Shadowhunters has its series premiere Tuesday on the newly renamed Freeform network (previously ABC Family). The show tells the story of Clary Fray, an 18-year-old girl who discovers that her family tree is a lot more mystical and mysterious than she could have ever predicted. She finds herself among a group of Shadowhunters, who dispatch the things that go bump in the night under our very noses. Or, y’know, in our local night clubs.
The TV Junkies had the opportunity to chat with series star Katherine McNamara (Clary Fray), who spoke about what it’s like to portray a beloved character like Clary, her work in promoting education for women, and which Shadowhunters actor the cast was in awe of.
The TV Junkies: Can you give us a preview of what we can expect in the Shadowhunters series premiere?
Katherine McNamara: In the premiere we jump right into the world. I think from the first moment you really start to get a grasp of what Shadowhunters are and what they do, and the mysteriousness that surrounds these warriors.
The story starts off with my character, Clary Fray, who, on her 18th birthday, discovers that she is indeed a Shadowhunter, and this whole series of unfortunate events takes place that completely take her away from everything she knows and loves, and her life takes a drastic turn. She’s forced down the path to start this journey that she never thought she would be on and she’s thrust into this world that she didn’t know existed. She’s forced on a journey to become something she truly never thought she would be.
TTVJ: The series, of course, is based off of The Mortal Instruments series. How close is the show to the books?
KM: We do stay true to the world, and especially to the characters we took extra care. Our story takes place kind of as far as the first book goes, Point A to Point B we pretty much have the same skeleton of the story, but the path in which we get there is a little different. We wanted to stay true to the books in certain ways and have little Easter Eggs in certain scenes and moments and lines, that fans of the books would definitely recognize and appreciate.
But, we still wanted to keep it fun for them as well, so we have characters from other books and characters that don’t exist in the series at all, and new elements and new twists to the story that will keep book fans surprised. Because we have the time in a series format, we definitely have an opportunity to explain the world and welcome newcomers to the story in a way that other mediums wouldn’t allow us to do.
TTVJ: How has the fan reaction been so far?
KM: We’ve had such support from the fans from day one, which has been really exciting. We do have massive respect for the book fans because they’ve gotten us here, they’ve gotten us to this point and given us this opportunity to continue to explore the characters and this story, which is so fascinating.
It’s been really fun to meet the fans and experience it with them, but something I’ve learned from meeting the fans and from getting to be a part of this journey with them is that because it’s based on books, these people have such personal relationships with these characters and the story, and because of that, they’re so beloved to them. [The fans] have grown up with these characters, and these characters are their heroes. It’s very exciting to bring these characters to life, but it’s also a huge responsibility, and we take that very seriously.
TTVJ: Aside from starring in Shadowhunters, you’re also pursuing your Masters of Science in Applied Economics. How do you balance your acting career with your education?
KM: Well, I don’t sleep much, sleep is overrated. [laughs]
No, but in all seriousness, it’s something that means a lot to me. I’ve always been a huge proponent for education, and I think it’s definitely important. For me, especially, it was important to get a degree in something other than in the [acting] industry to round myself out as a person and not only be able to manage my career creatively, but also from a business standpoint. It’s something that serves me very well.
I’ve always had a huge interest in economics and business, and before I became an actor I was going to go into finance. It’s something that means a lot to me and it’s something I’m really passionate about, aside from acting. Through that, it’s given me an opportunity to start working with certain organizations that promote education all over the world. I work with Girl Up, which is an amazing organization that is by girls, for girls, and promotes education for women and empowerment for women who don’t have an opportunity to get that education or to have an opportunity to choose what their life will be, throughout the world.
TTVJ: Before we go, I have to ask… you also have a background in dance, so while filming the show, did you have an opportunity to show off some moves with Harry Shum Jr.?
Well, I don’t think any of us were dancing much, because Harry is so amazing at what he does, we just kind of left that to him. Having Harry on set has been really great because we were able to relate on that level of dancing. He incorporates a lot of his skill with movement to the Magnus [Bane] character and it adds so much to it, and it really is something that we’re all in awe of.
Are you excited to see McNamara as Clary? To learn more about Shadowhunters read our guide to the world and check out the trailer below:
Shadowhunters airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on Freeform, and is available to stream on Netflix Canada.
Associate Editor Kelly Townsend always had strong opinions on TV growing up, so it was only natural to evolve from couch musings to online journalism. She can't ever choose a favorite series, so please don't ask. Her writing has also appeared on IndieWire and Tribute.ca. You can find her on Twitter at @kellybtownsend.