If you don’t already know Emeraude Toubia, you’re about to. The 26-year-old Mexican-Lebanese actress from Brownsville, Texas, stars as the whip-wielding and ass-kicking Isabelle Lightwood in the upcoming Freeform (formerly ABC Family) TV series Shadowhunters. Premiering on Jan. 12, 2016, the show is based on Cassandra Clare’s fantasy novel series, The Mortal Instruments, which has had a rabid fan following ever since the first book was released in 2007. And if the network’s past book-to-TV series have taught us anything, it’s that the Twittersphere will be lighting up every Tuesday night (9 p.m. ET) with some #PrettyLittleLiars-level fandom.
Toubia stars alongside Katherine McNamara and Dominic Sherwood as the show’s key group of Shadowhunters, or humans with angel blood who protect innocent people from demons. And for Toubia, landing one of the show’s lead roles was more of a fantasy than its paranormal plot. “I was auditioning with girls who were already starring in movies, and I was convinced that I wouldn’t get the part,” she told InStyle when she recently stopped by our New York City offices. “But then I was cast, and it was a dream come true.”
As Toubia learned more about her character, she realized just how fierce Isabelle truly is. “She is such a femme fatale—and I like that about her,” said Toubia. “I think a lot of girls are a bit insecure, and Isabelle really owns her body. She is so in charge of her sexuality and who she loves, and I feel like a lot of girls in society can’t really master that.” That’s why Toubia hopes fans of the show will learn from her character’s empowering ways. “I feel society has a pressure on who you should love and how you should love, and I think that Isabelle’s mission in this show is to tell people to be free and comfortable in your own skin,” she said. “She really sees people for who they are, and that’s something I hope to learn from her.”
Toubia may be hoping to learn from her character, but we learned a few things about the star herself during our chat. Scroll down for eight things that she revealed.
1. She does her own stunts.
“I do my own whip stunts, and I use a real whip made out of leather. So every time I come into the set, all the guys run away from me. It turns out that guys don’t really like whips! But I love doing fight scenes. I’ve been a dancer since I was 3 years old, so I think that helped me with the movements. And the way Isabelle fights, it is different than the other characters, Jace and Alec. They fight hard—it’s very intense. But Isabelle fights like it’s nothing. It’s not very difficult for her to do.”
2. She and her co-stars have game nights.
“Everyone came to my house in L.A. recently, and we played a game called Werewolf. It was so much fun, because we just get along really well. When we make fun of each other, we do it in each other’s faces—and Dom is such a jokester. He’s always playing pranks on Kat, because she falls for everything. And I’m like, ‘Kat, don’t!’ I’m like her big sister. I tell her not to be scared of Dom, because he’s just joking.”
3. She’s proud of her heritage.
“I’m Latina, but this role wasn’t originally written for a Latina girl—it was for a white girl. So by casting me, ABC is breaking the mold. They are opening doors to girls like me, and I hope they keep doing that. And I hope other networks keep doing that to open doors by giving Latina women these strong, powerful characters. Because we are strong, powerful women.”
4. She loves to shop—maybe a bit too much.
“I love to shop at BCBG, because it’s classy and elegant but a little bit sexy. It fits who I am in one store. I think I have a problem shopping though. In my closet, you’d find five black shirts that look the same, 10 pairs of the same white pants, and five pairs of almost the exact same shoe. Every time I go out, I buy shoes that are very similar to my other shoes—it’s a problem.”
5. She recently splurged on her first expensive handbag, a bright red Louis Vuitton.
“It was my gift to myself for doing the show. The color works for the summer and the winter, plus it goes well with my skin tone and my hair. At first, I walked out of the store without it, but then I couldn’t stop dreaming about it. I was like, I have to go get it. No other bag captured my attention like this bag. So I went back for it! It goes with everything, and it’s not too big or too small.”
6. She uses a mix of designer and drugstore beauty products.
“I use MAC concealer and blush and Givenchy mascara. It’s the first time I ever bought an expensive mascara, because I am all about pharmacy brands, usually. But this one was really, really good. I still use NYX lipstick, though, which only costs a few dollars.”
7. She prefers tea to coffee.
“I’m actually not a big coffee fan, so I don’t drink it that much. I’d rather have a green tea. But I do love to get a white mocha sometimes—it is just a strong order.”
8. She has a go-to Instagram filter.
“Clarendon brings out the black in my hair and makes my skin look brighter. It makes the colors come out more—and I think it just brightens up my picture as a whole.”