Before Shadowhunters introduced Jonathan Morgenstern in his true form in season 3B, Will Tudor got to lay the groundwork for the character in seasons 2B and 3A. At one of last summer’s Shadowhunters conventions we got to sit down with him and talk about Jonathan, what makes him so fascinating as a character, and the legacy that the show leaves behind.
SDN: You played a significant role in season 2, but only had a short scene in season 3. Did you follow the rest of the show, and what did you think of how Sebastian/Jonathan’s story wrapped up?
Will: I haven’t seen all of it, but I’ve heard about a lot of it, and the stuff I’ve seen of Luke [Baines] is just great. He’s done such a wonderful job. It’s always going to be a tough thing, coming in with a character that’s established a little bit and then doing your own spin, but he did such a wonderful job with it. I think it’s great for everyone to kind of have two Jonathans, there’s like two versions, which they can have for themselves.
SDN: We talked about that with Luke just now. He said he was so nervous to take over from you.
Will: He’s wonderful, and I think what’s also a testament is to the character itself that there are many ways to do it. And there’s a lot to him and it means that you can do that. You can explore him a lot and I think that’s what’s great, and in a way it’s really brilliant to be able to see those two sides.
SDN: It was really fascinating, the switch especially. It was so weird not having you anymore, not seeing your face but having the character still on the show, played by Luke now. It was amazing to see. It was so natural, too.
Will: I’m so pleased. I mean that’s the best thing.
SDN: Do you personally think there would have been any way for Jonathan to have been redeemed, and could he ever have been a good person in terms of the Shadow World?
Will: The sad thing is that I think probably not. When I was playing him, I had to believe there was, because he had to believe that there was the potential for it. That’s why he’s so interested in Clary, because she represents this potential light and the potential redemption. And so for me I kind of had to believe it, and I think that’s what drives him. But I think in reality he’s so damaged that it’s kind of not really possible, which is very sad. But again that means it’s very interesting; because he doesn’t necessarily know that, it means there’s a lot of conflict between the two things.
SDN: There is for sure. Even with the end Jonathan got, it didn’t unfold enough, in our opinion. But overall, it was so amazing to see that there was some growth that we could witness.
The show is over now, but it’s leaving behind a legacy. There’s no other way to put it. How does it feel to have been a part of that?
Will: Oh, it’s amazing. I think what’s interesting as an actor, you do jobs and they go out there – and sure, they plop onto your portfolio – but they go out there and you never get really a sense of how much they might touch people. And then what’s been amazing about this show is that it does touch people so deeply, and to have seen that and to see that at these conventions is amazing. I’m very grateful. As well with the character, it’s not very often you get to play someone who has that burning fire inside of them. I know when researching him, that kind of animal instincts of him… Because as humans, we’re so repressed. We’re not able to express things immediately, like animals might be able to, and he is. He wears – or the way I play him anyway – wears his heart on his sleeve, and if he’s upset, he will show you. But yeah, so that’s been great as well.
SDN: Much like Shadowhunters, you’ve been a part of Game of Thrones as well. Both shows have wonderful legacies that they’re going to leave behind. How do you think those two shows and their impact have changed the landscape of television? And has it made you critical in terms of planning your next career moves, maybe?
Will: Oh, interesting. In terms of what it’s done to the landscape of TV, very much has changed. What was intricate in Game of Thrones is that fantasy wasn’t really mainstream on TV. Because like Lord of the Rings came out and everyone loved that, and that was kind of the first time on cinema that they had this massive global appeal. Then I think Game of Thrones did the same thing for TV. There were very successful fantasy shows before, but everyone could watch that, and would watch that. And I think what’s nice as well is seeing the wide demographic that Shadowhunters has, how many different people enjoy it. That’s so great to see.
In terms of future career stuff, it’s a joy to be a part of something, that like you say, does have the potential for that kind of legacy, because you really feel like the show has made a mark on people’s lives, and that’s incredible. But I think in terms of decisions, it normally comes down to if a role is interesting, and the role would challenge you, and that’s when they’re exciting. And it just so happens that the two roles I did in those shows did also do that, so it was like a double win-win for both of those.
SDN: So what makes a role interesting or challenging for you?
Will: It can be something as small as not having done something like that before, it can be how far away it is from you. And what’s interesting is, it’s a challenge if it’s very far away from you, but it’s also a challenge if it’s very close to you, because you can’t sort of step into that imaginary world as much. But I think it’s a complexity of thought process, and when the thought process is very alien to the way you think or require a whole other way of looking at the world it might be so different from your end.
