This week, we had the amazing opportunity to have our very own Isaiah Mustafa on the phone for an interview. We spent fun-filled quality time with him talking all things Luke and Shadowhunters. He teased a possible blooper compilation, talked at length about Luke’s backstory but also confessed about him possibly directing an episode in further seasons. Isaiah shared with us some of his thoughts regarding Luke’s feelings these past two seasons. Besides, we got the chance to talk about his relationship with Matthew and Harry, both on and off screen.
SDN: Over the past two seasons we’ve seen Luke progress and go through a massive emotional change – majorly triggered by the loss of Jocelyn earlier in Season 2. How important was it to not only show the emotional side and how it affected Luke but also how he moved on from it and progressed afterwards?
Isaiah: I think the driving force behind Luke in the first half of Season 2, was how he tried to mend the wounds of Jocelyn’s death but in the second half he started to realize that since he is the pack leader that he has to move his attention away from grieving and more so toward taking care of his pack.
SDN: We explored a little of Luke’s backstory way back in season 1, do you think there’s more the show could explore in terms of the aftermath of Luke becoming a werewolf? His struggles and how he coped with it? Did seeing everyone turning their back on him, including his Parabatai and his sister, forge him as a person?
Isaiah: The cool thing, the show is doing right now, is, instead of showing how Luke dealt with becoming a werewolf, they’re showing how just in general werewolves deal with what they have to go through. They’re including new characters from the books like Bat, and of course Maia, but while they introduce them, they take you through their transition and what they’re dealing with.
So, you don’t get Luke’s experience but you do get a general werewolf experience. Maybe later on, and hopefully in other seasons, you will get to explore a little bit more of Luke’s past and what was happening to him when he was turned.
And as far as dealing with his Parabatai and his sister, I think that’s a really big opportunity for future plotlines. If you want to show what Luke’s family life was like and also the bond he had between him and Valentine. I’m not sure what direction they want to go but I think that’s what they might touch on a little bit more in this season. Just to give you a deeper understanding of who Luke is.
SDN: So while we got a bit more of Maia’s backstory in Season 2, we can hope to learn a bit more about Luke’s in the upcoming season?
Isaiah: They don’t really tell us too much so I can’t really say whether that’s true or false but what I can tell you, is, that you will get a greater sense of who Luke is, towards the middle and end of the first 10 episodes.
SDN: That’s what you deserve. We can’t wait to see more of Luke!
Isaiah: I see a lot of people online saying that especially because Luke is a main character he could use more attention and while that might be true, he is not the main character so you have to construct his storyline around what Clary and the other main characters are doing. But, of course, you get pieces of Luke’s history and his life and as the show goes on you get a better understanding of who he is. It’s much like unfolding an onion; it’s about the layers.
SDN: As we know, Luke fought another Alpha in season one which made him the new leader of the New York pack. It must have been a difficult path for him as his position in the pack changed drastically. What would you say helped Luke be the leader that he is now?
Isaiah: I think being in the Circle definitely taught Luke about hierarchy and leadership. He probably learned a lot about being a leader by watching and following Valentine in the early days of the Circle but once Luke became a werewolf he had to adjust to their ways.
If you think of dogs and the way they behave in a pack; they understand what is going on and they simply fall in line. They know who their pack leader is and how to react to and with him. But being a New York City police cop, he definitely also learned some structure while being in the police department and during his training. So for the television version of Luke there are a lot of different aspects that came together to give him that impeccable sense of leadership.
SDN: Luke had some great fight scenes this season. His fight scenes are among the best on the show. Yet, his character always seems to be seeking peace and aiming towards that goal. We also got to see that, even though he has been betrayed by people close to him in the past, he puts his trust not only in those dearest to him, like Clary, but also people like Raphael, Magnus and Alec who so far only stood in professional relation to him. Do you think it is hard for Luke to trust others or does it come to him easily despite his past experiences?
Isaiah: That’s a tough one to answer because how do you really gain trust? Just on experience. That is how trust grow, so I would say, that his experience is actually where he’s got it from. But it is also a day to day thing because you have to experience all kinds of different people and things to be able to really grasp what they are, individually, and learn the boundaries within the relationship you have with them.
SDN: And as a parent it all comes down to trusting your teenage daughter as well, doesn’t it?
Isaiah: Are you talking about Luke or about me? (laughs) Teenagers have more power than they realize. Parents are always kind of on edge with teenagers because they are highly emotional so they allow the Teenager to push their boundaries. You don’t want to clamp them down because you want to give them the freedom to express themselves, you want to see them grow and blossom. You let them go until they stumble and fall and then you are right there to pick them back up and point them into the right direction, hoping they will allow you to guide them.
SDN: We’ve seen the beginning of a professional relationship between Luke and Alec in season two. The two of them trying to do what’s best for their people, which in a way, brings them both together as leaders. How was it to work with Matthew on scenes like these, knowing that Luke had been an Alpha for a while and Alec was just named as Head of the Institute?
Isaiah: Matthew and I have a great relationship anyway so it is really easy to work with him in any kind of capacity. We hang out outside of set so I know him very well. But usually we don’t really discuss the storylines rather than taking the situation and just go with it and this one wasn’t that hard at all.
