Katherine McNamara on Shadowhunters season 3, hope, and a little help from Hamilton

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Mar 16, 2018

It's a new world this season on Shadowhunters—literally. With Valentine no more, Season 3 promises to deliver new evils, continued consequences, and an epic look at Idris, the Shadowhunters' homeland. SYFY Fangrrls spoke with Clary Fairchild herself, Katherine McNamara, about what fans can expect, along with a reminder, in the world of Shadowhunters, to expect the unexpected.

Does this season feel like kind of a fresh start? With Valentine gone, are things going to be different?

Things are definitely different. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a fresh start, because the consequences of everyone’s actions, and of Clary’s actions in particular, are really going to come to fruition this season. And I think that’s the biggest part of it for her, you know, she came into this world with this wide-eyed sense of wonder at this world of magic and fairies and vampires and warlocks and angels, and suddenly now after going through everything, after killing her own father, losing her mother, everything she’s been through, she sees the world for what it is, which is a cold and very deadly world that has no forgiveness and has no mercy.

How do you think Clary as a character as well as you as an actress maintain some level of hope in that world?

This is the thing about Clary. Yes, she has a new sense of maturity, and yes, moving forward she sees the world with a more realistic view; there’s always a sense of hope in her. There’s always this little ember of fight and hope within her that she will never give up. She will never say die, she will never ever lose that fire. That’s what makes her who she is; that’s the Fairchild in her. It’s that undying sense of hope. You know, she has that lightness of being a Fairchild and yet she has the ferocity of being a Morgenstern and that stubbornness of being a Morgenstern that combines to form this stubbornly hopeful character that will find a way.

Is there anything from the books that fans have been looking forward to and might see this season? Anything you can give us a little hint about?

I can say yes. [laughs] There’s a lot of new characters coming in that I think people are going to be excited for, there’s some plot points that people will recognize, but things usually come about in a different way than people expect. So don’t get too comfortable, because it’s turned on its head a couple of times.

You said we’re going to see some new characters, but will we see any fan favorites again, like Iris and Madzie?

There are a lot of people coming back, but not everyone. I will leave that up to the viewer to find out as they watch. 

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What have been some of your favorite moments of the show so far?

It’s really exciting to see the relationships deepen. There are some things that happen—UGH, how can I not spoil this? Basically, all of the relationships are trying to find their way in this new world order, and every character has a challenge that they have to face. To put it in terms of the show, the glamours have all gone away and each character has their own personal demon that’s coming for them, and they know that they either have to defeat the demon or it will break them. And they have to learn who they can trust and rely on, and they have to learn when to stand on their own and when to rely on each other. So you really see a lot of their relationships change and a lot of the relationships deepen. You also see some people separated. For example, you see Clary and Luke lean on each other a bit more because they’ve both lost a lot of people. Luke has lost his parabatai and the love of his life; Clary has lost her mother and father. Luke is one of the only rocks and one of the only grounding forces that’s left in her life, and so she leans heavily on him. Whereas Clary and Simon, Clary’s still trying to figure out what’s going on with Jace and to try and help him because of the guilt and responsibility she feels for what he’s going through, and Simon is dealing with the promise he made to the Seelie Queen, and all of the after-effects that’s going to have on his life, that it sort of leads each of them stranded away from each other and without that trusted ear, that vein of support they’ve had for each other. And continues through all the relationships, and because we know the characters so well now—as the audience and the actors—it’s exciting for us to get to explore different sides of those relationships that bring out different elements of the characters. 

It looks like from the promos we’re going to see Idris. How much of that is set versus CGI, and what’s it been like filming that?

Our set designers and our VFX team are very creative in the ways that they work together. We have a 360-degree blue-and-green-screen set, and so for example the rune ceremony scene that you saw, it sort of builds up the archways, the pillars, and all the different elements of the world, and then they paint in the rest. It’s this epic aerial shot that comes down through the city, and you really get to see the extent of Idris for the first time and the beauty and the majesty of the Shadowhunters’ homeland. But also, when we get to see the Alicante Institute eventually, they take our institute set and they lay down a different floor and they change up the walls and they rearrange things and rotate certain rooms and change out the furniture. And suddenly it’s a brand-new place. Suddenly we’re in Idris. 

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Javier Munoz from Hamilton has been teasing fans on Instagram about his involvement this season—can you tell us a little bit about that?

I can tell you that Javi comes in and plays maybe one of my favorite characters. It’s a new character—I’m trying to remember if he’s from the books or not, but his role has definitely been emphasized. Javi is just amazing. He’s so brilliant and he’s such a light, and just such a wonderfully genuine and talented, amazing human being. I could go on and on about him. He and I actually connected through social media. 

Because he was a fan first, right?

Yeah, as it turned out—I was a fan of Hamilton and I was following him, and then he started tweeting about Shadowhunters and I went, “Ooh, wait, what?” We both mutually fangirled a bit and then it turned out that he ended up on the show through our showrunners deciding that it was too great of an opportunity to pass up, and thankfully they were able to work things out with his Hamilton schedule. It’s been such a gift to have him on the show. He’s really, really fabulous.

Are you still filming the new season, or are you done?

We are. We’re shooting Episode 15 right now. We’re almost winding down, which is very strange, because it feels like we just started the second half of Season 3. But I’m so excited for people to finally get to see this. Because the show keeps growing, and every season it takes another step forward and another step deeper into the darkness of the shadow world. The anticipation for me knowing what’s coming for fans to see has been absolutely killer.

One last question—what’s the main thing you hope people take away from the show?

The main thing I hope people take away from the show is the fact that no matter who you are, and no matter what you’re going through, no matter how powerful you are, everyone has something they’re facing in life. Everyone has a demon, whether it’s an inner demon, an outer demon, a greater demon or a Queen of Hell, everyone has something that they’re facing. And it’s through finding your inner strength, finding the powers that are inherent within you, but also finding the people around you that are there for you that will accept you for who you are and support you and celebrate your talents, and that you can celebrate theirs -- that’s how you get through it; that’s how you defeat those demons, and that’s how you avoid being broken by whatever life throws at you. That’s what I love about supernatural shows. It really allows us to do very, very human things and to delve into really relatable circumstances but through the veil of a supernatural world that allows everyone to be objective. I’ve certainly learned a lot about myself, and I’ve certainly grown as a human being through doing this show as well as an actor, as well as a fighter and an athlete. It’s the growth that continues to make the show so special. 

Season 3 of Shadowhunters airs Tuesday, March 20, on Freeform.