Interview: Katherine McNamara

From the interview archives.


Katherine McNamara shined as Harper Munroe in MTV’s Happyland and these days she’s busy keeping the supernatural Shadowhunters world in check on Freeform as lead Clarissa “Clary” Fray. VULKAN  dove into Clary’s character with Katherine discussing where she draws her inspiration for the role and gained some insight on how she keeps up with her health and fitness regime for both the series and her day-to-day.

Shadowhunters is currently in its second season, what can we expect from the second half when it returns later this year?

With only a few episodes left in the season, everything we have been building to this point is coming to a head. If the trailer released at SDCC is any indication, things get brutal, personal, and deadly real fast. We were shocked at the depths they allowed us to go in these last few episodes. No relationship is unaffected, and no character escapes unscathed, if they survive that is… These are perhaps my favorite episodes of SHADOWHUNTERS ever.

Clary is such a strong and compassionate character, who do you draw your inspiration for her from?

We are very fortunate to live in a time where there is such prevalence of strong, compassionate female characters. I try to pull from a variety of sources both in the fantasy, supernatural genre and otherwise. Mostly however, I am continually inspired by the women in my family who are all strong, passionate, educated, career women who are also successful mothers, daughters, wives, aunts, sisters, and cousins. The perseverance it takes to balance those two elements of their lives is something I look up to and aspire to every day.

You’ve said it’s not unusual for you to dress very similarly to Clary in your everyday life, in what other ways are you two alike?

It’s true! I love Clary’s style! It keeps developing with her character which is another element that I love. Clary and I are very alike. She is compassionate, cares deeply for those she loves and would do anything for them, and is extremely passionate about her job. What I find most relatable about her however is the fact she is a flawed hero. Even though she has the best of intentions, she is still learning about life and the inner workings of the Downworld, so she often falls flat on her face (literally and figuratively.) What is important about this is that she continues to pick herself up again and learn from her mistakes.


Beside your own, which character do you think is really going to surprise people this season?

All of the characters on the show have grown immensely. As we get to know these creatures, we see sides if them that are unexpected but inherently make them more complex. The characters that I think will surprise people the most in these last few episodes are Valentine and Sebastian. I can’t say much but both of them, while evil for sure, show equal parts brutality and vulnerability.

If you were born with some sort of special ability, what would you want and how would you help make the world better with it?

I always say I would want the power to heal. There is so much healing that needs to happen in the world at the moment, I would love to have the ability to be even a small part of that.

Being on a series that started as a book, there are a lot of comments from fans after every episode, either applauding how well the book had adapted to film or expressing disappointment in it. Is that something you pay much attention to? Is it challenging to deal with the fans sometimes?

Yes and no. From the beginning the fans have been extremely supportive and understanding of the fact that we are not trying to copy the books moment for moment. Instead we are paying tribute to the story by proving a fresh take on this world and the story people love so much. The fans have continually been excited for those changes. I appreciate how passionate and vocal the fandom is. They care about the story as much as we do and I genuinely love hearing their thoughts. They have such thoughtful and intelligent things to say and stories that are so moving. They are a huge part of what makes this show so special.

I was surprised to learn about how quickly you fast tracked through high school and college. Very impressive! What drove you to push through so quickly, or did that pace just feel natural to you?

I always had this hunger for knowledge. I was very lucky early on because I had a pre-school teacher who saw that spark in me and encouraged me to push myself in that regard. She helped me to see education and learning as a process of joy and discovery – a way of expanding my horizons. As such, education was always a positive experience for me and I believe the reason why I excelled.

Do you ever wish you hadn’t been home schooled or do you think that was the best option for you?

No actually! My education situation was really the best of both worlds – I did my academics at home through accredited online and correspondence programs and any extra curriculars and creative arts classes at the school with my friends. This allowed me to get what I needed both academically and socially. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

When you’re taking a break from school and work, what’s your favourite way to unwind?

Escape rooms, game nights, or a simple night in cooking with friends and family. Just a simple night of fun and laughter is always just what I need. I also love to travel. Seeing the world and being a little wanderlust is always amazing.

Fitness seems to be a big part of your life, how do you stay motivated? Do you mix up your workouts often?

I do! Before starting SHADOWHUNTERS I was a dancer but I didn’t know much about fitness in the traditional sense. After training for the show for a few years now, I have completely changed my lifestyle and I’ve never been happier. I’m continually motivated by the fact that by making a few simple choices and creating healthy habits, you can feel better, have more energy, and be able to do things you never thought possible. I do mix up my workouts between HIIT training, boxing, spinning, and weapons training.

When you have a quick 5 minute break between takes, what are you most likely to spend that time doing?

Most likely, knitting! It’s my favorite on set activity. It allows me to be productive and actually accomplish something while keeping me busy and able to have conversations simultaneously. The cast calls me grandma because of it! 🙂

What’s something you’re really into right now that fans might be surprised to hear?

Lately I’ve gotten really into audiobooks and podcasts. I do so much driving, traveling, and training that it allows me the opportunity to learn and “read” even while doing something else. It’s a recent discovery but I’m absolutely in love with it.

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