Next up in our interview series with the cast of Shadowhunters is the woman whose character started it all: Katherine McNamara, also known as Shadowhunters’ feisty yet kind-hearted protagonist Clary Fray. In the following interview Katherine talks about the end of Clary’s story, what Clary has in common with her Arrow character Mia and how she as an actress tries to step up to the responsibility her job entails.
SDN: Clary had a really strong emotional support group around her through her entire journey from season 1 to season 3. What were the greatest lessons you think that for example Luke, Magnus, and Alec gave her?
Katherine: I think Alec taught her to stay true to what she believes in, and to stick by her moral guns. Magnus taught her that being open and being willing to accept other people, and to accept change and I guess being fluid in a sense, is also important. I think Jace taught her how to fight and how to love, and how passion can really influence you. And Luke is always there to ground her and teach her to take a minute and think, and be that rock for her. Simon as well is there to remind her who she is, and remind her that life isn’t always to be taken so seriously, and to stop and realize what a crazy world she’s living in. I think Isabelle taught her how to be regal and beautiful and badass; how to be beautiful and how to fight at the same time. Who am I forgetting? Is that everybody?
SDN: Yeah, the main group, her family.
Immediately after losing her memories, Clary ended up in the middle of New York with no place to live, her mother gone, her apartment burned out, and probably no recent memories at least of Luke and Simon either. What do you think those first few days and weeks were like for her?
Katherine:I think they were very confusing. The only way I can logic that she figured out who she was, and her way back to a life at all, is that she must have been wandering in New York, very confused, trying to figure something out. And she must have run into someone that she knew beforehand, who had nothing to do with the Shadow World, but had to do with her old art life, somebody who’d go “Oh my god Clary, are you okay, what’s wrong? Let me help you.” And her going “I don’t know,” so [them] having to assume that she must have suffered some kind of accident and had a bit of amnesia. That would be the only logical mundane explanation for what she just went through.
I think that it just must have been very confusing, and sort of going back to how she was in the beginning – where she knew what she wanted and what she loved, but there was a piece missing. And I think that missing piece was just a lot bigger for her now, because there’s a huge chunk of herself and her life and her heart that was sort of shut down. But I don’t think it was ever really 100% gone. There are obviously remnants and fragments there as you can see in her artwork and as you can see in the fact that she did know Jace’s name, and she recognized him at the end. Who’s to say when or if those memories return, but I know that her attachment to the Shadow World and that love that she and Jace share, and that she shares with the people in the Shadow World, will never go away.
SDN: How long do you think it took for her to regain her first fragments of memories after she left the Institute?
Katherine: I think they were always there. I think it just took her a minute to figure out what they were and what they meant, you know?
SDN: Well, you already mentioned it, and actually we talked about it with Dominic and Matthew before: There’s the moment in the alley, it’s like a hopeful moment at the end, with Jace attending Clary’s art exhibition and her remembering him. Do you have any theories on how their story went after that?
Katherine: I think Clary would have gone back to the Shadow World eventually. I don’t know exactly how or why it would have happened, but I think Jace would not have let that go. Because that’s all Jace needed to really pursue it again, that spark, that “Oh, there’s something still there.” Because if she was happy and living her own life, he would have never wanted to take her away from that. But clearly there was something unsettled about her, and if he can help her with that, of course he’s going to, because he’s Jace and he’s wonderful. But I think with Clary too, perhaps she remembered everything in that instant, perhaps she never forgot it all in the first place, or perhaps her memories are going to come back little by little, maybe they never will. We don’t know. The important thing is that she’s found her family again.
SDN: She did, yeah. At least we have the hope that she did.
You personally have been very busy since we last talked to you. You wrapped up Shadowhunters, joined the cast of Arrow, shot a movie in Ireland, and your characters in all three projects are very strong and badass. Do they have any other similarities, and what are the biggest differences?
Katherine: I think especially between Clary and Mia, they’re both very passionate about who they love and what they believe in. And they would throw themselves in front of anything for those people and for those causes. As to how they differ, Mia is a lot less hopeful than Clary. Mia was raised in a very harsh world and is very much a product of that and is very affected by that. Whereas Clary is sort of this ember of undying hope and will always find a way to believe that things will be okay. Mia is more of a survivor, she’s one to assume that “No, it’s not going to be okay and it’s all going to go horribly, and I’m going to fight my way out of this, but I’m going to live, and I’m going to make it to the other side.” So it’s a very different perspective, but still the same heart, in a sense.
SDN: That’s amazing; we love those similarities between Mia and Clary. They’re so similar but also different. If they ever got the chance to meet each other, how do you think that first encounter would go?
