We had the great honor and privilege of interviewing Amanda Row, the director of Shadowhunters’ “Awake, Arise, or Be Forever Fallen“. Amanda, who had previously worked on shows such as Hemlock Grove and Minority Report amongst others, was kind enough to take the time to answer our questions. In our interview, she talked about what it’s like working with Harry Shum Jr. and Matthew Daddario as well as her directing experience.
SDN: “Awake, Arise, or Be Forever Fallen” was the first episode of Shadowhunters you directed. Before you started working with the cast and crew, how did you immerse yourself in the Shadow universe?
Amanda: I worked with Matt Hastings for the entirety of season 2, so in addition to reading the books I was fully immersed in the universe by workplace default. My brain is now totally full of Shadowhunters mythology! I consider myself somewhat of an expert.
Magnus’ gold sheets were not an accident!
SDN: Your work in the film industry keeps expanding. You are a writer, director, but you have also starred in a short film that you’ve produced. Do you think having those different types of experiences enables you to have a better understanding of a script and a better perspective of a scene?
Amanda: I think it gives me better perspective in terms of production – understanding as much as you can about every department means I have a better understanding of what we can and can’t do. Every department on Shadowhunters is brilliant and I’m merely guiding their combined efforts! What you see on the screen in the end is a combination of so many amazing minds.
SDN: Joshua Butler, the director of the season 2 winter finale, told us that in his opinion, directing important scenes was all about finding the unspoken moments. Do you agree with that statement? How would you interpret your way of directing and what would you say is the most important aspect for a director to focus on while shooting an episode?
Amanda: For sure. It’s like that quote: “The music is the silence between the notes.”
The script is the skeleton of the scene, everything else comprises the meat. TV/film is a visual medium, an auditory medium and a written medium – it’s almost every artistic medium combined.
So yes, the dialogue of a scene is just the beginning. One thing I’m always paying attention to is making sure the story connects – while yes, I’m attacking one scene at a time – I have to always be aware of how that scene fits into the arch of the episode. Remembering “the moment before” – which is classic theatre training – seems simple enough, but if not considered it can result in stunted emotional flow throughout an episode. Because you’re often shooting out of order, this is really important.
SDN: Your episode in season 2 was full of emotionally intense scenes all woven together into a wonderfully acted out, but also insanely well choreographed and directed piece. This showcased, not only the immensely talented cast, but also how much dedication is put into it by everyone involved. How do you, as a director with an acting background, approach the actors in preparations of such scenes?
For instance, 2×18 was an important episode for Magnus; he had to make a choice he knew wouldn’t be easy and it is well portrayed in all of Harry Shum Jr’s solo scenes. How did you prepare those scenes with him? Is it important for you to meet the actors’ expectations as well as your own?
Amanda: First of all, thank you! You’re too kind.
In preparation I pour over the script, and come to my own conclusions about the intent behind every line. But when I’m on set, the actor always has a perspective that I may not have thought of myself, so I try to determine the most interesting and authentic performance. It’s always about working together but doing your homework. It’s a combo of being prepared but being open and able to adapt your plan. I think expectations can more often be a hindrance than anything. You end up fixating on why the shot isn’t like you imagined, rather than discovering it.
SDN: Shadowhunters has a huge and very passionate fanbase. The fans care a lot about the characters and are very vocal with their opinions, especially when Magnus and/or Alec are involved. How much did the importance of their relationship – not only to the fans but also the showrunners, crew and both Harry and Matt – influence your preparations for shooting this Malec centric episode? What was it like working with Harry and Matthew on those scenes?
Amanda: We want to make a great show, and we want you all to continue to love and care about these characters. Whether you love the books or have never heard of them, we want to tell stories with characters that are compelling.
There is a certain level of social responsibility we have due to the fan base and the nature of the show, and we genuinely aim for diverse and authentic representation.
The irony of that though, is that the last thing I was thinking about with the Malec scenes was “How do I represent an authentic gay relationship on screen”? I guess it’s a testament to my liberal upbringing, but I just wanted to represent Malec authentically, and hint at the nuances in their unique relationship, find real moments – regardless of the fact that it was a story about two men. I was blown away by the reactions from the LGBTQ fans, and as a bisexual woman myself, am so honoured to be able to have told that story.
Shout out to Jamie Gorenberg who really nailed it with the words, ”Harry and Matt have real chemistry on set, and they have lots of fun with each other.”
They both also have very clear ideas of who their characters are and care about them deeply. It’s always a pleasure to work with that sort of rare kinship.
SDN: We’re excited to have you back as a director for season 3, and knowing that you recently returned to set, we were wondering if there was anything you’d like to achieve this time around that you didn’t get to do in 2×18? Do you feel any kind of added pressure considering how well-received your previous episode has been, both by the fans and the media?
Amanda: I’ve already shot and cut episode 3 at this point and won’t be back again until next year for another episode, so I hope I delivered something you’ll all like!
It’s for sure a very different episode than my last (as all of them are) and I got to explore themes and tones and characters that I haven’t ventured into yet.
And yes, of course there’s pressure! You guys are some of the most demanding fans I’ve ever heard of. But I suppose it’s like a nagging mother, it’s all ultimately from a place of fierce love!
I hope I made you guys proud – I tried my best!
Amanda, thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions. It was fascinating to learn more about the directing process of Shadowhunters, as well as getting a deeper insight into both preparation for scenes and Harry and Matt’s relationship to their characters.
We couldn’t be more excited to see what you and the cast and crew put together for episode 3×03!
Oh… it looks like the whole team took part in creating this article!