What would happen if magicians squared off against one another? That's the premise of SyFy's new reality series Wizard Wars, which throws illusionists together to see who can come up with the best performance involving everyday objects like calculators and leaf blowers. One of the judges overseeing this mayhem is the crazy talented Christen Gerhart, who sat down with us on Friday to discuss the show and her own career in magic.
"I've working in magic for almost a decade and it's been wonderful," she said, calling her judging duties "a wonderful opportunity to see all the magic that's out there."
She joins the legendary Penn and Teller, as well as Jason Latimer, to oversee a competition in which two teams of two magicians battle it out to see which pairing can come up with the best act. And having already been critiquing magic for several years, Christen stressed that sitting on the Wizard Wars panel isn't just about saying what worked and didn't work.
"We're not sitting there judging people only on what went well or what didn't go well," she explained. "They have to use random objects to create these magic routines...It's a really tough job, really, really tough."
"All of the magic in every single episode and every performer really stood out. Every magician brings a really different feel. [Then] they're teaming up with another magician they've never met before,' she continued. Indeed, it's a deep roster of talent that is tested on the show, including upcoming appearances by our colleague Nathan Burton and Murray SawChuck, who was previously a mentor on VH1's celebrity-magic show Celebracadabra.
With so many great artists at work, it's hard for Christen to pick a favorite. "I will say that last week Ekaterina, one of our female performers, had one of the most spectacular card tricks I've seen in a long time," she told us. "It floored all four judges."
What is she hoping that viewers take away from watching these magicians match wits? "There are quite a few aspects of the show that I think the audience will be interested in," she explained. "You get to see different ideas come forth in magic. This is magic [the teams] threw together with random objects that they had to then perform almost immediately after creating the ideas. I think it's going to be interesting for the audience to see.
"We like to challenge them," she continued. "We like to pick the items that are the least magical-seeming, so it forces our magicians to think about how they can use them outside of the norm."
As intriguing as it is to watch the Wizard Wars competition, Christen is pretty impressive in her own right. She's a magician herself, who regularly contributes to the web series Expose on the magic-centric website Theory11.com, and is preparing to launch her own female-driven magic web series in the near future.
If that's not cool enough for you, she's also a self-described "science nerd" who's worked for JPL and NASA and is currently an astronomer telescope operator at Mount Wilson Observatory. Basically, if it's anything that's brainy and requires imagination, Christen is into it. "I sit at home and play Magic: The Gathering for fun," she laughed. That's more than okay with us. Smart, talented, funny, and capable of a good card trick - she's definitely one of the coolest women on the planet.