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Set Interview: Kevin Zegers + Jemima West admire the family values in ‘The Mortal Instruments’

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Playing siblings Alec and Isabelle Lightwood in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, Kevin Zegers and Jemima West have a good understanding of the significance of their familial bond in the film, as well as the characters they are portraying.

From the get-go, Jemima immediately connected with Isabelle and “her love for the people around her.” For her having all of these “strong and complex” characters in this fantasy world is very important as is the connection they share.

Kevin really responded to the family dynamic where you “sort of have these people that were all thrown together that had to become a family,” with the exception of blood siblings Alec and Isabelle. Kevin is quick to point out the underlying reason for Alec’s attitude when Clary arrives isn’t merely because of his feelings for Jace, but also because he doesn’t want Clary interrupting that family structure already in place.

When we traveled to the Mortal Instruments: City of Bones set last September, it was only fitting that we interviewed Kevin and Jemima — the Lightwoods siblings — together. Both had come in on their day off to speak with us, which was both incredibly sweet and dedicated. Kevin and Jemima were waiting for us when we walked into the conference room. We introduced ourselves and shook hands before we gathered around the table to begin our interview.

Not only do Kevin and Jemima share a physical resemblance, but there was definitely a familial bond that resonated between them. As we conducted joint interviews they played off each other and it was great to see the complete understanding they have for their characters and the bond between those characters.

Kevin is incredibly passionate about Alec and that passion showed in every in-depth answer. Jemima is probably the sweetest person I’ve ever met. She’s quiet and reserved so getting to see her transform into the feisty Isabelle is both enjoyable and breathtaking.

It was an absolute pleasure interviewing the Lightwoods. Not only did Kevin and Jemima come in on their day off, but they were so sweet, charming and welcoming. Alec and Isabelle have strong family values much like the actors portraying them.

Angelic Power Rune

INTERVIEW WITH KEVIN ZEGERS AND JEMIMA WEST

For Kevin: What has been the most fun experience on set?

Usually some people are just working to work and that makes the vibe a little bit different but everyone seems very invested which is nice. The fighting stuff is great because it’s not something we get to do so often as actors and we all kind of dove in as much as we could. Harold said very early that he wanted us to do all of it ourselves and that’s what we’ve been doing. We had one sort of sample period at the Hotel Dumort and had about a week of fighting so that was kind of our barometer to see where we were at. I think it went really well and from that point on Harold said great you’ve proven you can do that. The fighting stuff I have to say has been the most fun because it’s a whole character in and of itself I mean the fighting stuff is a huge part of the movie and the way that you fight is kind of a good indication of who the character is. We don’t all fight the same, there’s very different styles for all of us. Jamie and I fight quite differently, and Jemima has her whip so… It’s been a lot of fun. That’s been the most fun for me I’d say.

For Jemima: What was your reaction when you got your role?

I was very surprised. I wasn’t really expecting it. But after the moment of thinking “really?..wowwww” it was a amazing. I was so happy, so happy. Working on the adaptation of a book was really a great surprise and then getting to do some work in English and getting to do something with this great team I was super excited and I couldn’t wait to start.

For Kevin: You said that some of your characteristics are like Alec’s, which ones of your traits resemble those of Alec?

Well Alec’s a little tricky because again, the audience has a certain expectation of where he ends up because most of the people that have read the books have read all of them so you know I didn’t want to create a sort of one dimensional character based on what his sexual preference was; Which is tricky because I think people have the expectation that you have to sort of give all his secrets away early on but if this one’s goes well we’ll have plenty of opportunities to sort of lay that all that out. Just being someone who is unsure of whether who he is going to be completely okay with everybody. The reason I think the fans like the character so much is because he is a lot like what kids in their teens are like; a little uncomfortable in their own skin.  He definitely has a core belief system in place, and that’s something that I have. He’s a little pigheaded in the way that he deals with things but not in a way that offends too many people. Yea, it’s been fun to create, because he is kind of the bummer in the movie until you realize he’s the one that really doesn’t want Clary there and makes it pretty well known. Originally in the script he was kind of around but you never really got a since of how he felt about everything but it reveals itself to be much more fun. From the moment he meets her he’s really not a big fan and doesn’t want her around. And not just because he has a thing with Jace but because I think it’s more about the whole family, the structure of the way things are with them he doesn’t like someone interrupting that. He seems pretty happy with the way his life is right now so. I don’t think anyone has to stretch to find the “wanting to make everyone happy” but you know having this other side of yourself that you don’t reveal too often. So that’s the most fun, pretty subtle. We’re not doing big. Our characters aren’t really showy. The acting is fairly understated. It’s not really over the top. Harald allows us to do our own thing and let the audience figure out what they catch and what they don’t. It’s been a lot of fun. Not what I expected to be honest.

For Jemima: The costumes are really fun for your character, so how much did it influence on bringing the character to life?

