There is much written about Katherine McNamara regarding her successful young acting career and university graduation at the age of 17. However, Katherine leaves a lasting impression on people not through her resume, but through her thoughtfulness and sweetness. Toting her fur baby Sophie on the Composure photo set, Katherine was a delightful actress to work with. Read on to find out what’s ahead for Katherine McNamara.
CM: With a long list of credits already under your belt, what has been the most influential factor for your acting career thus far?
KM: I think the most influential factor for me so far has been the fact that I am, and always will be learning. I am a perpetual student. I love to learn and am very aware of the fact that I have so much to learn from the people I work with. As such, I am constantly looking at how people around me work, how they handle situations, and how they tackle the tasks of the job. I am listening to directors, writers, and producers in their dealings with me and with other departments so I am aware of the big picture. That’s what I love about working in a creative industry. It’s all about learning, exploration, and making mistakes. We take risks, we put ourselves out there with our work and in doing so we sometimes make the wrong choice. However, out of that mistake can come a new learning experience and the discovery of something you wouldn’t have otherwise encountered. That awareness of my constant learning and growth has colored everything I have done and every decision I have made in my career and will continue to do so.
CM: Congratulations on the success of Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials! It was announced that The Death Cure will be next – will we be seeing more of Sonya?
KM: Thank you! Scorch was such a fun film to make – we’re all so proud of it. I’m so thrilled to finish the trilogy. Yes! Sonya will be back for more in The Death Cure. They are still writing the script so I obviously can’t reveal anything but I’m sure it will be a-mazeing – see what I did there?
CM: We saw the trailer for Shadowhunters and we’re hooked! Tell us about your role as Clarissa “Clary” Fray.
KM: I’m so glad you loved the trailer! It’s so exciting to finally have a chance to share the show with everyone. For those who don’t know her from the novels, Clary is a strong, independent young woman who grew up in Brooklyn with her mom and her best friend Simon. She is fiery inside and out, and very strong-willed and stubborn in her own way. One thing I love about Clary is that if she would have never met Jace in the first place and never been drawn into the Shadow World, she would have been fine. She would have gone to art school and followed her passion in that way. Instead she is pulled down the rabbit hole in a sense and forced to find herself again and become something she never thought she would be – a warrior. Clary does make many mistakes along the way – she is so focused on saving the people she loves that she does not always think about the consequences of her actions. That focus comes from her fierce love and loyalty for the people she cares about. She will literally do anything, give up anything, risk anything to save her friends and family. That love is where her power truly lies.
CM: Shadowhunters is based on Cassandra Clare’s best-selling book series The Mortal Instruments. Have you read any of the novels?
KM: I am working my way through the novels. They have been on my list forever but I never got a chance to read them until working on the series. I was reading them while we were shooting but I had to stop – wires were getting crossed as I was reading about parallel demon hunting missions between scripts and books. I’ll be finished with the series soon though. I actually really enjoy the books. Cassie has created such a rich world – it really informs what I do on set to know her vision of the character.
CM: How similar/different is the TV series from the novels?
KM: I know many fans of the books are skeptical about a new interpretation of the novels but not to worry! As a fan of the books myself I assure you that all of us involved are taking extra care to make sure we do justice to the books. Something I have learned from the social media interaction we have had as well as meeting with the fans is that these books and the characters within them are so beloved to so many people. These are their heroes and we are bringing them to life. It’s such an exciting prospect, but also a huge responsibility. I can’t say too much in detail about the show as of yet, but our main goal in all of this is to create a new interpretation of the story that appeals to newcomers to the Shadow World as well as those who know the books cover to cover. We basically cover the same A to Z story as City of Bones – however, because this is a new interpretation for television, we have the liberty to add some unexpected twists and bring in some characters from later books as well as new characters to keep even the most faithful fans surprised.
CM: We imagine that the show involves a lot of special effects and looks like there are a lot of fight scenes – can you give us a run-down of what a typical day looks like for you on set? Was there any training involved?
