McG with his star, Katherine McNamara, on the set of Shadowhunters. (Photo: Freeform)
Shadowhunters isn’t executive producer McG’s first rodeo. You probably know that. After all, you’ve probably watched one (or more) of his other TV projects, from The O.C. and Supernatural to Chuck and The Mysteries of Laura, or movies like Charlie’s Angels, Terminator Salvation, and The DUFF. But this one is inherently different given its already well-established fanbase thanks to the hugely popular Mortal Instruments book series by Cassandra Clare.
Readers all over the world are waiting with bated breath to see how the story of Clary Fray, who discovers she’s a demon hunter with supernatural powers (known as a “shadowhunter”) on her 18th birthday and is thrown into their hidden world, will translate to television. They’re especially curious since the 2013 movie based on the same source material, which starred Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower, didn’t exactly work out.
Well, fear not, Fray fans. We talked to McG, and he quelled our personal concerns about the Freeform show — and even got us more excited than we were before — with these six key points.
1. He’s listening to you, and he thinks you’re awesome.
“I like to do a lot of listening to the fanbase because they’re intelligent and they care very deeply about the material. I want to make sure that we honor them, respect them, and get it right,” he says. “There are a lot of sacred elements to the fandom, be it the color of Magnus’s magic to his church in the show. It’s incredible how passionate and vocal and interested everybody is in our getting it right. I think that we’ve done everything we can — primarily Ed Decter, who wrote the show and is the showrunner — to make sure we heard the voices of the fanbase throughout the world.”
Alberto Rosende, McNamara, and Shailene Garnett in Shadowhunters. (Photo: Freeform)
2. He also thinks Cassie Clare is awesome, and is in regular contact with her.
“I like Cassie a lot. I talked to her a lot in pre-production, I talked to her during production. This came from her brain so I want to be very, very respectful of the source material and make sure that I bring a visual language to it that makes you feel when you view the show the same way you felt when you read the books,” McG says. “But I also think that we need to, with the blessing of Cassie, expand upon what is written and do it in a way that is conducive to the television medium. So we didn’t just want to do a 1:1 translation, but we definitely wanted to honor that which was most core to the book series.”
3. He doesn’t hate the movie, but this isn’t that.
“I like the movie a lot, and I really respect the original cast and everything they put together,” he says. “We just want to tell our own story. Truth be told, given the source material, it’s a much easier platform to tell the story an hour at a time through the body of television seasons. … We wanted to take advantage of a little bit more time to parse out the nuances of the story and really get down and get granular with it.”
McNamara as Clary Fray in Shadowhunters. (Photo: Freeform)
4. Katherine McNamara IS Clary.
“We saw a great many young, talented ladies, but when [Katherine] came in, she just had so much spirit and so much spark, and she felt like she was at the beginning of her own life adventure. To me, that’s reminiscent of Clary’s arc,” McG says. “That spoke to me right from the moment that she walked into the room and we met each other. Nevermind the physical characteristics, which happen to be uncanny as far as the mental image I would get from reading the material of what Clary would look like and express herself as. Just the intelligence, the internal strength, and the need to be given the opportunity to be her best self I thought Katherine embodied in many, many ways.“
5. Don’t worry your pretty little head about the incest issue.
"There’s some twists and turns that go along with that question, and we want it to be salacious and fun and delicious, but we don’t want it to be ridiculous and gross,” he says. “I think Ed handles this very deftly. And I think Cassie ultimately handles it very deftly in her writing. So I’ll save some of those surprises, but it is something we talked about at length. … We can handle it in a way that’s not terribly icky.”
Harry Shum Jr. as Magnus Bane in Shadowhunters. (Photo: Freeform)
6. Harry Shum Jr. is a standout.
We asked McG to pick one more thing about the show he wanted to tell us, and he opted to gush about the Glee alum’s turn as warlock Magnus Bane. “It’s just ridiculous,” he says. “He doesn’t even need visual effects to enhance his magic. He can do anything in an analog capacity. We got so lucky with him.”
Shadowhunters premieres Jan. 12 at 9 p.m. on Freeform (formerly ABC Family).