Are David Blaine’s magic tricks real? Can they be done anywhere? Those are the questions Blaine is addressing in his upcoming 90-minute special, David Blaine: Real or Magic, which EW has learned exclusively will premiere Tuesday, Nov. 19 at 9:30 p.m. on ABC.
After working mainly on stunts since 1999, Blaine recently decided it was once again time to stretch his magic-trick muscles on camera. The twist? He wanted to go into the homes of some of the world’s most famous people to get real reactions. From Kanye West to Katy Perry, Robert De Niro, Will Smith, Harrison Ford, George W. Bush, Olivia Wilde, Jamie Foxx, Aaron Paul, Bryan Cranston, and more, Blaine spent the past year making some of the most well-known people in the world question what’s real in the comfort of their own living rooms, kitchens, pools, and more.
“For this special, I wanted to focus only on the magic and the people, so for the first time in over a decade, I concentrated just on doing simple things that could be done anywhere to capture the reactions that I fell in love with,” Blaine tells EW.
And although Blaine knows a magic trick or two (or a thousand), his greatest feat might have been getting people like Stephen Hawking and Woody Allen to open their doors to him. “It was amazing to have the chance to perform magic for my heroes, people I respect and admire. I definitely owe a lot of favors for the rest of my life,” Blaine says.
However, after the doors were opened, visiting people in their own homes meant the camera crew needed to be small. Blaine managed to get Emmy-winning director Matthew Akers (Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present) on board, and very few others. “It was a very small crew,” Blaine explains. “It was me and the director, Matthew Akers, who was also the camera guy, lugging equipment into people’s homes. We tried our best to make everything feel as natural in the environment as possible.”
But for every celebrity home he visited for the special, Blaine also spent time doing what long-time fans will recognize as his signature move: Wowing people on the street, even sending some running in the other direction. And in addition to that, Blaine used the special to take viewers on a journey to Africa to explain how he learned one of his newest tricks.
“I traveled to Liberia, Africa to meet an amazing man named Winston that learned, on his own, how to become a human fire hydrant – not to entertain but for survival – and shared his know-how with me,” Blaine says. “And to this day, I’m working non-stop to perfect it. I love being able to share this journey with the viewers.”
So what was it like for Blaine to perform magic for Hawking, one of the world’s greatest minds? “It was nerve-wracking to attempt a ridiculous magic trick on one of the most incredible people I’ve ever met.”
Some might even say it was… magical?
In the 90-minute special, Aaron Paul calls the experience “the craziest thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” and Stephen Hawking exclaims it is “amazing.”
Check out an exclusive photo of Blaine with Will Smith and his family below:
David Blaine: Real or Magic airs Tuesday Nov. 19 at 9:30 p.m. on ABC.