Voltaire’s famous words of wisdom, “With great power comes great responsibility,” have not been lost on Katherine McNamara. The 22-year-old star of Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments is the hardest working woman in showbiz, and understands that the world of Hollywood fantasy reaches far beyond entertainment, and has a powerful ability to shape the hearts and minds of fans both young and old. Hot off the news that her fans solidified her as a finalist for the E! People’s Choice Awards being held on November 11, 2018, Katherine is also celebrating her recent addition to the season seven cast of Arrow. If gratitude was a superpower, then Katherine McNamara might be the most powerful star of all.
When it was announced in June that Shadowhunters would be ending after its third season, Freeform loaded up on the ‘sweet’ in the bittersweet news: the series would return in spring 2019 with two finale episodes to wrap up all loose ends in the story. “When we found out the show wasn’t going to continue,” Katherine tells us, “they gave us the opportunity to shoot a two-episode ‘TV movie’ to help wrap up the story, which was the biggest gift. We shot that in July and August and it will be airing early 2019.”
Although her time playing the role of Clary in the Shadowhunters family has come to an end, Katherine still beams about how honored she feels to have been part of the experience. “One of the biggest gifts of being with Shadowhunters — and it’s something I give the writers credit for — is that every single woman on the show stands up for themselves, fights their own battles, and each is empowered in their own way.” She adds, “And just as importantly, they are such a diverse range of women. What that does is show the next generation of young girls that strong, empowered, badass women are not of one stripe — they are every woman.”
“I take my responsibility to my younger viewers very seriously,” Katherine tells us. “I know when I was a little girl I wanted nothing more than to find a character like Clary to look up to, and characters in whose footsteps I could follow. I was lucky enough to be raised in a household of badass women who balanced career and family and were able to do it all. It was never a question of ‘or’ — it was always a question of ‘and’. You can be anything you want to be, no matter what society says, and if you work hard enough.”
Katherine’s towering work ethic is well known amongst her Shadowhunters team, who worked closely with her through the years to craft the physical dimension of her character Clary. “Although I’ve been a dancer my whole life, when I began work on Shadowhunters I didn’t know how to throw a punch or hold a sword. I didn’t know what I was doing. With Clary I was immediately thrown into the fire, and we had an amazing team of stunt professionals and stunt doubles. They were world class martial arts experts and teachers, and they were always there to teach us any time we wanted to take time to learn, so I never missed an opportunity!”
If Katherine’s strong family lineage of amazing women forged her soul and spirit, then her Shadowhunters stunt team helped teach her how to channel that inner strength through her body’s outer strength and turn it into brute, acute force. “I have the utmost respect for my stunt team. They’re not only massively talented, but also the most amazing people. By season two of Shadowhunters I was doing 95% of my own stunts and fighting. I worked closely with my stunt team and they showed me how to fight and how to move. It was such a huge gift and it changed my world. Now I’m such a gym rat, I love working out, and martial arts and boxing have become one of my biggest passions. Now with Arrow I get to continue my boxing and fighting skills in a whole new universe.”
In Arrow, Katherine plays Maya, a fearless, street-smart fighter who comes from life in an underground fight club. “Maya’s been raised in a really tough environment, so she’s a product of that,” Katherine explains. “She’s not one to be intimidated, and not one to be messed with. It makes it fun for me as an actor because my character of Clary in Shadowhunters started out as very much an innocent, hopeful, optimistic person. Maya, on the other hand, is the antithesis of Clary. She’s seen the dark side and she’s been forged by it. She’s one to punch first and ask questions later.”
Katherine’s tough-as-nails fighting prowess is perfectly balanced by her altruistic spirit, and a moral compass that’s been supercharged by her upbringing surrounded by so many women of grace in her own family. Arrow follows the story of billionaire playboy Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), a man with unlimited financial resources who has devoted his life to fighting crime and corruption with his own bare, vigilante hands. We asked Katherine what she thinks she would devote her life purpose to if money was no longer an object.
“I would devote a good portion of my life to many different things,” she tells us. “Rather than devoting myself to hooded vigilante justice like Oliver in Arrow, I would prefer to build schools, and try and make a difference in people’s lives by helping them lay the foundation for a strong future — especially for people who might not otherwise have had access to resources, opportunities, and safety. There are so many folks who don’t have the opportunity to live the life that they want to, and are instead focused strictly on survival.” Katherine adds, “I would also want to devote some of my time to telling stories that hold up a mirror to society and force us to ask questions about how we can make the human experience a better one for everybody.”
In talking with Katherine, one quickly becomes aware of how thankful she is for the beautiful life the Universe has allowed her to create for herself. How perfectly fitting it is, then, that Katherine was born on Thanksgiving. “I’m a turkey baby, so every eleven years Thanksgiving falls on my birthday (the fourth Thursday of November), and this year happens to be one of those years!”
Getting to celebrate her birthday and Thanksgiving at the same time each year has naturally become one of her favorite annual traditions. “It makes it so much fun — I always joke because I get to have cake AND pie (laughing)! It’s just a goofy, fun, playful day and I get to spend time with the people I love the most. It really is my favorite holiday. It’s so simple and pure and not bogged down by commercialization. It’s a holiday built on gratitude, and it means the world to me.”
The two-part series finale of Shadowhunters will air in spring 2019. New episodes of Arrow air Monday nights at 8/7c on the CW and stream free the next day.
Photographer: Arthur Galvao
Photo Assistant: Alex Budin
Creative Director: Alek Tomovic
Stylist: Ambika Santana
Hair: Creighton Bowman
Makeup: Nicole Walmsley