Last weekend members of the ShumDario News team attended The Italian Institute convention in Milan, Italy, which featured several stars from Freeform’s hit sci-fi/fantasy series Shadowhunters. While at the convention our team had the privilege of sitting down to interview several members of the cast to ask them a few questions. In this first interview we spoke with Alberto Rosende about his character’s journey so far this season, and we were lucky enough to have Katherine McNamara join in for part of it as well. They were both an absolute pleasure to speak with and we loved hearing their insights about Simon and Clary.
SDN: We know you are fans of the book series – both of you actually – what advice would you give to the longtime fans of Clary’s character who might be concerned with some of the changes to her story?
Katherine: I would say: “stick with us” because the Clary in the books, especially by now, is very different than the Clary in the show. Because of everything that’s happened, because Jocelyn was killed, because Simon became a vampire earlier, because a lot of things – the timing of things, the order of things – shifted. It’s caused Clary to mature in a very different way, and so her path is different. While she’s still the same person, she has developed in a way that she doesn’t in the books. It’s still the same world, it’s still the same story, but we’re trying to get people who love the books a fresh perspective and a way to re-experience that first read excitement all over again. So just stick with us and I think you’ll be pretty happy, especially with the way season two ends. (laughs) You know what I’m talking about.
SDN: In a very short period of time Simon has really experienced a hero’s journey in season two. Having only been a vampire for a few weeks – I always forget the timeline, do you think he’ll continue to be seen as this sort of valiant and noble character? Or, as we saw a bit in this week’s episode, will he struggle with his demon-blooded side?
Alberto: I think you’ll definitely see him searching for that. But I think valiant, noble, courageous, those are all attributes given to someone who is becoming something. There’s a thing like, “courage isn’t the absence of fear, its overcoming fear.” Valiant isn’t being afraid to act and not doing something. They’re all actions that then these words get attached to because of actions, and choices. The choices that Simon has. And he continues to make choices that are who he is. Aristotle and his poetics talks about characters and what they do, so people say “Simon, you’re so courageous”, why? Because the actions he’s continuing to do, people attach as courageous. Because you can see he’s afraid, you can see it’s something that other people could say “I don’t want to do that… that could put me in danger.” But he continues to be selfless and look to be better regardless of what might happen to him.
Now you’re entering a journey that he has to deal with. This discovery that there still is that monster within him, this discovery that this demon blood does affect him in a way that he didn’t understand until this last episode. But he can do one thing, he can choose to quit and say “I’m a monster”, or he can continue to try to live the life he wants to live. And you can’t ever forget that no one does anything alone. There are tons of people that are always supporting you rather or not you realize it and thankfully, Simon has been surrounded by Clary, and Luke, and the Shadowhunters and people that have been an inspiration for him and people that will continue to help put him in the right direction. Even Raphael.
While they have a contentious relationship, Raphael, in the end, always has the best intentions for Simon because he’s a vampire. Raphael has a responsibility he takes very seriously about protecting the vampires. In all of the meetings you’ve seen, his first thought is “what about the vampires?” Not “what about myself? What about our political statute?” No, it’s always “what is best for my people?” and “what is best then for the Downworld?” and then “what is best for the Shadow world?” His priorities are very straightforward and in his actions you see that. So, repeat the question, because I think I was on the right track.
SDN: Do you think he’ll continue to be seen as this sort of valiant and noble character? Or, as we saw a bit in this week’s episode, will he struggle with his demon-blooded side?
Alberto: You know, as with any true hero’s journey, there has to be that moment where the hero falls. There has to be that moment because then it is not a true hero’s journey. He has to overcome an obstacle in order for it to be truthful, in order for it to be real. So yeah, I think this is one of those moments where there might be a fall but… how do I put it without saying what happens? The Simon we know, the Simon I’ve come to know, is one that will continue to work to be the best he can be and work to be a better man, a better vampire, a better friend.
SDN: He’s starting to grow on me a lot. (Davina)
Katherine: He’s pretty special.
SDN: So the next question is actually perfect because the both of you are here. Now that Clary and Simon have broken up and gone back to being friends—
Katherine: Sort of. (laughs)
SDN: —Would you like to see both of them take some time before jumping into another relationship with whoever it might be? Or do you think they’re really emotionally ready to go either with Jace or with Izzy?
