Shadowhunters - Katherine McNamara

Exclusive: Katherine McNamara on why Shadowhunters is very relevant to the world right now

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Jan 8, 2019, 11:00 AM EST (Updated)

While it might be hard for some people to image that a fantasy show about demons, vampires, werewolves and demon-hunting shadowhunters would have much connection to the world today, actress Katherine McNamara believes her series Shadowhunters has a lot to say about what's happening in the reality.

In an exclusive interview, McNamara (Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, The Fosters), who plays Clary on the Freeform series (now in its second season), talked with Syfy Wire about her character finding her purpose in the Shadowhunter world, whether Clary will be able to move on after her mother's murder, and why she believes her series has a lot to say about the turbulent world we live in.

What do we have to look forward to as the season goes forth?

Katherine: From day one, we've known that Clary is special and there's something about her that's different than the other Shadowhunters, beyond the fact that she didn't know she was one for 18 years of her life. There's a reason that Jocelyn protected her, and there's a reason that Jocelyn kept her away from the world and kept her away from Valentine.

Coming into this world, she's wanted nothing more than to find her purpose for being in this world, for being a part of this team, to find her place, and what her special skill set is. Isabelle has her whip. Alec has his bow and arrow. Jace has his strength, his veracity, and his aggressiveness. Clary has her running ability. It's something that I personally love that they've brought into the story. It's something that I really loved in the book because it goes back to the fact that Clary is not a traditional Shadowhunter because she still has her mundane sensibilities. She has that perspective. She has that compassion. She has that other side of things that is not necessarily the law that the rest of the Shadowhunters operate from.

Also, she has her artistry. That was her passion and that was her love. That's what she wanted to do with her life. The fact that that in turn has become her talent and an ability she has beyond other Shadowhunters, I think it serves the perfect representation of that duality.

Shadowhunters cast

Her mother, Jocelyn, was just murdered. Is the loss of her mother a driving force in some way as she goes forth in the season?

Katherine: It is, absolutely. There's so many things that are happening in the Shadow World right now between Valentine being who he is and his impending apocalypse, Jace being her brother and all of the complications that brings, also Jace's demonic blood and the distrust that everyone has of him because of that. And then coming back through and dealing with trying to balance Simon and helping him find a place in the new world. Then, dealing with the loss of her mother is a huge blow on top of that. Clary was just finally reconnecting with her and finally getting to a place where she could feel like her mother was seeing her as a Shadowhunter, and her mother was accepting her new world and the maturity that she has now that she's been a part of this world for so long. But now that's all been ripped away from her. Clary once again is forced to start anew.

As heartbreaking as it is, I think it's great that the writers and the showrunners are pushing Clary with this kind of difficulty because it forces her to take on this maturity that she otherwise wouldn't have had if her mother were still alive.

But still, it's sad. They were going to ship off Jocelyn for a bit, but she still would have been alive.

Katherine: I know. It would have been terrible if they shipped her off to Idris but sometimes things have to happen in order for other things to happen, as sad as it is to lose Jocelyn.

What themes are developing through the season?

Katherine: There are a lot of different themes. That's something I love about this show is that yes, we're a show about supernatural creatures but the themes are universal. You have Clary who's growing up and who's trying to find her place in the world and find her purpose which I think, personally, is something that we all have to do as we grow up.

Then you have all of the relationships. You have Alec and Magnus. You have the triangle of Simon, Clary and Jace. You have dealing with how to be a strong woman and find her place in the world, and yet still have those vulnerabilities that we all have.

Also, there's something that I love that they keep playing upon this season which I think is very, very relevant in the world right now. It's the fact that there are so many rigid rules and so many divisions in our world that are merely there because of archaic beliefs. It's the same in the Shadow World. There's certain prejudices, certain stigmatisms, and certain things that prevent people from uniting and prevent different people and different beings from working together in this world. Because of tradition and because of the way they were raised, older generations sometimes are less willing to be flexible within those.

Whereas you have this on the show, this young generation of Shadowhunters starting with Clary who are coming from a different sensibility, coming from a different perspective, and looking at this world and going, "Why do things have to be this way? Why can't we get along? Why can't we work together? Why are these prejudices in place?" They mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. We're all trying to accomplish a common goal. Instead of working on our own, why don't we combine our forces and work together?

It becomes a show of young people finding new solutions for old problems because they are more open-minded than other generations. I love seeing that on a show. Because we exist in a supernatural world, hopefully it allows people to look at what's going on in our world right now from a more objective perspective.

Shadowhunters - Katherine McNamara

You've achieved so much in your life already and you're only 21, from graduating high school at 14 and college at 17 to starring on Broadway at 13 to having 43 TV and movie credits on the IMDb. You seem to have achieved more than some people twice your age. What has driven you as an actress and as a woman?

Katherine: I come from a family of amazingly strong, incredible, intelligent women who have been able to somehow balance education, career and family throughout the course of their lives. It's something that I've always looked up to. I said I didn't know what my career would be but I knew that I would do something that I was passionate about and really commit to it and do everything I could to do it to my fullest.

As far as specifically having a career as an actor, it's something that I'm incredibly passionate about. I love telling stories. I love highlighting the beauty in human imperfection and showing that it's okay to make mistakes and it's okay to be imperfect. As actors, we go to those places that aren't comfortable for people and hopefully make people question their own lives and cause people to reflect on their own situations. I just feel so fortunate to be in a situation where I'm able to do what I love for a living. I'm able to have a job where I love the people I work with, I'm telling a story that I feel strongly about and playing a character that is so complex and multifaceted and speaks to a lot of qualities that I think people need to be cognizant of at this point in time.

If you love what you do, it's easy to be passionate about it. It's easy to work hard and it doesn't feel like work.

What has surprised you most about Shadowhunters?

Katherine: I think what surprised me most about the series is the impact it's had on the people that watched it. This series is based on the young adult book series; the fans are very attached to it and they're very invested in it and dedicated to it. The stories that I've heard talking to different fans about the way it's affected their lives, as well as the way that it's affected my life, it's been astronomical. Again, I love my job and I love what I do for a living. I get to do what I love and pursue my passion, and then on top of that, the fact that it has a positive effect on people can help people in some ways makes it all worthwhile.

Here's a promo of tonight's Shadowhunters episode, "Iron Sisters."