Katherine McNamara Dishes On The Bittersweet 'Shadowhunters' Series Finale And If An 'Arrow' Spin-Off Is In Her Future
The TV star spoke with us about what 'Shadhowhunters' means to her and how she's shaking things up on 'Arrow.'
When one door closes, another one opens. Katherine McNamara is all too aware of this. The young actress plays the fiery demon-fighter Clary Fray on Freeform's mega-popular series Shadowhunters which propelled her into stardom thanks to her killer acting chops and dedicated fanbase. There's no lack of ferocious females on Shadowhunters, but Clary certainly sets herself apart as an ass-kicking diva with a serious knack for romance. Despite surviving a horrible death and a volatile relationship with her brother, Clary's path is far from clear. According to McNamara, the Shadowhunters series finale is "bittersweet" but it's also the ultimate love letter to the fans.
After the show's untimely cancellation, fans took to social media and thus began the #SaveShadowhunters movement. Although the writers have crafted an epic series finale, which left McNamara in a puddle of tears, it's hard not to wonder how much more the show could have accomplished if it were allowed to continue on. In addition to featuring an LGBTQ+ couple, Shadowhunters birthed an empowering fandom that believes in the undying power of inclusion and holding onto hope.
Soon, the curtain will drop on Shadowhunters, and McNamara is preparing to say goodbye to a series that has shaped who she has become. We were lucky enough to chat with McNamara about the forthcoming Shadowhunters series finale and how her current role on Arrow could potentially lead to something even greater. McNamara plays Oliver and Felicity's daughter, Mia Smoak, on The CW series and her presence this season has been of the utmost importance. While the prolific actress didn't spill all the details, she did give us ample information to mull over. In fact, McNamara was even down to play a game of "Would You Rather" and shared some hilarious tidbits which further prove she's the coolest 23 year old on the planet.
What are some of the major ways in which Clary has changed from Season 1?
Katherine McNamara: Something that I love about Clary is that she's not a stagnant character… She's gone from this Brooklyn artist to a kickass warrior and a Shadowhunter. Clary has always been a walking dichotomy: She's been the fire and the artist, the mundane and the Shadowhunter, the warrior and the compassionate one. Through all of this, the biggest thing she's learned is to not shy away from either part of her dichotomy. She's learned to use the strengths of both sides to combat the weaknesses within. What I love about Clary is her tenacity and her stubbornness, but she has learned to temper that aspect of her personality by listening to those around her and by learning from her past mistakes.
Shadowhunters is such a popular show with a very devoted fanbase. What was it like for you to film the finale and to say goodbye to this chapter in your life?
KM: It's bittersweet in every sense of that word. I don't think I'll ever fully say goodbye to Shadowhunters and the fandom. Between the cast and the crew, everyone has become a real family, and I think that really speaks to the universal nature of the story. Shooting the finale made me feel utterly grateful. I get emotional every time I talk about this. I started Shadowhunters when I was 19 and I'm 23 now. Filming the series finale allowed me to look at things from a wider lens, and I've realized how many parallels there are between Clary's journey and my own. You know, Clary is an 18-year-old girl who's thrown in the middle of this world full of magic and wonder and huge responsibilities. Having to live up to everyone's expectations isn't easy. Through all of this, Clary has a family surrounding her. It's a chosen family of individuals who have grown together and made each other stronger ⏤ and that's exactly what happened to me. I was a 19-year-old girl thrown into the middle of this source material that already had an existing fandom and all of these expectations. Luckily, I was surrounded by people ⏤ some who had a lot more experience and some who were in the same boat as me. We all learned from each other and grew from our collective experiences. We became a family. I know for the rest of my life, those people have my back and I have theirs.
Without giving away any spoilers, can you drop some clues about what we can expect as Clary's story comes to a close?
KM: In an overarching sense, I think fans will have a lot to say which makes me very excited for the series finale to air. As we get closer and closer, my anticipation is increasing because the ending is rather unexpected. It's something fans will either love or hate ⏤ or maybe it's somewhere in between because that's sort of how I felt. It's a very bittersweet ending, but I think that's right for a show that is so beloved and, perhaps, ended before it's time. I do have to say that Clary's journey isn’t over. She's forced to confront certain parts of herself that she tried to set aside, particularly her father and brother's past. This part exists in Clary as well, something that is dark, powerful, and feral. She comes face-to-face with the beast within and the beast outside. She is forced to confront it, and she can either succumb to it or defeat it. Ultimately, Clary must ask herself: What sacrifice is worth saving the world, saving yourself, or saving your family?
What was the hardest thing about filming the Shadowhunters series finale?
KM: There were a few scenes which were really hard to film because the Shadowhunters set became home. I realized I spent more hours in fake rooms and in Clary's clothes shooting the show than I did in any real space that I "lived" over the last several years. In a way, Clary's room became my room, the Institute became my office, and the trailer was my second bedroom. So, it was really odd seeing these sets broken down and filming the last scene in Clary's room, knowing that room would never exist again… When it was taken down, I didn't want to go back. I didn't want to remember it in a broken way. I wanted to remember it the way I always had… In terms of the hardest scene to film, it has to be the one with Clary and her best friend, Simon. It's their last scene together on Shadowhunters. It's a lovely moment that hits close to home… It was hard for me to get through the words without tearing up because it was so true not only to Clary's heart and her relationship with Simon, but also to my heart and my friendship with Alberto.