SDN: It’s always about learning by doing, right?
Will: Yeah, absolutely.
SDN: The last time we sat down with you was in Milan [in July 2018], and we couldn’t really talk about Torvill & Dean because it wasn’t out yet – now we can. You played a professional figure skater; what was it like to prepare for that role, especially the skating part?
Will: I had skated before twice, once was at a friend’s birthday party and I could only go in straight lines but I could go far, so I was like “This is great.” The second time was on a date and I didn’t realize this then but the skates were really blunt, and if they’re blunt they sort of slide and you can’t really get any purchase to push yourself off. So it was quite a baptism of fire, learning to skate. We had a three-week sort of intensive boot camp, and then throughout filming we’d kind of go and skate a little bit. And then we did all the scenes where we were skating in a two-week section of filming. So by the time we got to it, we felt pretty confident, actually.
But it’s just amazing to be able to learn a skill for a job. With Shadowhunters I’d never really learned the fighting stuff before, and yet that’s really informed everything I’ve done since because the physicality is different and you can draw on that for certain things. It’s like with the skating, I’d never done that kind of physicality that you need for that, and the kind of elegance that you need for that kind of performance. That was really fun to learn, to find in oneself.
SDN: Especially considering the fighting you just mentioned that you’d never done before. You have one of our overall favorite fighting scenes on the show, the one in the subcells.
Will: Wow, thank you. Do you know what, we had such good fun. But again, I think what was good about those is all of those fights and all of those scenes add to your sense of who the character is. Nothing will stop him, and that really added to my sense of him, this kind of thing of going “He’s just going to do it right.” Really good fun.
SDN: In Shadowhunters, you played a fictional character, and in Torvill & Dean you played a real person. How is that different for you as an actor when preparing for the role?
Will: You know, at first you think it’s going to be very different, but in a way in order to do the job of a real person, you have to shut out the fact that they’re real. I suppose the prep is different because you do a lot of research into that person and their life, but after a bit you do so much that they end up feeling like your own creation anyway. And you have take ownership to a certain degree, because if you’re a bit squeamish about this being someone’s life – obviously you want to be incredibly respectful and true to the person – but there’s a point where in order to play them, you have to take ownership of what you want to do with it. So I think actually there’s more crossover than one would think, because at the end of the day you’re going “This is my character that I’ve created.” and it just so happens that one is based on research from a real life person and one is based on research from someone who might be an amalgamation of people or an amalgamation of characters. But at the end of the day, when you come to work you’re still doing the same thing.
SDN: It’s a character.
Will: It’s a character, yeah.
SDN: You and Kat McNamara actually got to work together again on The Two Wolves. Can you tell us anything about it yet?
Will: All I can say really is that it’s still in its infancy. It was a sort of script read-through rather than a project read-through if that makes sense, so it’s a developmental sort of stage, that kind of thing. But there’s potential for stuff there, it looks to be a really interesting project. If the cast stays the same it’s a really lovely cast, and it’s very exciting. I can’t say too much because it will change so much, these things always do.
SDN: You’re not only an incredible talent in front of the camera, but behind it as well. When you go on the hunt for a perfect shot, what are you mostly looking for? Are you even hunting, or are you just capturing what you find?
Will: I suppose it is hunting. It’s funny, it’s like with anything, if you’ve spent a few hours trying to find a good shot, suddenly you’ll see them everywhere. Normally if I take my camera, I’ll just go “That looks interesting” and take a photo, and then it’s once you find the thing that you want to try to get the perfect angle. That’s where the detail comes in. But if something’s like an interesting combination of colors, an interesting combination of lines, an interesting combination of light and shade and that kind of stuff. I find that it’s basically, I’ll have seen a scene and gone out to either recreate it, or I’m seeing something and going “I want to create something new out of what I have in front of me in a way of looking at it that other people won’t have seen.”
SDN: That is what it’s about. We talked to Alberto Rosende about this earlier – you not only give a motive, but you show other people how you see it. It’s not just a picture that you take, it’s a story.
Will: Yeah! Like you say, I think it’s quite revealing about a person because like you said you’re seeing their view of the world and what they want to present. A lot of art is like that, I guess.
We hope you enjoyed this interview! A big thank you goes to Will Tudor for taking the time to chat with us and for the great talk. Make sure to check out his most recent project Torvill & Dean, and the interview section on our website for more interviews with the cast and crew of Shadowhunters!
Oh… it looks like the whole team took part in creating this article!