Alberto: One thing I’ll say is that I’ve learned you never know what’s gonna happen when it comes to relationships. You can end one and be fully saying “screw this, I’m not dating for ten years! I gotta work on me! I’ve got to do me from now on!” and next thing you know you bump into someone at the store and you’re like “wow, it’s my next girlfriend! Can’t wait to date her!” It happens. So I think, one thing I hope is that they continue to be open and not closed – because that’s one thing you can’t ever do is close yourself. And there are times when you understand that you might be closed, but you can’t do that actively. It has to be something you have to be aware of within yourself, “oh no I’m still open for this” or “you know what, now I’m closed and now is not that time” and you’ll be aware of it. I think that’s something you’ll come to see. Simon has a journey where I think he fights that. I don’t know if jumping into something would be the best thing but I don’t know if not jumping into something would be the best thing. It’s one of those places where it’s completely up in the air, and they just have to take one step at a time.
Katherine: From Clary’s perspective, Simon has always been her rock and the last thing she would have ever wanted to do is hurt him. Because if there’s any relationship that means the most to her, it’s her relationship with Simon. And after everything that happened — knowing that she’s lost their romantic relationship and all but lost their friendship because of everything that kind of transpired —
Alberto: When you made out with a guy right in front of me?
Katherine: Would you rather have died?
Alberto: Probably. (laughs)
Katherine: Her whole world is upside down and she’s definitely not ready to even deal with at all Jace. So instead she tries to throw herself into work. That doesn’t really work out so well because the work she’s thrown into is a mission with Jace. So she was kind of forced to confront things before she was ready to and how that plays out and what that causes is very interesting. It serves as this kind of catalyst for the rest of what happens in the season. She’s confused for a while. She doesn’t really know because she’s been trying to fight her feelings for Jace for so long that she doesn’t really know what she feels anymore. She has to take a minute to self-reflect at the heart of that. She makes a few mistakes on the way.
SDN: A few… It’s only been a few weeks. It feels like it’s been longer.
Katherine: I know! Well, in the story, it’s been… a day? A day since the Seelie Court.
SDN: And we thought we had a busy week!
Alberto: For real, though…
Katherine: We did the math and the entirety of the first two seasons takes place in 45 days.
Alberto: It’s a month and a half.
SDN: Alberto, one overarching theme this season has been the question of Downworlders’ inability to control their impulses. As a result, do you suspect Simon will continue to bond more with his fellow Downworlders in season three? And if so, how might that affect his friendship with Clary?
Alberto: Well, I think Simon will definitely find comfort in someone who understands his experience and can truly understand him, where he is and where he’s going. Someone who understands that journey. Unfortunately, Shadowhunters don’t understand that. Not in the same way. And I think that’s something that will definitely have him seek that more. Because when you’re trying to understand something, what’s better than finding someone else that has gone through the same thing? There’s nothing better than that. To be like, “oh, you get everything about this, it’s not just the surface level. You know the little thoughts we think when we’re alone, you know what it’s like to go through this, and you understand in a more complete and deeper sense than someone who can only see it from this outside perspective.”
So I think that it will strengthen his relationship with other Downworlders but I don’t think that’s mutually exclusive of not keeping the Shadowhunters close. But that will help, finding people that understand.
Kat: I think it was right what you said at the end of the last episode. You need time. They both do. Because so much has happened, they just need a minute to reflect.
SDN: We know the relationship between Clary and Isabelle is a fan favorite. Will we see the two of them continue to grow closer as friends and lean on each other?
Katherine: In Monday’s episode you did get to see Clary and Izzy together in a very different situation, but they’re definitely both a part of the same mission. I find that relationship so important because it would have been so easy to have these two strong women in a situation where they’re the only women that you really see, and put them in a competition with each other. To have them constantly fighting, and constantly vying for whatever the position is. You never see that on the show and I think that’s so brilliant. I have such respect for the writers and the creators of this world and that every single female character is strong, is in power, can fight their own battles, but in a different way.
For example, take Clary, Maia and Isabelle. They’re three completely different women but they’re all strong, three-dimensional characters in their own right. I think that’s such a great example for young women to look to and say “no matter who you are, no matter what you are, no matter what your interests are or what you’re comfortable with, you can be this. And you can get along with other women and work together with other women,” and I find that amazing.
(Kat had to leave)
SDN: Alberto, you had a fight scene in episode 15. How much training do you have to do for such a scene and what’s the process behind it?