Oh massive, a massive influence. I think for every role as an actor, costumes, hair and make-up help a huge deal. On this movie in particular we have an amazing costume designer called Gersha Phillips who’s just fantastic. And she came up with the most brilliant ideas. I had no idea it’d be so cool. It’s very contemporary and very avant-garde in a sort of way. Like she’s come up with a whole load of accessories and things that I think really sets a huge trend. I mean the second I put my leather on and really high boots I feel like I’m someone else and that’s good. I’m definitely Isabelle when I’m in those heels.

For Kevin: What was your first impression of Alec when you first read the book or script?

First impression for me are pretty telling, I always liked him the most, I always had the most affinity to him, I felt like he was the most misunderstood of the whole lot. I think as an audience the less you know sometimes the more interesting it is. The actors who I like the most are the people who reveal the least about themselves and as you watch it more and more you try to figure out where they’re at.  Alec has a lot of that. Even if he does one thing and you can see that it kind of contradicts his attention. He has a lot of that and I think he’s aware of his own shortcomings and I like that about him also. There’s a lot of action in this movie, there’s a lot of stuff going on so for the amount of stuff we have to do as actors we want to make it work. We want to make it interesting enough that the audience cares. I don’t like these kinds of movies unless I care about the characters. I think that’s why people like the books. I think they like the fantasy and they like the story but I think the characters are really the reason why people keep reading them and why they’re still interested. Which is big, because you know there isn’t so much to do as an actor. It’s not a movie about acting, it’s not an hour and a half of dramatic scenes. There are specific moments that have to work. Jemima the same way, she has a few big scenes where they lay out the character as a whole and who she is. So we really focused on that and making them work as best as we could because they really sort of set the ground work for whether the movie works or not.

For Jemima: What was your first impression of Isabelle when you read the book or script?

Her love for people around her I think. How faithful she is and how strong and determined but in a way that there’s just simple reasons and all that matters to her is her family. I share the family values so I was immediately drawn to her. And I thought she was really funny as well. Sometimes she’ll get pissed off about things and she’s very spontaneous and that I love, I think it makes her really funny. That I grew fond of her even more-so as the books go by and I thought wow, there’s so much to do.

For Kevin:  What’s the most difficult part of those fighting scenes for you?

The fighting’s fun, it’s the training everyday that is. As actors you want to be doing things you don’t want to be practicing things. So that’s been the most challenging for me. Because for me at least I am sort of a lazy person.  When we start at 1 and you have to train with Nuno who is our personal trainer in the morning before we come to set that’s the most challenging and it’s also the most rewarding because you get to see the results and he’s incredible at his job. We’ve all been kind of minding what we eat as much as we can. But yea that’s the hardest because you have a full day of work and then you sort of realize that’s a whole other aspect of the job that has to be in place. Sort of like having two jobs.

For Jemima: If there’s one word that could describe you as a person and the same word that would also describe Isabelle what would that word be?

I’d say loving.

For Kevin: What do you love most about the Mortal Instruments?

I mean I love the story. I didn’t grow up being a huge fan of fantasy so it’s not what I originally gravitated to as a young guy. So for me, if they didn’t send me the script it wasn’t something I would have picked up on my own. Once I was reading it there’s so much cool family drama and there’s no context to it I mean anytime you do a drama that involves real people and real life you sort of have to keep it in reality as much as possible but there’s this whole other thing with us. This family that has been created that, for me, that was a cool thing. That you could sort of have these people that were all thrown together that had to become a family. People who are not related to particularly except for me and Isabelle obviously. That was cool to me. Harald’s taking care of the stuff, the brooms, and the swords, and fighting, and visually what it looks like so as an actor you have to find something you can focus on which for us is obviously the character stuff and fighting but yea that was what impressed me the most about the books and the script. Harald’s aware of why these movies work as opposed to the other ones that don’t. It’s the difference between the Dark Knight and a similar movie that doesn’t work is that the characters were well placed that you sort of relate to them. In spite of all this weird supernatural stuff going on that they are still sort of centered in reality which I liked.

For Jemima: What’s your favorite part about the series?

I think it’s kind of what Kevin was saying. The fact that we get all these very strong and complex characters in a world that’s our world today and a fantasy world. I think it’s the mix of all these things and as an actor I feel very lucky to be able to play a character that I like but also be a part of this whole mysterious new world. The runes, having tattoos, and all these weapons; it’s a mix of all of this that’s really exciting and this is what I really love about the Mortal Instruments. I get everything in one.

For Jemima: Isabelle’s such a strong independent character; getting to play her in a predominantly male environment what’s it like?

It’s fun. As a girl, yes, she’s probably quite hard to get through to, but the boys she’s with are just as tough so I don’t take it as she different to the others I feel like they’re all tough in their own way. She grew up with them so they’re hers, their blood.

For Kevin: If you were to get one rune tattooed on you which one would you get?

Permanent Tattoo? Probably this one on my neck because it’s the hardest to put on in the morning. The block and deflect. They gave us the runes and they were sort of working with us to figure out where we’re going to place them. I always imagined him having something that makes him visually alarming. And he does have this very big neck tattoo that covers the span of his neck. Because a lot of the time we’re wearing clothes like this with the vest on or whatever so I wanted him to have something very predominant whether he was dressed casually or not. Whether he’s at the institute or not. I think he’s very proud of that, as much as anybody very proud of what they do. I felt that something predominantly placed would be, and it just looks cool.

