Throughout season 3A of Shadowhunters there was mostly one villain keeping the Shadowhunters on their toes: Lilith, Queen of Hell. However, when Asmodeus came to Earth and Magnus went to Edom in season 3B, Lilith found herself facing quite a few threats of her own. At one of last summer’s Shadowhunters conventions, we got to sit down and talk to Anna Hopkins about that transition of power and its consequences. Check out our interview to find out what she said about Lilith’s motivations, power dynamics in Edom, and how music helps her get into the right mindset for a new character.
SDN: A lot of Lilith’s story is based on ancient mythology. Did you look into it when you were cast, or prepare in some other way for this role?
Anna : Well, the first thing Todd and Darren told me to do… a lot of times when people get cast, they don’t have a lot of time before they start, so I had like seven days or something like that. I hadn’t seen the show, I hadn’t read the books, so they said “Okay, read this book, or if you want to read any of the books it’s this one.” It was the second one, I believe. Then they said “Watch the second season.” so I could get to know Will [Tudor] and find out what happens at the end. But they said “The truth is that this character exists in many mythologies.”
So that’s what really got me interested in it, and I ordered a bunch of books. There are books just on Lilith and she shows up in different mythologies, it’s actually a Jewish mythology to begin with, which is interesting. And one thing that I found interesting was a lot of them described this concept as somebody that steals babies, so like let’s say a woman is giving birth somewhere where this mythology exists; they’ll have like a little emblem that protects them from Lilith, who might come and hurt the babies. So I thought that was really interesting, and that’s kind of how I started. You find out why she steals babies, and it’s because she’s unable to have her own children. So that was the real beginning scene for who Lilith was, and that came from ancient, ancient stories.
SDN: The character of Lilith appears in a lot of TV shows and movies, and it’s really interesting.
Anna: Yeah, it’s really interesting. And also that the Owl is something that has shown up thousands of years ago in these texts, so I loved that they used that in the show for Jace.
SDN: Yeah, us too. Not just for this role in particular, but do you have any go-to rituals whenever you take on a new role, and what helps you prepare for a new character and get into the right mindset?
Anna: The first thing that I do is that I’ll do as much research as I can. Similar to Lilith, the show that I just did called Bad Blood is about mafia organized crime, so I try to read as much as I can. And then it becomes more specific to the character, who I am, who my relationships are. Then on set I usually make a playlist, I have my Lilith playlist. I walk around and I listen to that music. It becomes a ritual that gets you where you need to go. So that’s kind of a broad path to have.
SDN: So what is on that Lilith playlist?
Anna: My phone broke here so I had to buy a new phone, but I would listen to a few songs a lot. One of them is on The Social Network soundtrack. Have you ever heard that soundtrack? It’s amazing. It’s actually Nine Inch Nails that does the soundtrack. They’re all really creepy songs. They’re all actually film soundtracks too, because I find those really help you sort of get into emotional places. Another one is from a film called Under the Skin, have you ever seen that with Scarlett Johansson? She plays an alien, it’s amazing. There’s a song called “Love”, and oh my god you guys, if you listen to that, you’re going to cry.
SDN: We’ll make sure to check it out. We had the chance to interview you before, and in that interview you said that Lilith doesn’t really mind hurting humans because she doesn’t really care for them in the first place. That seems to be different when it comes to Jonathan, though. She seemed downright obsessed with resurrecting him in 3A, yet she didn’t seem to mind that much when he turned his back on her in 3B. Do you think she really ever felt that deep love for him, or was it all means to an end, basically?
Anna: No I think that her goal with Jonathan is authentic, and I think that it’s because she believes that he is part of her, that he has her blood. So yes, he’s human in a sense, but he’s not fully human. I think she believes that she can bring him closer to what she is eventually. Everything that she does is from pain, so her intentions are so motivated by pain that it makes you crazy and you do insane things – and so I definitely believe that she authentically loves him, and actually gave him a few passes when he tried to kill her and stuff. But it’s like any mother, if you believe it’s your son then you’ll do anything for your child.
SDN: That’s true. It was just kind of confusing to see that flip over so fast, it was like love, love, love, and then all of the sudden it was almost indifference after he tried to kill her.
Anna: Well, I believe if the show were to have continued and we would have had time to kind of explore that… I think, she wanted to punish him like you punish a kid that came home after his curfew. I think if we kept going, she would have tried to keep bringing him back. That’s what I think.