Luke has known Maryse and Robert for a long time so when the Lightwood children were born, he must have known what kind of family they had been born into. He’s got an understanding idea of this family and he knows how to negotiate with them but he also knows Alec is dealing with a different sort of thing. He just came out so he’s still also kind of dealing with that and I think, Luke understands what it is like to go from being one thing, being seen one way, to becoming something else so it makes it easy for him to be Alec’s liaison because he understands what he must be going through in a way.
SDN: Luke is a former Shadowhunter turned Downworlder. He knows how the Clave works better than most Downworlders, even older and presumably wiser ones. He’s got knowledge on both sides. How does that come into play in his actions and in your choices as an actor? Do you think that was what influenced his decision when it came to the choice of whether or not they should follow the Seelie Queen?
Isaiah: The way I look at it, Luke, having been a Shadowhunter himself once, he knows that world very well. I am sure he is not necessarily too happy with the way the Clave does their business but he knows what it is like to be a Shadowhunter, their ups and downs but now that he is a werewolf, his allegiance is with the Downworld. It is a tightrope and he has to walk it very carefully because he can’t turn his back on his own people but at the same time he understands what the Shadowhunters are trying to achieve and what their overall plan is. They are trying to save the world but the way they go about it isn’t always the best way. They act careless and sometimes hurt the Downworlders or put them in a bad position.
Now, when the Seelie Queen decided on the Downworld’s behalf, Luke clearly did not approve of that because he thought “Hey, I’m not striking a deal with them and I could easily do it because I know how they think. You shouldn’t strike a deal with them either, you should actually protect us first and we should try to exhaust all of our capabilities, all of our possibilities before we go to the Clave or go to Valentine to try and strike a deal.” That is where his reluctance to go along with the Seelie Queen comes from but he really has no choice because, like I said, he is loyal so the first thing, first cause and person he has his allegiance to he’s gonna follow that and that is first and foremost, the Downworld as a whole.
SDN: You’ve recently created an instagram account solely for your photography (@iam_photographs) and you seem to have natural talent behind a camera. Do you think you would ever be interested in directing an episode?
Isaiah: I don’t think it will happen this season. I have a couple of projects I am working on besides Shadowhunters and if they see those projects and like them, hopefully, if we get a Season 4, they would keep me in mind for something; it would be really nice. I would actually love to direct an episode because I truly believe our show is an amazing opportunity for any director to come in and really exhibit their own personality and skills within the genre because it is simply such a fun world to play with.
If you look at Matt Hastings and the way he directs episodes; he is such a throughout and well prepared director that it makes acting easy and that’s why his episodes are some of my favorites and that is also what I would like to do. Making it easy for the actors and have them just kind of step in and do their thing without really having to coach them. I would look forward to just watching them do their work, being able to sit back and watch those talented actors I get to work with, without being in the scene myself.
SDN: When we interviewed Matthew, we asked him a similar question and while he said he would like to direct an episode he would love getting to see you, and Harry, do it first.
Isaiah: We actually talk about this a lot- him, me and Harry also- and I believe that Harry will definitely direct an episode next season. I’m just as much of a fan as you guys are so most of the time I side with you. Whatever the fans want, I kind of find myself wanting the same thing so I think going into directing would be really fun, being able to give the fans the fun things they are looking for.
SDN: We know you guys enjoy working with each other and you always seem to have a great time on set, sharing lots of laughter, but we only get to see so very little of what is happening between scenes. Can you tell us anything about bloopers we might have missed out on, maybe?
Isaiah: Oh my gosh, I wish you guys could see the bloopers because what we do is just silly. Sometimes it is just so hard to keep a straight face. Two nights ago, when we were working, Emeraude was laughing so hard because of the way Harry would say the word “Catarina”. He kept saying it real funny for some reason but once one person starts to laugh, everybody else does too. You can’t control yourself and sometimes it doesn’t even take that much; just one person to kind of giggle a little bit and then it is like an explosion. It just starts to spread like a disease and you can’t help it. But I think they heard you guys. If I am not entirely mistaken, I heard Matt Hastings say something about having to keep the bloopers because he thinks people would want to see more of that.
SDN: Everyone knows what an amazing and unique friendship you share with Harry and Matthew off screen. How is it working with the two of them and can we hope for a closer connection between your characters in the upcoming season?
Isaiah: Two nights ago the three of us were in a scene together and it is always fun working with those guys because I am always at ease with them, not that this isn’t the case with anybody else but it is fun to know that when the fans see Luke, Alec and Magnus on screen together, they’re really watching to see what we’re up to and to see the little things we do, that only the fans would notice and pick up on. Two nights ago during that scene, there is a moment when Alec says “Alright, we have to do something. We have to leave.” and Harry and I, we go to leave, turn right through the door and then we wait and went back left. We kept doing funny things to see if the fans would notice. It’s just fun to work with those two. It’s really exciting.
SDN: We notice everything.
Isaiah: Oh, we know. We know you guys do and we love it.
SDN: When the three of you are in a scene together the ease just appears so natural and not forced or acted at all.
Isaiah: It is really easy to work with them. Out of the cast, I hang out with Harry and Matthew the most. They are closer to my age range.
SDN: We hope you get to continue to work together like that. We love the dynamic between your characters.
Isaiah: Oh, so do we!
Isaiah, thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions. It was a pleasure for us to have an in-depth conversation about you and your character. We look forward to finding out more about Luke, but also about your side projects and to see what you have in store for us with your photography and possible directing. We are excited about your character’s future storyline and what is planned for season 3 of Shadowhunters.