Exclusive: Star of Shadowhunters Katherine McNamara Talks Season 2

Katherine McNamaraTonight season two of Shadowhunters premieres on Freeform. The series, which is based on the series novels by Cassandra Clare, stars Katherine McNamara as Clary Fray, who recently discovered she comes from a long line of demon killers called Shadowhunters.

In preparation of the premiere, McNamara recently spoke with SciFi Vision in an exclusive interview.

SCIFI VISION: Having read the books, what is your favorite moment from them that has been in the series so far?

Katherine McNamaraKATHERINE McNAMARA: I don't think I can tell you that yet! There are some really cool moments from the book that we bring into the show, but I think with so many of them, I can't say anything, because they will be spoilers. And I think my absolute favorites are coming in the back ten.

But what I can say, is that I really do believe that the authors and the writers of our show and our show runners have struck an amazing balance between the books and the show, particularly this season, because now that we've established the world and the characters and their relationships, we can kind of break the boundaries a bit and experiment more with the characters, push them to places we didn't get to see in the books, and put them in situations that never happened in the books by switching up the timelines or changing certain plot points.

And let me tell you, we have some amazing drastic twists that do not happen in the books that are balanced with moments and scenes and lines that are taken directly from the books. So there's a nice balance for the book fans. They get to see the story they love in a new light and with a different sort of perspective. It's almost like reading the books again for the first time.

Since you can't tell me one from this season, do you have a favorite one from last season that you can tell me about?

One of my favorite moments that I loved that they brought in was when Clary pulled the Mortal Cup out of the cards for the first time. I was so excited personally to do that moment and learn how they did it, and it's such a big moment for Clary that it's really exciting.

But then also I loved the scene where Simon (Alberto Rosende) transforms into a vampire. Alberto just really brought it that night. It was a cold long hard night out in the graveyard and everyone I think really rose to the occasion, Alberto especially. He had the biggest weight to carry, but it added so much to the story, and it really completed that arc for all of us.

How much of this season have you filmed so far?

We've filmed the first ten episodes.

Then out of what you don't know yet, is there something maybe in the back ten you're looking forward to or hoping they'll put in?

Well absolutely, but I can't talk about it. [laughs] They've kind of told me what's happening in 2B, or at least the broad strokes of what they're planning. Episodes one through ten are a roller coaster; episodes eleven through twenty are the biggest roller coaster in the world, because they keep upping the game. They keep raising the stakes and creating more drama and just messing with these characters even more, which I think is just brilliant.

Other than the book and the script, was there anywhere else you took inspiration from that sort of informed Clary, or did you take it all from the material?

It was big bit of both. I definitely drew a lot from the material, because the books, a lot of them are written from Clary's perspective. So there are little details that she notices about a person, like when she looks at Jace (Dominic Sherwood) or she looks at Simon, there're little details that she notices repeatedly about them. And that kind of helps to inform what's important to her about that person and how she really feels about that person.

Katherine McNamaraAnd for a lot of it, because our show is so different from the books, and even the arc of the characters changes, because we mess with the timeline a bit, it allowed a lot of freedom for me to sort of create the character. But I definitely looked at other [things]. You know, there're so many strong heroines in young adult fiction and in film and television right now that I had so much base material to draw from. It was a lot of fun for me to kind of do research and see what qualities of each heroine would fit into this story and what qualities of myself I could put into Clary. It sort of became an amalgamation of everything that continues to grow and develop as Clary grows and develops.

When we start off this season, we're at where Clary has been told that Jace is her brother. I'm guessing, going by the books anyway, that at some point maybe there might be something more between her and Simon, or at least that they will get closer. Can you talk about her relationship with Jace versus her relationship with Simon and just kind of tease about that?

Absolutely. I mean, in respect to her and Jace, you know, they're both still reeling from the news that they're siblings. And with Jace being in Valentine (Alan Van Sprang)'s clutches now, Clary's desperate to get to him and to help him through that realization that the most evil Shadowhunters that they've been warned about since birth is his father.

