset?
APPLEBAUM: So many. We had such a great time. I can’t really point out one because there are so many, not because there isn’t one. There was actually a really nice night we all had, offset. Some of us had gone to the Guinness factory and drank some Guinness, and then we all had a game night at Abby’s apartment. We were doing things like tarot reading and playing video games, and Abby was playing the flute. It was just a perfect evening. That was my favorite time.
Fate: The Winx Saga is now available to stream on Netflix.
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