Shadowhunters 101 - Katherine McNamara and director McG
Shadowhunters 101 "The Mortal Cup" - Behind the Scenes: Clary (Katherine McNamara) and director McG © 2015 Disney Enterprises, photo by John Medland

The popular novels The Mortal Instruments, which has 35 million books in print, comes to TV under the title Shadowhunters, starring Katherine McNamara as Clary, a human/angel hunting for demons.

Katherine came to the TV Critics tour, along with the series Executive Producer, McG, to talk about the show, which premiered on the Freeform Channel (formerly known as ABC Family) on January 12th 2016.

Shadowhunters 101 - Director McG, Katherine McNamara and Maxim Roy
Shadowhunters 101 “The Mortal Cup” – Behind the Scenes: director McG, Clary (Katherine McNamara) and Jocelyn Fray (Maxim Roy) © 2015 Disney Enterprises, photo by John Medland

You’ve got top genre directors on the series. Was that important to you?

McG: I think we all respect that you need to bring a cinematic experience, week in, week out, or you simply won’t turn on the audience, and we wanted to bring that level of quality to you an hour at a time, week in, week out, so you really feel respected as an audience member, and you get involved in the largeness of the world and the immersion that we’re hoping takes them along the way.

So we wanted to populate our world with directors that understood that, and that was the first question that needed to be asked, and we’re very happy with the job they did, episode in and episode out.

I think that’s the demand of the audience. So, hopefully, we scratch that itch.

Shadowhunters 102 - Dominic Sherwood and Katherine McNamara
Shadowhunters 102 “The Descent Into Hell isn’t Easy” – Jace Wayland (Dominic Sherwood) and Clary (Katherine McNamara) © 2015 Disney Enterprises, photo by John Medland

There are certain characters and pairings from the book series that fans and readers are obviously going to be looking for from the get?go. How fast or slow are you going to evolve these relationships?

Katherine: Basically, Book 1, City of Bones, is kind of the skeleton for our first season, and we still get from point A to B, but the way we do that is a little different, and our very own interpretation.

McG: You’ve got to know what is the spirit of the book, what is the spirit of the expectation, and do what you can to ingest that, define it, and give it back to the hardcore book fan, but also, the uninitiated, who wants to watch television and get involved.

I’m a Game of Thrones fan like the next person. You really have to find that balance, thread that needle, and be successful.

Katherine: When you read a book, you have such a personal experience with it and your own vision. Your own imagination adds so much to it, down to the physical attributes of each character.

And I think each one of us has certain elements of those characters, but, again, we bring our own thing to the show.

Shadowhunters 103 - Dominic Sherwood and Katherine McNamara
Shadowhunters 103 “Dead Man s Party” – Jace Wayland (Dominic Sherwood) and Clary (Katherine McNamara) © 2015 Disney Enterprises, photo by John Medland

Can you describe what you bring to Clary, in terms of similarity or differences?

Katherine: Clary, I feel, is the character that is most similar to who I am, that I’ve ever played. She has this nice blend of strength and vulnerability, that has this ebb and flow throughout the season. And even though she is a warrior, she becomes a warrior throughout the elements and the situations of the season, but she’s very human.

She is a young girl. She’s growing up. She’s making mistakes. She’s learning how to navigate relationships and parents and everything that growing up involves, and I feel that I bring my own personal growing?up experience to that.

But, also, she’s fiercely loyal to her friends and to the people that she loves, and she would do anything for them. And I would like to think that if I were put into a situation, I would react the same way.

Clary has a very distinctive look. In the book, was she written as having bright red hair.

Katherine: Yes. Clary’s hair color is very much an extension of who she is as a human being. She is a very fiery, stubborn at times, individual, and that internal fire comes out in her hair color, and that’s a choice that we made.

We spent several  weeks throughout the first episode figuring out the exact shade, and it’s not a color that I would do for any other character. It’s become so specific to this character that I really love the personification.

Shadowhunters 104 - Matthew Daddario, Katherine McNamara and Dominic Sherwood
Shadowhunters 104 “Raising Hell” – Magnus Bane (Harry Shum Jr) ©2015 Disney Enterprises, photo by Sven Frenzel / Freeform

Did it take so long to get the series together because of the special effects?

McG: That’s part of the respect as well, that you have this visual effects component. You have these large sets. And you really go as far as you can take it with the fundamental parameters of episodic television.

You go as far as you can take it, to really bring that production value in that world building, as you tell these delicate stories of experiencing things so intensely for the first time, whether it’s your sexual orientation, or love of any sort, of all these different things.

It’s done in a way that I think is most understandable and exciting for our audience. At least that’s the goal.

Katherine McNamara Soundbyte

Katherine was asked when, like her character, was she ever thrown into a new and scary world. Click play below for her reply!

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.