KM: There is nothing typical about a day on the set of Shadowhunters. That’s part of why this project was so enjoyable. We go to work every day and it’s a new mission – fighting demons, befriending warlocks, discovering secrets of the Shadow World, and so much more. In all seriousness, yes we had quite a bit of both special effects and stunt training. The special effects were more of a technical concern. They would explain to us what would happen in post-production and what actions and shots we needed in order to accomplish that. It was often tedious but it definitely pays off in the end. The training was quite intense. We had fitness training, weapons training, and gymnastics training in order to make sure that we were all in top demon fighting condition. Whenever we had a spare moment between scenes or shots, we were usually in the stunt room on set playing with the arsenal of weapons to improve our skills or learning choreography for the fight sequences in upcoming episodes.
CM: Clary Fray has fiery red hair so we have to know – how often did you color your hair for the role? Any tips on how to keep your beautiful locks healthy?
KM: Even though I am a natural strawberry blonde, we wanted to make sure that we had the perfect shade of Clary Fray red for the show – especially establishing her look for the first season. As such, I did dye my hair for the show although it took a couple weeks for the creative team and myself to compare notes and discover what the perfect shade would be. I think the team really came up with something great. My hair grows quickly and I had to wash it often because of training and the product used during shooting so I had to dye my hair quite often to keep it looking fresh on camera. My main tip for keeping it healthy is to eat right and drink water. That has so much to do with the health of your skin and hair. If your hair is going through a lot like mine was, I would recommend deep conditioning it with a hair mask once a week or so. I did during production and it worked wonders.
CM: It seems like you have portrayed a wide range of character types – what kind of roles do you hope to do more of?
KM: This is an extremely difficult question for me… I really want to do it all! Creating characters and telling stories is what I love and hope to be doing so for the rest of my life. My answer to this question is always changing as well which makes it increasingly difficult. I guess my artistic hunger du jour is to do something gritty and very grounded in reality. The worlds of Maze Runner and Shadowhunters are fraught with fantasy and while that is such a joy, I really am longing for a project that plays with the fantastic world that is the human psyche and the relationships between real people. Something raw, something that scares me a little, and something that makes people think when they watch. I love when I find a script that seems challenging. I’m always up to push myself to learn and grow and I love the opportunity of taking risks in my work.
CM: Do you have other passion projects outside of acting?
KM: One passion project I’ve been working on for a while is my music. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but never had the time. There are some very interesting things in the works that I cannot wait to share. Also there are a few pieces of literature that I have adored for years and want to produce. Hopefully I will have the opportunity to do so in the near future.
CM: It’s a well-known fact that you graduated from university at an age when most are graduating from high school. Is there anything you would have done differently? Did you go to prom? What has been your biggest takeaway from the experience?
KM: People always ask me if I feel as though I missed out since didn’t have the traditional high school and college experience. Would I do it differently? No. I would not trade any of the experiences, the memories, the lessons I have learned in the past few years for anything. So I didn’t go to prom, I didn’t live in a dorm, I wasn’t a part of that. Instead I got to pursue my passion and build a career for myself early on. I was able to get my education in a way that worked for me and in a way that creates a synergy between education and career. My biggest takeaway from the experience is that giving up is the easy answer. No is the easy answer. However, if you work hard, if you are really passionate – you will find your yes. There is always a way to accomplish what you want. You simply have to refuse to take no for an answer and work until you find that yes.
CM: Who is your #MCM and/or #WCW?
KM: My #MCM will forever be Ryan Gosling in The Notebook. Need I say more? My #WCW at the moment would have to be Brie Larson. She is a risk taker in her work and has some really exciting things in the works. I aspire to follow in her footsteps and become a strong fearless woman on screen and off who has still managed to maintain the charming things that make her an individual.
CM: What’s ahead for Katherine McNamara?
KM: Who can say for sure? I like to keep my options open for whatever comes my way. I can say with certainty that I hope to be working on projects that push me and challenge me to grow personally and professionally. I hope to continue making projects that start conversations that need to be started and help people open their minds to new and different points of view. I hope to be able to continue doing what I love for a living and creating characters that take people on a journey. Here’s to the next step!
Shadowhunters premieres on Freeform (formerly ABC Family), Tuesday 1/12, 9/8c