And that's almost a bigger blow for Jace than finding out that Clary's his sister, because, I mean, Clary, first of all, more so than anyone, understands what it's like to find out that kind of news, that that much evil is coursing through your veins. And she knows sort of the doubt and the dark path that that can put you down, but whereas Clary had Alec (Matthew Daddario) and Isabelle (Emeraude Toubia) and Luke (Isaiah Mustafa) and Simon and Jace and all of the Shadowhunters around her to help her through that and help her not go down that path, Jace is in the clutches of that evil and under Valentine's influence, which we all know how convincing he can be.

So Clary is desperate to get to him, to pull him out of that and to help him realize that even though evil is within him, it doesn't make him inherently evil, because she knows how important good versus evil is to Jace. But on top of that, the two of them are separated for a good bit, but they know that there're more important things at stake in the moment in the world than their relationship.

So it's important to both of them to just put their feelings aside and kind of just deal with each other as siblings, but they both deal with it in drastically different ways.

And then [her mother] Jocelyn (Maxim Roy) being awake sort of plays into that as well, because Jocelyn has her own agenda for Clary, for Jace, for Valentine, and is sort of making her own amends with The Clave. She becomes a bit of a wildcard in that respect.

And also, you know, Clary trying to get her mother to see her as an adult and trying to get her mother to trust her as a Shadowhunter is a huge obstacle. Clary is also learning to trust her mother as well, being the woman that lied to her for eighteen years. It's all a bit of a family mess.

I mean there is a huge Morgenstern family reunion at the end of episode one, which doesn't go very well. But when does a Morgenstern anything ever go well? [laughs]

Katherine McNamaraBut then in respect to Simon, season one kind of took them apart for a while, but now that they're both fledglings of their own senses, of their own specific supernatural creature type, they're both learning how to hone their own powers and how to hone these skills, and it brings them closer again. And especially there are certain catastrophic events that happen in season two that bring them even closer together, but on top of that, Simon himself has a lot of growth this season and starts to gain confidence and really own his vampire skills and his vampire mojo for fans of the book.

And Clary starts to see him in a bit of a different light, and their relationship does change. I can't tell you how it changes, but it does change, and it's a very, very fun journey that Alberto and I had a lot of fun putting together.

Obviously some of the other relationships are changing in general as well, because Jace is missing and some of them are blaming Clary. Can you talk about sort of how the balance of everything is shifting in regards to her friends and everything?

It's very interesting, because things are always changing, and there's a lot of change happening, even within the Institute, with Victor Aldertree (Nick Sagar) coming in and Lydia (Stephanie Bennett) sort of being unseated and Maryse (Nicola Correai-Damude) being back, so the leadership of the Institute and the rules that we operate under are constantly changing. It makes it very interesting, because now that Jace is gone, Clary is sort of, not taking his place, but becoming part of that team while he's away. So she's working more closely with Alec and Isabelle to try and accomplish missions and get things done and really learn what it means to be a Shadowhunter.

But then conversely, as things happen, Clary obviously throws a monkey wrench into things and gets blamed for a lot, and sometimes rightfully so. So her relationships with Alec and Isabelle are constantly ebbing and flowing.

She and Isabelle bond over the fact that they don't get along with their mothers and that they have a lot of challenges in that way, being powerful young women in this Institute.

And then she and Alec are sort of bonding and fighting and bonding and fighting over the fact that Jace is missing and how much of a struggle that is for both of them, when really they're on the same side, even though they butt heads quite a bit. And Clary and Alec actually get very close this season, and then a catastrophic event happens that tears them apart, which ultimately brings them closer together. And I know that's so much of a tease, but it's a necessary one.

Other than the emotional stuff and relationships, you also get a lot of fighting and action. We even see some training at the beginning of the season. Can you talk about some of the sort of physical aspects of your role and the stunts and things like that?

