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Shadowhunters star Alisha Wainwright on Maia's trauma

Contributed by
May 8, 2018

The last two episodes of Shadowhunters have given us a glimpse into Maia's story, showing us her life before she turned—and the betrayal of the man she loved, Jordan, who turned her. Not only that, but he abandoned her, left her scared, hurt and, most shockingly, a werewolf. Now Jordan, or Kyle, is back in her life, sent by the Praetor Lupus to watch over Simon.

SYFY FANGRRLS talked to Alisha Wainwright, who plays Maia, about this powerful pair of episodes and the show's respectful depiction of trauma. 

The relationship between Maia and Jordan, it seems like it was almost like an abusive relationship narrative. Was that in your mind as you were filming?

I think that primarily it was the frustration of being just left, you know? When someone does something wrong, that's one thing. And you can work through understanding why someone did something bad and why they ... maybe understand their reasoning. They came at it in a sort of allegory kind of way towards an abuse.

But I think what upset Maia even more was just like, "Wow, you did something so terrible and you didn't even tell me why. You didn't even have a reason behind it." And that's what hurt so much, this lack of understanding. And in Episode 7 ["Salt in the Wound," which aired May 1] it's the first time we're hearing his point of view. And that doesn't necessarily change how it made her feel and whether or not she's okay with what happened to her. But what it does do is offer a little bit of closure to something that was so traumatizing to her. And I think it's important for everyone to understand that it's OK to forgive people, but it's another thing to forget about it. People don't forget about being wronged but in order to forgive someone, you kinda have to understand the full story. And that's why it's so challenging for her to forgive, because she just doesn't know what and why he did what he did.

So I think Episode 7, that final scene, was just such a wonderful opportunity for her to say how she felt. And even though he explains himself, she was still like, "Yeah, but you don't understand, this is why I'm really hurt, and this is why I can't really forgive you. But at least now I know how you really feel and where you're at."

And then this week there's that really powerful moment towards the end where she just screams, "Let me hate you."  Because he keeps trying to get her forgiveness. What was that like to play? Did you bring anything to that in terms of how you were thinking of being Maia or experiences past experiences of your own?

I think the better person can be forgiving. In childhood, growing up, my parents always taught me that if someone wrongs you, you have to find it in your heart to forgive them. But there's some things that are so personally violating, and some things that are so life changing, that you can't. Some people can't even wrap their heads around how to begin to forgive people. And I think Jordan is doing everything he can to come out of the right side of this situation. And for me to play against it, it's just, not necessarily for my own personal life, but in understanding what it means for someone to be hurt and have their life completely changed. I've learned to live my entire life pretty much just moving on from it. And now you're coming back and you wanna be like how we were. I'd rather stick to hating you because it gives me a place to fuel my anger and pain. And if I don't hate you that means I have to learn to forgive, which I something I don't wanna do. And that's where her head was at.

Kind of as a result of #MeToo, talking about trauma has been more public than it used to be. Trauma used to be, and it still is to some extent, something that people have to go through very alone. And there's not a ton of really accurate depictions of it on TV. It seems like the show took pains to do this correctly. Even though it wasn't that she was necessarily abused, she clearly is dealing with the effects of what she's been through.

Right. I think the showrunners were very kind to let me voice my opinion about how I felt we should tackle the Jordan storyline. Because in Season 2, we did take the time to dedicate like two minutes of a monologue about how she felt she was violated. And if we're gonna go about it that way, we can't just...It has to be so delicately tended to because we're speaking to an audience of people who may have experienced their own personal traumas, whether it's been physical or emotional. And you have to respect that it's A) challenging to process, and B) once you process how to live your own life, then to learn to forgive. I think there's a dual respect. He's not entitled to forgiveness but he's going about it so vulnerably. He's basically saying, "What can I do, if I could do anything, to earn any sense of trust back from you?" And it's not gonna happen in a day. It may not happen at all in this season.

But I do appreciate that the show is taking the time to squeeze out the nuance of that kind of relationship. Because there's so many relationships to there that are not sweet, and basic, and just pure love. It comes with a dark history of emotional manipulations and traumas that people on both sides have experienced. But I'm really proud of the way the show has handled that storyline, really.

It's almost a trope at this point, the way that they would necessarily handle that relationship. Last week I was like, "Oh no, please tell me this isn't going to be love triangle." It was almost like a surprise that they didn't because other shows would have gone that direction.

It was very collaborative. Everyone, obviously in the writers' room and the showrunners, and then me with my voice from her perspective. I was like, look guys, I don't know how you want it to be resolved between them, or if it gets resolved, or what, but I'm telling you right now, there's no way that she's going to leave Simon. But she also doesn't know how to process Simon in dealing with her past. And she's only really just revealed to Simon that there was a Jordan. So when you think about the timescape of our show, they're all kind of discovering this together at the same time, Simon and Maia. They care about each other so much that I don't think a love triangle would be fair to that relationship at all.

At the end of this week's episode, Maia leaves. Is there anything you can tell us about that?

I think that's gonna be her story arc for the mid season. And I think, obviously she will come back. But when you leave someone alone with their thoughts for a while, they're gonna come back with a motivation. And I think that's something that I really noticed with the storyline when we pick up in [the second half of Season 3]. 'Cause I do that, when you stew about something, and you come back with this resolve. But she just needs to clear her head. She needs to get away from it. Because when you've been traumatized and you're dealing with pressures, what do you want to do? You kind of just want to run away. You want to deny that it's existing. And I think they're really approaching the story very honestly because sometimes when things get really hard, you kind of just want to run away. Which is not the right thing, or wrong thing to do, but it's the choice that she made.
 

Shadowhunters airs Tuesdays on Freeform.