SDN: That’s possible – we love theories, and the fandom loves them too. We’re all here for them. When Lilith confronted Magnus in 3×08, she said that she didn’t really want to start a war against his father. When we see her back in 3B, she had been locked up in Edom by Asmodeus. In your opinion, what kind of history does she have with the Prince of Hell, and is it only competitiveness over the realm, or are they really enemies?
Anna: I think like any characters that have equal or more power than Lilith, like there’s so many years that they’ve had to build. I also see it as the Seelie Queen and Asmodeus are kind of similar relationships, where over thousands and thousands of years there’s times where you’re enemies and times where you’re allies, and then times where you’re enemies again. So I think if you go through that cycle enough, you understand how powerful that person is, and so you just don’t f*#k with them. I believe we’ve been through so much in that sense that I’m like “This is not the time to start that, I have other stuff to do.” And so I think there were probably times where we were allies or we needed each other for something, or I had stuff to offer. But he’s strong, and I know that and I’m smart. So I’m not going to start that war when I don’t have to.
SDN: If the show had continued, could you see Lilith lining up with Asmodeus again and making some sort of deal?Anna: Totally. One hundred percent.
SDN: She would find him in limbo and drag him out and be like “I saved you.”
Anna: One hundred percent. It’s all a chess game, it’s always like “What can I give to you? Well, I need something.” They’re interesting because they have so much power.
SDN: Speaking of the enemy-ally dynamic – Magnus and Lilith didn’t get along so well when Magnus first arrived in Edom. If he had stayed there longer, and if Lilith would’ve stayed with us as was the plan for season 4, do you think they would have become allies eventually?
Anna: I think yes, because just for story I can’t see someone like Lilith being only what she was, what you saw of her, meaning there’s going to be a point where she has to evolve. And either she becomes weaker and needs Magnus, but I think she only seeks allies when she needs something. I don’t think she’s out for friendship necessarily. But sure, Magnus was there, Magnus is also very powerful and he’s Asmodeus’ son so it’s kind of like “You know, we got to live together like roommates.”
SDN: That’s kind of the deal down there. We’d love to see that.
SDN: During series finale and other interviews from Todd [Slavkin] and Darren [Swimmer], there have been hints toward a much darker Magnus, with Lilith being a major part of the narrative. We could see a power play between the two already; where do you think her drive for power stems from? Why do you think she’s so set on power?
Anna: Her beginnings were betrayal. From the beginning of her inception as a person and character, she has been betrayed in her eyes, which makes you isolated. And I think she doesn’t want to again be part of a community with everything being equal. I think when you’ve been wronged and betrayed and you’re isolated, and you do have a lot of power like she does, you become a dictator, basically. That’s how dictators [are]. That’s what she is. It’s a thirst for power because they were betrayed, and there’s pain there and it’s not rational. She doesn’t like democracy, she likes dictatorships.
SDN: Pain and rage can do that to someone, especially over thousands of years.
Anna: Exactly. And if people are constantly turning on you, then you end up not trusting anybody.
SDN: Especially if it’s her own kid at the end.
SDN: Well, if Lilith would have stayed with us, where would you have wanted to see the storyline go?
Anna: As I said, she can’t go on in the story just constantly being power hungry and trying to get something that she can’t have, so I would have liked to see her evolve. That’s always hard with antagonists and villains, because usually the villain is strong and they go out pretty quickly because people are sad when villains turn nice. They’re just like “I don’t like that storyline.” So I would personally want that, but I think it’s stronger if she is killed, sadly.
SDN: For us it would have been so nice to see some growth, because in our eyes it was basically like one wavelength.
Anna: Exactly, so they took her out. It would be nice if they took her out after the growth. That would be like the real kicker, if she starts to show empathy and she starts to help others and she actually maybe sacrifices herself.
We hope you enjoyed this interview! Thank you to Anna Hopkins for once again taking the time and for all the fascinating new insights into Lilith’s character.
Make sure to check out Anna’s work on Bad Blood, The Expanse and her recent movie Island of Shadows. And have a look at the interviews section on our website if you’d like to read our previous interviews with Anna and the cast and crew of Shadowhunters.
Oh… it looks like the whole team took part in creating this article!