If you’re looking to take a break from reality and get lost in a new TV show, Shadowhunters has just what you need. Based on the Mortal Instruments fantasy novels by Cassandra Clare, the otherworldly series about angels and demons premieres Tuesday, Jan. 12, at 9 p.m. ET on Freeform (formerly ABC Family). And according to the show’s stars Katherine McNamara and Emeraude Toubia, the books’ fans won’t be disappointed—and neither will newcomers to the Shadowhunter universe.
“The show is set in such a cool world,” McNamara told InStyle when she recently stopped by our New York City offices. “Its basis is that every legend, myth, and mythical creature you’ve ever heard of is real, from vampires and werewolves to fairies, nymphs, demons, and angels.” McNamara plays a Shadowhunter, a human with angel blood whose “sole purpose is to kill demons and keep the peace while protecting humans from knowing about this crazy world that exists,” she said. But her character, Clary Fray, hasn’t always known about her unique abilities.
“She’s just this normal girl growing up in Brooklyn, but she suddenly finds out that she’s a Shadowhunter on her 18th birthday,” said McNamara. “She realizes that her entire life has been a lie, and then she gets sucked into this crazy world when her mother gets kidnapped by the most evil Shadowhunter to exist.” That’s when things start to unravel for Clary—and fast. “Her whole life comes crashing down around her, and she somehow has to pick herself up from her boot straps, rise from the ashes and learn to fight,” said McNamara. “But she’s a newbie who gets kind of thrown into this world, so she just fights on instinct.”
Clary’s go-to move? “She uses one of these weapons called seraph blades, which are made of a special angelic metal that kills demons,” said McNamara. “It’s a bit longer than a dagger, but shorter than a sword.” When filming one scene in particular, the actress's newly acquired fight skills came in handy. “The craziest thing I’ve had to shoot so far was a scene with this powerful water tornado-like thing called a greater demon,” she said. “As we were fighting it, there was a ton of wind and special effects and crazy stunts happening, so it took us seventeen hours to shoot.”
To film so many fight scenes, McNamara had to train—hard. “They have a personal trainer to kind of whip us into shape and make sure that we look like the demon-killers that we are,” she said. “I do most of my own stunts, and I feel like I’ve gotten so much stronger since we started. I’ve noticed quite a difference in my body.” But McNamara isn’t the only cast member who has been hitting the gym on the show’s set in Toronto. “The other three characters that are Shadowhunters have been them for their whole lives, so they’re absolutely ripped at this point,” she said.
Emeraude Toubia plays Isabelle Lightwood, one of the key Shadowhunters. Toubia recently stopped by InStyle’s offices to discuss the show, and she revealed why her character’s fight scenes are so unique. “When Isabelle goes to battle, she’s wearing a short sequined dress with sequined boots,” said Toubia. “She always fights in fashion—it’s like she’s going out to the club or on the runway when she’s fighting. She’s just a badass in heels, and I love that.”
Fighting may come easily to her character, but Toubia still faced some challenges when filming—particularly when it came to shooting one scene that had nothing to do with killing demons. “There was one really sexy scene that I had to shoot, and it was the first time I had done that type of scene,” Toubia said. “I was filming it for five hours wearing nothing but a bra and underwear, which was a little intimidating and overwhelming. I just kept thinking, ‘I hope my parents don’t see this scene!’” Watch a trailer for Shadowhunters here:
The series may be revealing at times, but that’s part of the reason why it’s so relatable. “The show is based on a fantasy world, but our characters go through the same things that everyone goes through—like getting your first kiss and the falling in love for the first time,” said Toubia. “I think a lot of people are going to identify with and relate to those moments.”
Shadowhunters premieres Tuesday, Jan. 12, at 9 p.m. ET on Freeform (formerly ABC Family).