Did you keep anything from the set of Shadowhunters as a keepsake?
KM: I did and for the record, I did not steal anything. I was fortunate enough to be given some things like a set of Clary's knives and a few of her leather jackets. One of the most special keepsakes I have is a small, wooden art piece from Clary's bedroom. Since Clary is an artist, she has this on display. After we shot the last scene in Clary's bedroom, the camera crew signed it and wrote little messages and gave it to me. These are the guys who are often the voiceless heroes who are working on a TV series. They are the guys who are on the ground, in the trenches with us, moving the cameras, making the magic happen over and over again. I worked with a lot of them and they taught me so much about the technicalities, cinematography, and film making. I will take that knowledge with me everywhere, and to have that keepsake from them means the world.
What has Shadowhunters taught you and what do you hope the fans take away from the series?
KM: Shadowhunters as a production taught me the value of teamwork. We were fortunate enough to work with people who love the series. We all respect each other and work hard to not only improve ourselves but each other as well so we could make the show better… The cooperation from all the departments to work collectively showed me that the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. That is something I will always carry with me and try to bring into other productions... A lot of people have spoken about the Shadowhunters legacy, and what I think the legacy of the show is that ⏤ both on and off the camera ⏤ it is a story about love and having faith in yourself and in your found family. It's about allowing everyone to play to their strengths while fighting through their weaknesses. No matter what you are, who you are, or what you're made of, everyone has a chance to be a hero depending on the choices they make. That is a universal lesson that represents not only the show but also what the fandom has taken on. It's something that I will always be grateful for.
Since the #SaveShadowhunters campaign is still going strong, is there a possibility of getting a Shadowhunters TV movie on Freeform in the future? Just so fans can catch up with their favorite characters once more.
KM: The series finale is a TV movie in a sense and it's chock full of twists and turns that fans are hoping for… but honestly that's above my pay grade to decide. I would jump at the chance to play Clary again, to revisit that family, and to be a part of that world once more. Unfortunately, I don't know how real of a possibility that is. I really can't say. I never say never, but I wouldn't say it's very likely.
You are also playing Mia Smoak on Arrow now. What is it like to transition from playing a character like Clary to Mia?
KM: It's a massive dream... Clary was such a wonderful character to play for so long and to have a character like Mia, who is another kick-ass female in a different sense, is amazing. Where Clary is positive, hopeful, compassionate, and a spark of light in darkness, Mia has grown up in a very messed-up situation and has been hardened by a dark world… For me, to take on this opposite side in a similar genre has been a lot of fun creatively. As an actor, it's about using a different set of muscles... but I also understand the responsibility of playing Mia thanks the Clace and Malec ships on Shadowhunters. I’ve been through the zeitgeist of Twitter and understand how much Arrow fans love Olicity and how beloved that relationship is. So, after finding out that I was going to be the product of this relationship, I understood the responsibility it came with. I've worked really hard to do it justice and hopefully it's paying off.
In the future, could Mia Smoak carry on Oliver's legacy after Arrow ends, and would you be interested in having your own spin-off?
KM: I would be a 100% interested... but I really know nothing at this point about what could happen. If given the opportunity, I would jump at the chance. You know, I’ve had nothing but a wonderful time working in this universe and with all of these incredible people who created my character. It would be an honor to carry it forward.
Would you rather spend the day with Harry Potter or Captain America?
KM: Oh, Harry Potter! I want to go to Hogwarts. I love Captain America and Chris Evans, but I want to go to Hogwarts and play with magic wands.
Would you rather speak like a pirate for the rest of your life or dress like a pirate for the rest of your life?
KM: I think I would rather dress like a pirate. You know, there’s a lot you can do with pirate-esque fashion, but there’s really only one way to speak like a pirate.
Would you rather be able to speak every language in the world or play every instrument?
KM: Oh, this one's tough! I love music and I love instruments but here's my theory: I think I could get the best of both worlds. If I speak every language, I could go anywhere in the world and learn to play any instrument. So, I would go with speak any language because that's more versatile in the long run.
Would you rather live in space or under the sea?
KM: If I live under the sea, I would likely be a mermaid and I'm really into that idea. Plus, you know, Sebastian says it's better down there anyway.
KM: If you're offering me a job as Beyonce's back-up dancer, I'm going to take that right now. I will find a way to make it work around the Arrow schedule. It'll be awesome. And, talk about a great work out!
Would you rather shave your head or your eyebrows?
KM: I'd rather shave my head. I love wigs! After 23 years of my life, I feel like I finally figured out my eyebrows, so I don't want to mess that up.
Would you rather give up chocolate or bread for the rest of your life?
KM: That's really hard, although I don't think I could ever give up bread. I may still indulge in a croissant or two when I'm in Paris, so I think I would have to give up chocolate.
Would you rather travel back in time or to the future?
KM: Back in time because I’m kind of a history buff. There are so many different eras I would love to revisit, and I don’t want to know the future. I like keeping it a mystery.
Would you rather be a superhero or a super-villain?
See, this is difficult because playing a villain is always way more fun… you know, I'd probably be a mild super villain rather than one of those inconsequential superheroes that everyone talks about… you know what, no! I’d rather be a superhero.
Would you rather guest star on Stranger Things or This Is Us?
KM: Stranger Things because it sounds like a lot of fun, and I think Millie Bobby Brown is kick ass, so I'm in.