Well, I’ve been stunt training the whole time, just kind of picking up what I can, learning as much as I can because it might benefit me as an actor later on –
SDN: Yeah, we are following Nuno… (👀)
(laughs) Yeah, and then also with Darren and our stunt coordinators, I love learning. Like I said, athletics has always been a big part of my life, I always played sports, but learning fights, like boxing and stuff, has been really fun. The process for that was that they had us come in on a day we weren’t working, for a three hour rehearsal where our stunt guys show us the fight and teach us step by step. At first, it’s very slow. Because eventually we’re using these weapons that can actually hurt someone, so we start with using these wooden stakes and it’s very slow learning the different steps and they want to the basics of staff movements. Then slowly you start learning the first steps and then you do it faster, then faster, then you build, and then slow again.
SDN: This is like choreography.
It’s like standard choreography. It’s a choreographed dance. It’s the same thing but instead of ballet, it’s fighting. And then, the cool thing is that slowly, you build up a performance. So you build up to Simon protecting himself at the beginning and eventually comes the part when he feels like he has to attack because he’s like, “this is bullshit, I’m gonna get my ass kicked!” So he attacks and there’s something there. So you build the performance of the fight after you’ve learned the technical steps so that it’s safe. Safety is always the biggest precaution. It’s always the biggest worry and concern when you’re fighting because they’re using weapons that can really injure someone and the last thing you want to do is injure someone else.
So you have one day of stunt rehearsal, we get the fight. Then on the day, you rehearse it as much as you can, even if it’s you and the other actor. So you rehearse 50%, and then 80% and then we call Darren, our stunt coordinator, and do it at 100%. Then they break it down in the space and they make sure it all works within the space. It’s all very regimented, very choreographed. It’s very important that it is that way.
It’s actually a lot of fun. There’s actually one part – I think it was actually the take they used – if you watch when Quinn hits Simon one, two and he like really swings, that actually hit me in the face and it got me like right here. So I had a little red mark for the rest of the day. But it was lucky, it wasn’t bad. But you can do it as much as you can and it’s still a little dangerous. But safety is the main concern and it’s always step by step and growing and building slowly until you get to that performance level.
SDN: Are we going to see more of Simon singing and developing his band again? Or even a solo act and what kind of song would you like your character to sing for future seasons maybe?
As of right now, I really love the music they’re writing for Simon. Because I think, in the books, it’s very different than the music he was writing and singing. Remember he was more like indie rock and that was kinda where we were in season one, he had his guitar. Now it’s getting more electronic and I think it speaks to the evolution of who he is. Now he’s exploring another version of music just like he’s learning to explore another side of himself.
The next song… he is singing another song. Darren or Todd, one of our showrunners tweeted about it. It’s called Royal Blue. I forgot what episode it’s in but I think one thing that’s cool about Simon, it’s that if you listen to the words in Fragile World, even the title, you can see that he’s trying to express his feelings through his music. And that’s one thing I think I love about meeting artists and learning more about artists. They do that, they try to express themselves through their art. It’s like another form of communication almost. My friend James Boland is very much like that. In a lot of his songs, when you know him, you can see where that moment was in his life. That’s super cool because it’s so clear and it’s so beautiful. So I hope that he continues exploring music and I want him to do more next season. I would really love to see that become… not a focal point but something that you see quite a few times. Also, I love singing and performing and I think the music that Sam Hollander, the guy who’s been writing music for me, has been amazing so I hope we continue moving in that direction and keep it in the style it is right now.
SDN: Simon’s Jewish faith is a huge part of who he is of course. Is there someone on set or in the Shadowhunters team who teaches you about Jewish religious customs and pronunciations of words?
Yes. Actually, we have quite a few people that are Jewish on set, which has really been helpful. I do as much of my own research as I can, but when it comes to speaking Hebrew, I needed help. There are a couple of writers that called and helped, and they sent me a recording. Also, our sound guy is from Israel. So for him, I would say, “what do you think about this?” he goes “well, the Israeli pronunciation of that would this, but the American pronunciation would be this, so you can choose which one”. I can ask him any question and he is always more than willing to help.
There are some things in Simon’s house, that if you go back to Monday’s episode and look in the background you’ll see some items which are very important. It was Yom Kippur for Simon which was very cool, because you don’t see a lot of that representation on TV. And especially how important it is to Simon. It is a big part of his character. For anyone who is religious or has a faith or a belief system, it’s always a big part of who they are, regardless if it’s religion, spiritual or something else. So I love that they keep that true in the show because it’s something that I personally think is very important for Simon. Like for me, it’s something to attach to myself. It was raised as a Catholic so I know what that means to my family, what the traditions mean and the understanding of where I came from, like the culture of Christmas and Easter, how important that was for me. So that understanding of how important these customs are just transfers over and the customs just change. Instead of Easter and Christmas, it’s Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah and all the other holidays that are important for Simon.