Katherine: (Laughs) Well, I think it depends on the situation, but I think Mia would not trust Clary at all, she’d maybe try to fight Clary. And Clary would be like “Whoa, whoa, whoa, hey, listen. I’m just trying to talk, I’m just trying to be friends here, what’s going on?” But then no, I think eventually once they sort all that out, I think they’d be good friends.
SDN: You recently got promoted to series regular on Arrow. First of all, congratulations on that. We’re very happy for you. With your character Mia being the daughter of Oliver Queen, you got to pick up the bow yourself. Did Matthew give you any advice or have you ever done archery?
Katherine: I actually did ask him [while working on] season 1, because I did archery in girl scouts as a kid. So season 1, I would shoot the bow around with Matt a little bit, when we had the archery bow in the studio, you know. I just know Matt worked really hard on it and I spoke to him a little bit about it. But ultimately I’ve had a lot of training through Arrow, our trainer is a master archer. She’s one of very few in the world, and she’s incredible and such a badass herself. I’ve learned so much.
SDN: That’s amazing. And we all learn from the characters you guys portray, so it’s always great to see how you guys feel that as well.
Katherine: Oh, one hundred percent.
SDN: You’ve also been filming a movie recently, There You’ll Find Me. Can you tease anything about the project and your character in it?
Katherine: It’s a rom-com about a girl who goes to Ireland and meets a boy on the plane who happens to be a movie star. And I play the lead actress in the movie that he’s shooting, so that’s why it looks like a period piece, but it’s really not. It’s a movie within a movie. But it was really fun to shoot, I mean Ireland was beautiful and I got to wear princess dresses for most of the movie, so it was pretty great. I had a good time. Very different character than I’ve played in a long time.
SDN: We’re really excited to see it. For the movie, you’ve actually been working with Vanessa Redgrave, who has been in the industry for so long and is a big name. Did you get to shoot any scenes together, and if so what was it like?
Katherine: I actually didn’t get to shoot any scenes with her and nor did I actually get to see her, but I met her a long time ago when she was doing Driving Miss Daisy on Broadway. I went to go see it and I met her afterward, and she was so lovely then and took a lot of time to just sit and chat with a random girl who happened to be seeing the show. So I have nothing but love and respect for that woman.
SDN: That’s lovely. You can attest to how incredibly fast-moving the industry is, you always seem to have several projects going on at the same time. How do you keep a level head?
Katherine: I think ultimately what I’ve learned is that it’s really important to prioritize, and to make sure that if you’re going to push yourself and push your ability to do things, that you make sure it’s worth your time and worth your energy, and it’s something you really, really want to do. And ultimately for me, yes I have a crazy schedule, yes I’m always flying somewhere, doing something, working really hard. But it’s for things that I love and for things that are really important to me, and so it’s worth it. It’s worth losing a little bit of sleep, it’s worth sleeping on airplanes for a few nights in a row. It’s worth doing all of that, because they’re things that are very important for me to support and to be there for, and to make sure I fulfill those obligations and those things that I’ve committed to. And because I care so much about this fandom, and it’s very important to me all the work you guys have done, and I really want to do something to honor that and respect that and support that in any way that I can, which is why I do the things I do. So I think it’s just important for people to listen to yourself and make sure you do what you can, but also do what’s important for you.
SDN: The fact that you came to Milan this weekend alone, we’re really grateful. It’s a hassle for you and you’re probably super tired, but we’re really happy to have you.
Katherine: I’m actually okay, oddly. I did nothing but sleep on the plane, I’ve had a lot of coffee today. I’m doing good.
SDN: Shadowhunters has resonated with people all around the world, over different, very important issues. Did working on the show change your perception of what you can do as an actress, and do you feel more responsibility regarding the roles you choose, or the projects you decide to work on?
Katherine: I definitely do feel a responsibility in being in this position. Simply because in this age that we’re in, where entertainers have a little bit of social influence, it’s very important to me to respect that, and to not waste the little bit of voice that I’ve been given. And as far as it comes to what roles and what projects I choose, yes and no. Because I think even if you choose a role or a project that’s a bit controversial, you can use that to start a conversation, or to make a statement, or to provide insight into a perspective, or into a world that people might not be talking about because it’s difficult to talk about. And I think that as artists, that’s what we’re supposed to do; it’s to hold a mirror up to society and the human experience, and to force people to ask those questions that would otherwise be more difficult to bring up.
We hope you enjoyed this interview! A big thank you goes out to Katherine McNamara for squeezing us into her busy convention schedule in Milan and for the fun talk! Make sure to follow her on Twitter (@Kat_McNamara) and Instagram (kat.mcnamara) to keep up to date on her upcoming projects and all things Green Arrow and the Canaries. If you’d like to read more interviews with Kat and some of her peers from Shadowhunters, check out our website!
Oh… it looks like the whole team took part in creating this article!