How Your Favorite Magicians Made it to TV

Richard Young shares their journeys.

Magician looking into magic methods illustration

From 2014 to 2019, I travelled all over the UK and North America, interviewing the greatest magicians in the world for my podcast series, The Magicians’ Podcast. Many of the magicians I met enjoyed their biggest successes and raised their profiles the highest through the medium of television.

I would always ask how they got their break into television.

The thing I noticed was that even though the result of having a TV show (with your name in the title) was often the same: fame, groupies, and piles of cash—no two stories were ever the same with regards to how the break happened for each individual star.

In the following paragraphs, I will take a look back through my archives at five hugely successful magic acts from around the world and take a look at how they got their television break to help you, the reader, identify some interesting approaches which might help you secure your own big break on television.

Derren Brown


Of all the characters I met while making 100 podcasts, Andrew O’Connor and Michael Vine, who owned Objective Productions (the production company behind the Derren Brown TV shows that made him a star), were two of my absolute favourites.

They have spent so much time together that they are almost the same person. Both have a way of talking that’s incredibly engaging, extremely funny and brutally honest, too, and I adore them both. In late 2015, O’Connor offered me a spot on his new ITV1 prime-time TV show, The Next Great Magician, as part of my double act, Young & Strange, alongside magicians like Alan Hudson and Pete Firman.

The offer was somewhat unorthodox as he told us directly that he didn’t like our act, but he did like us, ‘We will have to find something for you to do on the show,’ he said. Fair enough.

Derren’s story is unique because he wasn’t trying to get on TV; instead, O’Connor and Vine knew TV had an appetite for a new magic star in the late 1990s:

Michael Vine: ‘O’Connor said to me that Blaine had made Channel 4 the cool home of magic; they are going to want more magic.’

In the 1990s, O’Connor pitched the idea of a mind-reading show to the head of Channel 4, Kevin Lygo, who loved it and offered them a TV special. There was one small problem: O’Connor and Vine didn’t have a mind reader.

A 2-year journey to find the guy to be the mindreader began; Andy Nyman was offered the part and turned it down, and Marc Paul was considered, but O’Connor and his business partner Michael Vine were split over whether Paul was right for the part. In O’Connor’s interview with me, he mentions that he remembers it differently from how Vine recalled the casting. Vine and O’Connor were on back-to-back episodes of The Magicians’ Podcast in the autumn of 2015:

Andrew O’Connor: ‘My memory is it was the other way around; I think Michael thought Marc would be great for it, and I was the one who had reservations.’

As the search entered its second year, O’Connor and Vine even considered the possibility of training an actor rather than casting a magician.

Michael Vine: ‘O’Connor said to me, let’s get an actor in and train him, and I said he would never have the outs; I was always against that. What you need as a mind reader is charm and balls of steel.’

While the search continued, Vine was managing the comedian and card magician Jerry Sadowitz. Vine told Sadowitz that he was looking for a magician for a Channel 4 TV special that was guaranteed subject to finding the right person.

Michael Vine: ‘I thought I knew a bit about the magic scene, and he (Sadowitz) said, 'There’s a guy in Bristol who fits ya bill. He’s a close-up worker, and he’s into mind-reading as well, and I had absolutely never heard of Derren.''

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