Absolutely. That's what's so great about this season as well, is that now that Clary has gained some skills and gotten a little bit of training, as we see in a couple scenes, she's starting to have more skills as a Shadowhunter and is gaining confidence in those skills and learning to fight some of her own battles, both physical and emotional.

Katherine McNamaraAnd so it's been a lot of fun for me to go through that training with an amazing stunt coordination and an amazing team lead by Darren McGuire, who's come in with such passion this season. They have really trained all of us in the principles of several different martial arts and several different fighting principles and styles that we can then apply to the choreography. So not only are our characters learning, but we're learning as well.

And we have an amazing fitness trainer who helps us have sort of the strength and stamina to learn all of those martial arts and to develop those skills. It's all come with the development of our characters physically. And it's been really great for us to learn from our stunt doubles, who we don't have to actually use that much anymore. And they're always on set sort of helping us and teaching us and doing things like that.

Especially for me, because our stunt coordinators are adult men, and my stunt double is a woman about my size. So the way that they do movements is very different from the way that we do movements. And I can learn it from them, but then if I'm having a problem, or if a certain motion isn't as smooth as it could be, she'll come in and say, "Hey, this is how I make this work," and it helps me leaps and bounds. So I'm kind of learning from everybody and trying to just have fun, soaking up all the skills that I can.

Well it's working, because it looked great.

Well that's a combination of a lot of people's efforts. But, you know, the skills are increasing in all of us, and it's an amazing thing to see.

Can you talk about working with the special effects? You have digital ones as well as practical effects.

Yeah, that's something about the show that I really love. We have a nice mix of practical and computer graphic effects this year. And we're learning how to utilize each to their best ability. For example, even with our demons: we've sort of reworked the tone of our demons this year, and they're much more based in horror. [laughs] So they're a lot more terrifying.

We have some demons that are fully computerized, and then we have others; there's one that's partially animatronic that we enhance with visual effects. Then we have another where they hired a contortionist to come in and actually play the scene and move in this absolutely sickening way, but then they're going to add visual effects on top of that to make it even more terrifying. So we're using every tool that we can, be it from the warlock magic, to the way that the runes are, to the demons, to the portals, to everything. We're utilizing sort of every tool that we have at our disposal to really add as much depth as we can to the world.

Was there anything new this season that was a challenge for you?

It's always challenging, but that's why I love the show, because every episode I get is a new challenge, and there's something new for me to learn and something new for me to grow from, whether it's something physical that's brand new, whether it's something emotional that I know is going to take a lot of work, but going to be worth it in the end, or it's a long week of night shoots out in the cold, [laughs] that I know I'm going to gain some endurance of emotion and body from. [laughs]

Katherine McNamara
But, you know, whatever it is, we all get through it as a group together, and from the cast to the crew, to the creators, the writers, everyone involved in the show, we've all become a family. We all pour our blood, sweat, tears, and passion of every sense into the show, and it brings us closer together. We become sort of a cohesive unit, and it just makes it really fun to go to work every day, to be working with passionate people who all care about each other and really care about putting together a great show.

Before you go, is there anything else you are allowed to tease about the new season?

It focuses a lot more on the relationships and a lot more on the familial relationships of each character. And whether it be a backstory or a deepening of like Clary's relationship with Luke or her relationship with Jocelyn or with Simon and things like that, you really get to see what makes each character who they are and what has influenced them up until this point to make them think the way they do or act the way they do or behave in a certain way.

And it really informed all of their relationships, not only in their past, but in their present and also moving forward into the future.

We have a lot of new characters that come in and shake things up. We have Victor Aldertree and we have Maia (Alisha Wainwright) and a myriad of other new characters. Also some older characters resurface and cause a lot of trouble. Basically nothing is to be expected. Expect the unexpected; everything is changing. Nothing has stability. Every time we gain a sense of stability, they throw us off our game again. That only helps the suspense and the drama of the story move forward. And of course Valentine, the impending apocalypse, is always hanging over our heads.

Lastly, describe Clary in three words

Clary this season is badass, hopeful, and growing.

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