#MCM: Hale Appleman of ‘The Magicians’ on Dating & Dealbreakers

Our latest man crush Hale Appleman is killing it on Syfy’s “The Magicians” as Eliot, an openly gay dandy who hides a vulnerable side. He’s also working on music and plans to release three self-produced songs in the next three months.

Hale is a New York City native with hippie parents. He attended LaGuardia High School and worked in theater and movies before landing his breakout TV role. We talked to him about playing an openly gay heartthrob and his own dating favorites and dealbreakers.

Galore: How did you get the part of Eliot?

Hale: I first auditioned for Penny — Arjun Gupta’s character — and it didn’t feel right in the room. But I responded to the project and I felt like it was something that was really special. My best friend heard I was auditioning and he said, “You have to read this book series, it’s my favorite book series I’ve read in a long time.”

So I started reading and found Eliot. [I loved] his sense of humor and confidence and the strength of his character and how dynamic he is. He’s showing the world one thing, but on the inside he’s something very different. He’s assembled this dandy persona that’s kind of a lie. It’s not true to where he came from and how he feels on the inside. He’s very vulnerable and sort of insecure on the inside. A character like that, who’s so layered, is really interesting. As an actor, I thought that would be an incredible opportunity, so I crossed my fingers that I’d get a chance to read for him.

They called me back for him and that was that, I think.

Your character is the bad boy of the show but also kind of a heartthrob — plus he’s openly gay. Was this a compelling mix for you?

There’s something fascinating about the fact that this character couldn’t really have existed on TV 10 years ago. He’s kind of a bad boy, heartthrob, debaucherous, naughty, sophisticated, aesthetic dandy. And he’s certainly gay and attracted to men, but what’s interesting about Eliot isn’t that he’s gay. It’s that he’s Eliot. He has so many of these other qualities that break the mold of what we’re used to seeing on TV. The incorporate ideas about the witty queen or the dandy, but the fact that he’s powerful and he’s a budding ruler and the fact that he is in touch with his femininity — but also there are times when he can be very masculine. There are times when he’s incredibly powerful and incredibly vulnerable. He really covers a lot of ground.

And he’s not a gay best friend or sidekick like so many other gay characters in TV and film.

He’s not. I’d venture to say he’s one of the most powerful characters on the show. Lev talks about how he’s the most naturally gifted at magic but he doesn’t really try. He very nonchalantly is brilliant. He’s got a brilliant mind. 

Are there any other characters or actors who inspire your performance? I get an Alan Cumming vibe…

Eliot’s last name is Waugh, which is a callback to Evelyn Waugh, who wrote “Brideshead Revisited.” So Lev Grossman very specifically makes that reference, so I think Eliot is probably a combination of characters from that. I also pulled out biographies of Oscar Wilde and David Bowie. To me, that sort of felt like… Not that Eliot is either of those people, but he might have been inspired by those people to create this persona.

I think he’s a pastiche of all these iconic men he was inspired by who blurred the lines of sexuality and gender and glam rock and femininity and masculinity and being witty. I also had a big Lou Reed moment while we were shooting this season.

You went to LaGuardia High School (the school from Fame) and Carnegie Mellon, so you must have been surrounded by drama kids. Is it true that they’re always the most dramatic? 

[Laughs] The kids at LaGuardia definitely know how to have a good time. I was pretty straight-edge in high school. I was a very serious actor. I was probably a more serious actor in high school than I am now. But yeah, we had a lot of fun parties. Yeah.

Now since you’re our #MCM, let’s get to the dating questions. What did you learn in sex ed that you could have done without? 

I think when they put the condom on the banana… That’s always kind of funny but I guess it’s necessary. Some people might not really know how to do it. But that always seemed kind of ridiculous. I don’t deny it’s very useful for certain people. But you could probably figure it out or look it up.

What’s your biggest dating dealbreaker?

My biggest dating dealbreaker is cynicism. I think that it’s just a lie. It’s not authentic. It’s not genuine. When someone is just putting shit down all the time or sort of rolling their eyes at everything, it sort of breaks the moment. It ruins the moment. Beautiful cynical people aren’t beautiful to me. It’s boring as hell.

What’s the one thing that will make you fall for someone?

A willingness to play — someone who can meet me on my level. A genuine, sincere willingness to play. An openness. An ability to be spontaneous and not know everything all the time. 

Finish this sentence: I could never date someone who was a fan of _____

Donald Trump.

Describe your type in 3 words.

Playful, creative, and whatever the word is for “has their shit together.”

Describe what type you are in 3 words.

Spontaneous, passionate, complex.

What do all your exes have in common?

A desire to control me. I’m a free spirit. My mom’s, like, a modern dancer performance artist from back when the Village was the Village, and my parents are like former hippies. I don’t live by rigid rules and I never will.

Who’s the most random person who ever hit on you?

My friends’ mothers. Moms love me. 

We can see why.

Photos by Amber Asaly

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