With Shadowhunters gearing up to make its January debut, fans are eager to see how their favorite series will make the transition to the small screen. While adaptations are never 100 percent carbon copies of their books, the focus is always on how faithful adaptations manage to stay to its source material.
We had the chance to chat with Shadowhunters star Katherine McNamara about the challenge of staying faithful to the books and yet making it fresh, as well as portraying the strong Clary Fray, her favorite relationships in the series, her favorite thing about the show, and the rapport of the Shadowhunters cast.
STAYING FAITHFUL TO THE BOOKS │ The most challenging aspect of adapting a book series to new media is ensuring that you’re staying faithful to the source material. It’s what fans expect, but it’s something that can prove difficult. When we spoke to McNamara about the challenge of staying true to the essence of this story and these characters, she told us that it’s something that they haven’t taken lightly.
“I think Shadowhunters has found a really great balance with staying true to the original and yet taking its own interpretation and perspective on the story,” she said. “Yes, we do have the same story from point A to point B – and the first book is kind of the first season – and we do stay true to the characters in every sense, and that’s something we took great care to do throughout the season.”
But with any adaptation there are going to be changes. While the first season essentially covers the first book (City of Bones), there will be additions from books 2-4 and certain elements of the series that will be changed.
“We still want it to be entertaining for people who know the books cover to cover; we still want to surprise people,” McNamara said. “We bring in characters from books 2, 3, and 4, and we have elements of the story that are different, and certain relationships kind of change in ways you wouldn’t expect. It takes you on a ride that even as a fan of the books you’ll still be surprised, and you’ll still gasp, laugh, and cry, and experience all of the roller coaster that you would if you’d never met these characters before.”
PORTRAYING CLARY FRAY │With The Mortal Instruments fans have gotten a strong female hero to look up to and follow through her ups and downs with Clary Fray. When it comes to portraying that strong female character that so many people look up to, McNamara called landing the role of Clary “a dream come true,” but she also understands the huge responsibility that comes with portraying a beloved character.
“As you well know, when you read these books you become attached to these characters and you have such a personal relationship with them; you grow up with them,” she said. “For a lot of these people these characters are their heroes. In bringing them to life we feel that responsibility. I know that my biggest goal is to do justice to a character that Cassie (Clare) has created and to the story and to all of these fans that are so fiercely loyal to us.”
THE MALEC EFFECT │With the books being as popular and appreciated as they are, fans have become attached to the series’ central couples, and that’s something that McNamara said that Shadowhunters is being sure to take care of.
While McNamara loves the traditional ships like Clace (Clary/Jace), Malec (Magnus/Alec) and Sizzy (Simon/Isabelle), she admitted that she is partial to Malec.
“Personally, I have a real attachment to the Magnus/Alec relationship as a fan just because I see the way that Matt (Daddario) and Harry (Shum Jr.) have taken such care to portray the relationship on screen, and I think fans are really going to be excited to see the elements that they bring to that relationship,” she said. “I know that I just fell in love with it from the beginning. I give them so much respect for the care that they took to do it right.”
THE LOVE TRIANGLE │One of the central elements in the first part of The Mortal Instruments is the love triangle between Clary, Jace, and Simon. That’s definitely an element of the book that we’ll see in Shadowhunters.
“I find the love triangle with Simon, Clary, and Jace so interesting because she can never truly choose; she needs both of them in her life,” McNamara said. “She needs Jace because he understands the Shadowhunter part of her, and he can teach her about this world and how to survive it. Yet she needs Simon because he understands the human side of her. He understands where she came from and her past, and he keeps her grounded through all of this fantasy she’s going through.”
LADIES SUPPORTING LADIES │More often than not television lacks a central focus on the importance of female relationships, which we often find them pitting women against women. One of the relationships that McNamara is most excited for fans to see is that between Clary and Isabelle because it really focuses on the cultivation of that relationship and two strong women being strong without tearing each other down.
“So often you get two strong female characters, one who’s established and one who’s new to a certain world, and they often clash and it becomes a competition; it becomes a cat fight,” she said. “That’s old hat; we’ve seen that story a million times over. That never happens; it doesn’t happen in the books, and it doesn’t happen in the series. Emeraude and I have had such a great time playing that relationship and appreciating that fact that we can be two strong women who have a sisterly relationship in life and on screen. That’s something that I think is really unique about Shadowhunters.”
MAKING FANTASY A REALITY │While The Mortal Instruments has always been a thrilling, exciting adventure, and its core it’s been the relationships that have resonated with fans and made the series one that has had such a profound impact on so many people. For McNamara, that’s her favorite part about the books and about Shadowhunters.
“My favorite thing about Shadowhunters is that even though it takes place in this fantastical world that’s very different from our own, the characters are so relatable, and so rich and so diverse. Even though each character seems like one thing at the beginning of the story, they’ve force into these situations and they’re forced to really go to a vulnerable place and expose a part of themselves that kind if breaks their stereotype and changes your opinion of them as you read more. That’s something that’s very true about each one of us.”
THE CAST DYNAMIC │It was clear from the start that the cast of Shadowhunters was composed of a diverse group of people who all instantly clicked. Whether it was the behind the scenes photos or live streams of late night games of Werewolf, the chemistry is definitely there. McNamara called the cast “another family,” one that has already been through so much together even before the series’ debut.
“Being a bit younger than all of them it’s been really kind of amazing for me because I’ve been able to learn so much from each one of them,” she said. “Because we all come from such different backgrounds and we’re all such different people and we have different pasts and we grew up in different places, coming together it creates this weird sense of harmony because we all learn from each other, and we all have different experiences, and we all respect each other both as artists and as people.”
But aside from the fun and games of it all – which are always to be had – McNamara credits this cast with helping her grow both as an actor and as a person.
“Personally and professionally I’ve learned so much. I respect each one of them massively, and I don’t think we could get together and not have fun. Even if we tried to not have fun, I just think that’s an impossibility. I’m really grateful to have a group like that to share this experience with, and there’s no one else that I’d rather share it with.”
Shadowhunters premieres Tuesday, Jan. 12 at 9/8c on Freeform.