SDN: Even for the people who know nothing about it, it’s really interesting.
Well, that’s what’s interesting. It makes you curious, and the more you read about different faiths, the more you understand. They’re all the same… What’s the quote from Life of Pi? “Religion is a house but with many rooms.”
SDN: What do you think makes Simon such a lovable character, apart from his sense of humor and one-liners?
I don’t know… I feel like he’s very open. He doesn’t really hold a lot close to the chest, in a sense that you always kind of know where he is. If he’s upset, you know he’s upset. If he’s happy, you know he’s happy. If he’s scared, you know he’s scared. He’s not someone who is afraid to hide what’s happening with him. A lot of people are. Like Shadowhunters are trained to mask their emotions. Their emotions are, you know, that whole fight they talked about and learning how to balance that now is where they struggle whereas Simon was never taught that. Simon is always open as a person.
SDN: Since Simon and Clary came into the life of the Shadowhunters, they’re not hiding it that well.
Exactly. They added a very human element. I think that has to be part of it, he’s very open. And I think he’s very truthful, in a sense that he’s very true to himself. And honesty is always endearing in people. When a person is very honest, you tend to gravitate toward them because you know they’re gonna be whatever they are. They’re not hiding, they’re not masking. They’re honest. And for me, it’s an endearing quality.
SDN: Will Simon’s experience in the bleeder den in episode 15 change him or affect his journey through the rest of 2B?
That’s a big question. I mean, naturally, every experience you have changes you as a person. Every day you wake up, you’re different hopefully.
I think it definitely does and I’m excited for everyone to see how he changes and grows in the next episodes. And in season 3, I’m excited to see how that grows as well.
SDN: Who would you wish to have more scenes with? Matt told us in Paris he’d like to see Alec have a scene with Simon. Tell us how you think that would turn out.
I would love to have scenes with Meliorn. I haven’t worked with Jade yet. He’s the one person I talk to the most that I haven’t worked with so it’d be really fun. Also, Jade and I, we talk about the craft a lot and we talk about acting in the way that we both really appreciate so it would be really fun to see his process. Like, real time. Not just hear about it or not just come to him with questions about something I’m working on. It’d be really cool to be in a scene with him because when you’re in a scene with someone, it’s like that give and take and you get to really see them give and they get to see how much you can give and I think we’d have a lot of fun.
Jade (in the background): I agree.
SDN: They could bond over their hate for Jace.
Alberto: And a scene with Alec, I don’t know. Because I know Simon and Alec, fundamentally, aren’t… you know, Alec, in season 1, their relationship fundamentally was “I can’t be around this anymore. I gotta go.” So that’s pretty much been the only interaction they had. They had one line together in 2B so far, that’s when he’s at the Jade Wolf and they walk in and he’s like, “yeah, a Shadowhunter is dead because of a werewolf.” That’s like the first time they see each other so I really would like to see how their relationship is now, knowing everything that Simon has done, everything that Simon has gone through and everything that Alec has gone through. They’re all very different from when they started this journey together in the Shadow world and it’d be really cool to check in every once in a while. When you don’t see someone all the time and a lot of stuff has happened, it’s always cool to see them again and ask where they are now and see how they’ve grown. And sometimes, you haven’t grown. Why? You know, I’d like to see a scene like that, just to check in.
SDN: Where do you see your character at the end of the show?
I don’t know. That’s my answer. I really don’t know. It’s not that I’m trying to not give spoilers.
SDN: Alive, to start with?
Well, Simon’s not alive. (laugh) I can just say I don’t know where he is because I don’t think it does.
We hope you enjoyed learning more about Simon and Clary from Alberto and Katherine’s perspectives. It’s always so fascinating to get more insight into their lives working on the Shadowhunters set as well. It is very evident that both of these actors have spent a lot of time thinking about their characters and their stories, and really putting in the extra effort to take the audience on a journey with them each week. We really appreciate Alberto and Katherine taking time out of their busy convention schedule to speak with us and we hope you’ll all tune in to watch Shadowhunters and see the amazing work they’re doing each Monday evening on Freeform.