EXCLUSIVE: An interview with Shadowhunters star Katherine McNamara

We are just a few short hours from the season finale of Shadowhunters. It’s crazy that just a year ago, we were getting news of the show and the casting info started to roll in not long after. Each episode has made us delve much deeper into the realm of the Nephilim than the big screen adaptation counterpart, and fans are loving that we have had this second chance to see Cassandra Clare’s works come to life.

At the heart of the show is a fiery red-head, Clary Fray, who is determined to learn more of her family’s secrets and protect those she loves from her evil father, Valentine Morgenstern, all the while trying to balance a somewhat complicated love life and become a badass Shadowhunter. Katherine McNamara, or Kat for short, landed the role of Clary last year and has proven herself to fans in this first season of the Freeform rookie show. I had a chance to get to know more about Kat in a recent interview, talk about what this show has meant to her and find out some fun facts about the her life on set.

Congratulations for the show getting picked up for a second season on Freeform! Can you tell me what season 1 as Clary has meant to you and what you see in store for your character in season 2?

Kat: Thank you so much! Season 1 as Clary was a journey and a learning process on and off screen. There was a sort of parallel between Clary being thrown into a world in which she knows nothing and me being thrown into this sort of role in a television series and having a trial by fire learning curve. It was an experience I will never forget and something I am so thankful for. Clary really grows in season 1 as a person and a Shadowhunter just as I feel I have grown as a person and an actor through the process. I can only hope that in season 2, Clary continues to become the warrior and the leader she is destined to be and that she takes charge in the next phase of the mission.


Clary is a strong-willed, determined female lead that Cassandra Clare has done an incredible job writing. What have you done with your portrayal of her to make her your own?

Kat: We have a nice balance in the television series between honoring the books by pulling in the themes, staying true to the characters, and highlighting the essence of why people love this story and what draws them to it. However, we definitely use the medium of television to our advantage and take liberties with the story that add to the experience for viewers and enrich the story in a new way. The story is different enough in the show that it leaves all of us space to put our own stamp on the characters and create an interpretation that is fresh and individual while staying true to Cassie’s initial vision.


What can we expect from the rest of this season? Any juicy tidbits to share? 

Kat: You can expect, hope, love, triumph, and joy but also betrayal, despair, doubt, and war. In essence conflict, both internal and external, plays a huge role in the remainder of the season. I can’t reveal all the details here of course, but stay tuned. You do not want to miss the shocking finale.


From the looks of the behind the scenes moments on set, it looks like it is a fun place to be. What’s been some of the funniest moments on set for you?

Kat: There have been so so many – too many to even pick one! The cast became a family very quickly so we were able to have a lot of fun together because of that comfort level. Being the youngest one of the cast, I became the little sister on and off set. I guys would always jump out and scare me or prank me in some way. I wouldn’t have it any other way!


Since filming can be so crazy, where do you learn your scripts? How long does it take you?

Kat: I learn the scripts whenever and wherever I can. Usually I do it in my time before I leave for set and when I get home at the end of the work day. Luckily, I am pretty quick with memorizing things but there are so many changes to the script on a daily basis that I have to be fluid in learning lines.

I’m such a fan of the show’s soundtrack and am always finding songs that I feel like fits a character or scene. Do you have a playlist for Clary, and if so, what are some of your faves?

Kat: I do have a playlist for Clary! Music affects me emotionally in a way that nothing else can. I listen to the playlist on the way to set every day to get me in the mindset of the tone of the piece. Plus, I always hear new lyrics or musical elements that can add a new perspective based on whatever scenes I am shooting on that particular day. Some of my favorites from the playlist are “Who Am I Living For” by Katy Perry, “Viva la Vida” by Coldplay, Jetta’s cover of “I’d Love to Change the World”, “Revolution” by Diplo, “Human” by Christina Perri, and “Elastic Heart” by Sia.

Everyone loves the friendship between Clary and Simon, so fans want to know what it’s like working with Alberto? 

Kat: I love working with Alberto. He has such a light and he caretumblr_np34swTOaL1sg4va3o1_400s so much about the work – plus we are like minded in a lot of ways. I have so much respect for his
work and for the care he has taken to create Simon in such an interesting way. We were in the audition process together so it makes it mean even more to be a part of the process with him now. One of my favorite memories with Alberto was the night before we shot the scene in Java Jones in episode 1. That is the scene that really establishes Clary and Simon’s relationship for the season so we wanted to make sure we made it special. We sat down, worked on it for a bit, but then just ended up talking for hours and getting to know one another. Without knowing it, we actually formed the Simon and Clary chemistry naturally – the friendship was born.


Speaking of your leading men, what has it been like to be one half of the Clace ship and have you been nervous to live up to fan expectations?

Kat: It is a bit of a double edged sword with all of the expectations for the show and for Clace. On one hand, it is amazing to be a part of a story that so many people care about and connect to. With that however comes the responsibility of honoring the source material while still creating a fresh perspective. Thankfully, the fans have been overwhelmingly accepting of the show and our interpretation. Dom and I have taken care to make sure the Clace relationship progresses in a way that makes sense and serves the story at the same time. Their relationship is such a roller coaster and so intense, I’m thrilled that I was already friends with Dom before the project. It makes a big difference when you are already comfortable with someone.


Speaking of ships, who is your OTP in the Shadowhunters world?

Kat: Malec 100%. Enough said.


Final question… You are stuck on a desert island with one of your cast members, who do you think could help you survive and what do you do to pass the time while you wait for rescue?

Kat: If I was stuck on a desert island I think Matt would help me survive the longest. He’s probably done extensive research to prepare for the situation in advance and has ingenious ways to repurpose items until rescue arrives. To pass the time, I would pick his brain on a myriad of subjects and learn his mastery of chess. There is never a dull moment in a conversation with Daddario.




Want more of Katherine as Clary? Make sure to stay tuned to the Shadowhunters season finale on Freeform tonight at 9/8c. Keep up with us on Twitter at @TMI_Institute for more about the #Shadowhuntersfinale!

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