For Both: What were you doing when you got the call to join the cast?

Jemima: It was 2am so I was about to go to bed. I saw an email from my agents and that was after about a few emails back and forth asking where are you and I was like uh-uh. After that, I stayed up for a little while.

Kevin: I was playing golf with my best friend near my parent’s house here in Canada but I actually got the job in this room funny enough. I was shooting another movie and they flew me in to meet with Harald, read a few scenes with him. So it was actually right here. So, thankfully I didn’t have to wait for too long. That’s probably the worst part about being an actor. Because you do sort of, whether you like it or not, start thinking about what would I do with the character and how fun would it be to be a part of something like this.  For me it was more relief than anything because I really let my guard down, and I was really hoping that it would happen, more than usual. I usually keep myself guarded until it happens. So I was very relieved that I was gonna get to do this.

For Both: The books appeal to both teens and adults so what do you think of the movie will appeal to teens and what to adults?

Jemima: I answered that same question not that long ago actually and I think it’s a movie that will appeal to teens just as much as adults because as we were saying there’s a lot to do with the characters, the characters are very important. And the acting aspect is important so I think that’s what will draw the more adult people towards the film. And then the world of fantasy, fighting etc. will be to teens and adults too because who doesn’t like a good fight?

Kevin: Sometimes you make a movie for young adults and you play to that the way that you shoot it and the way that the acting is and I think Harald was very…It’s a movie, whoever likes it will like it. And I think sometimes the mistake is to kind of gear a movie too much as you’re making it towards one group or another. The fans of the book are going to go see this movie anyway because they’re interested. So the responsibility for us is to make it appealing to everybody whether they’ve read the books or not. So that’s been kind of the focus, obviously to make the fans happy to have this world brought to life but also make a really good movie. I’m sure you’ll get to see some stuff but it’s not a light and fluffy movie, it’s not what I call a lollipop movie. The colors are not bright. It’s a pretty intense. The fighting, it’s all very full on. There’s no punches pulled so it’s super appealing to like 12 year olds, it’s a movie. That’s certainly been Harald’s focus from the beginning was just to make a great movie and hope everyone likes it. Whether there fans of the genre or not whether there young or old, male or female, there’s obviously a lot of pretty girls, and a lot of boys who look like Jamie and Jonathan. That’s all we can really control, id to make a good movie.

Jemima: You know where really enjoying doing it and I hope the fun were having will translate and as many people as possible will like it. But we’re definitely doing our best working on characters properly and enjoying ourselves.

Kevin: And another great thing is you’ll notice there are not a lot of people on set. Not a lot of studio folks or…And normally with something like this there’s 100 different opinions coming in and so everything sort of ends up in the middle because they don’t want to offend this group, and don’t want to alienate that group and I think that they smartly gave Harald the keys and obviously said just make a good movie. Harald’s heart is in the right place. He’s knows the story and he knows the expectations but I think. There’s not a lot of chirping going around the camera like “ohh that might be a little too dark and if we too dark here then maybe the audience won’t like Alec or maybe the audience won’t like Isabelle”. I think the film allows itself for the audience to feel how the audience is going to feel and there’s not a lot of pandering to the audience as to not to not offend anybody. Sometimes I watch these movies and I think let them just do what they’re going to do and people are going to like certain characters and other characters are going to have to grow on them. You don’t just always have to play into the audience because then you end up somewhere in the middle and your with an okay movie. 

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About Alyssa (2746 Articles)
Owner of TMI Source. Journalist and teacher by day, fangirl by night. Alyssa is too obsessed with sports, television, books, superheroes, and Shadowhunters for her own good.

10 Comments on Set Interview: Kevin Zegers + Jemima West admire the family values in ‘The Mortal Instruments’

  1. Kevin talks forever, but I love him anyway. And Jemima!

    • haha yeah he does! i was noticing that 😛 And then Jemima doesn’t talk that much but I love them still!

  2. Once again, so intelligent with their responses and a lot of thought went into their portrayals. I am so looking forward to this.

  3. I LOVE Kevin! And its so good to get an interview from Jemima too!

  4. teamedwardjace // July 16, 2013 at 11:40 PM // Reply

    Really enjoyed the interview! 😀 . They were great!

  5. Harold is a good director. You can just tell.

  6. BY THE ANGEL Kevin!! I love you, but SHUT UP!!

  7. Nice job, its an excellent post. The knowledge is good to know!

  8. I always try to get prepared whereas reading or watching for a Kevin interview, he’s always the one speaking most! Jemima is such a love, what a shame she was filming in Europe when the events from the movie took place.

3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Entrevista no set: Jemima West e Kevin Zegers | Lâmina Serafim
  2. Lightwoods Brasil | Primeiro site brasileiro dedicado aos atores Jemima West e Kevin Zegers, a Izzy e o Alec do filme Os Instrumentos Mortais. » Arquivo » Jemima West e Kevin Zegers falam um pouco sobre Cidade dos Ossos.
  3. Haastatteluja Comic Conista || Mortal Instruments Finland

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