"Shadowhunters," the ABC Family series based on Cassandra Clare’s bestselling “Mortal Instruments” novels, took New York Comic Con by storm as hundreds of fans poured into the panel room, where they found memorabilia like bags and posters on their seats.
Clare herself took the stage to discuss the series with showrunner Ed Decter, executive producer McG and cast members Katherine McNamara, Dominic Sherwood, Harry Shum Jr., Alberto Rosende, Emeraude Toubia, Matthew Daddario and Isaiah Mustafa. TV Guide's Damian Holbrook moderated.
The fantasy drama follows 18-year-old Clary Fray, whose life is derailed when her mother is kidnapped and she discovers she descends from a long line of Shadowhunters, human-angel hybrids who hunts demons. Clary is thrown into a hidden shadow world filled with faeries, warlocks, vampires and werewolves, where she pursues demons with the mysterious Shadowhunter Jace and her best friend Simon.
Holbrook began the presentation by debuting the first six minutes of the series premiere. The scene is a faithful adaptation of the book's opening, albeit with a few embellishments, like a dramatic chase scene between the Shadowhunters and a shapeshifting demon. Fan-favorite characters like Jace Herondale (Sherwood), Alec Lightwood (Daddario), Izzy Lightwood (Toubia), Clary Fray (McNamara) Simon Lewis (Rosende) and Magnus Bane (Shum) put in appearances in the sequence.
After the cast and crew took the stage, Decter announced "Shadowhunters" will debut Jan. 12 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC Family (which by then will be renamed Freeform). ABC will also air a behind-the-scenes special, "Beyond the Shadows: The Making of 'Shadowhunters,'" on Dec. 6 at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT.
"I hope [people] will come to it with an open mind," Clare said. "What's been done here is a riff on the book. For me, a huge part of what's exciting is seeing what the fans think of it. I haven't seen it, they haven't seen it -- we're going to experience this together."
"I think it's wonderful we have this opportunity," she added. "We are guaranteed at least 13 episodes. They have all been shot, they have all been filmed. … We are able to see a whole chunk of someone's vision."
"We tried to honor everything Cassie created, but we throw in some surprises," Decter explained. "Possibly some new characters. Possibly characters from Clare's other material."
"It's an incredibly important responsibility," McG added. "All respect to the film, but we wanted to get it right. … You've got to have the right Clary to rest so much responsibility on. The same thing goes for Jace and Simon. Hopefully, we've done you proud.”
As to what it's like to play Clary, McNamara shared, "I think the best part of playing this character is having such a rich base to draw from, with the books and the fan base. … Everyone is so passionate about it. What I'm trying to do is live up to everyone else's amazingness. She has this strength and vulnerability. … I'm really excited to share with all of you."
"Whenever you do a new version of something that'd been done all around … you have to refresh that and rejuvenate that, keep it as fresh as possible," Sherwood added. "What we brought is Jace's arrogance and his contempt for his own mortality."
"I love Izzy," Toubia said. "She's so passionate. She loves as passionately as she fights. Being Latina and being able to do such a strong role, I hope this gives girls like more opportunity to break the mold."
"I can't really tell you," Daddario said of his character. "It's sort of a surprise. If you're a fan of Malec, you might be happy."
"Luke's a really fun character because he gets to be Clary's stepfather kind of figure. As the older guy on cast, it was kind of a responsibility to watch everybody," Mustafa joked. "It's a little tough. I'm not used to those late nights and early mornings."
"[Simon] fits into this world because he's so loyal," Rosende added. "He loves Clary so much. I think it's beautiful to see someone can love someone so much. … He fits in because he kind of gets dragged along. He always wants to make sure he's her right-hand man."
When asked whether Magnus will be good or bad, Shum answered, "He can go either way" to a roar of approval from the audience.
"And we love that about him," Holbrook added.
Shum described Magnus as "bitchy and lovable? I mean, you can put those two together at the same time. What I love about him is that, on the outside, he's got all this makeup and glitter … and inside, there's a guy who's very compassionate and he wants to help though he does need some sort of payment."
"From day one, this whole cast has been family," McNamara gushed. "This whole project has been a dream."
"We spent a tremendous amount of time working out together in the gym," Daddario explained. "We got in good enough shape to not get injured and do all our stunts ourselves."
"I think it's fair to say there isn't any success without everyone pulling their weight 100 percent," Sherwood added. "It's the crew we had in Toronto. There isn't one person I met on this production that wasn't 100 percent there. It's important to remember this is a team. We all put this thing together, spearheaded by our lovely leaders."
When asked how the show would portray the Shadowhutners' runes, Sherwood interjected, "First of all, they're runes. Did you ever have a transfer tattoo? They're like those. In my first shirtless scene, I have 25. They also kind of change and evolve. We put new ones on depending upon what we need. … It does take about an hour to get them all on, and then they have to be sealed … and at the end of the they we have to take them off."
"When we first get the runes, they're very painful-looking, it's like a prosthetic,” McNamara said. “All of Clary's runes are new throughout the season. They look really quite gruesome sometimes.”
When asked what scene she was most excited to see, Clare responded, "There are several. I'm a little worried about spoiling anything. I'm happy to see the Pandemonium scene. I'm looking forward to seeing people meet for the first time … and Clary and Jace's big kiss."
A fan question brought up the novels’ impact on LGBT readers. Daddario addressed that first, saying, "We have realized that, and have tried to stay true the characters."
"For us, we wanted to treat it with sensitivity," Shum added. "We wanted to have a base where it stems from, why these two are attracted to each other. We are in this world that's a Shadowhunter world, and it reflects real life. We're living in a world where it's a lot more open … to me, that's powerful."
"Your feelings are not wrong," Daddario added.
"I thought the best thing we could do is show strong characters being true to themselves,” McG said. “Own it. Just do your thing.”
"There is a little bit of Sizzy. Very little. But it's growing, there's a spark," Toubia revealed.
"It starts, but Simon is very preoccupied," Rosende offered.
"I kind of drag him through a lot this season," Toubia laughed.
"You guys have been so supportive,” Rosende shared, addressing a fan who expressed appreciation for the cast of two Latino actors. “Simon's Simon. It doesn't matter where he's from. That's what Emeraude and I want to show.”
"We cast Alberto early on," McG said. "The kid hadn't graduated from college yet. Everyone here is a dreamer. … It's just so nice to know his first gig ever landed him here in front of all you. It's a shining example of what you can do as a Latino, as a gay human being."
On Mustafa's casting, Clare said, "Luke is based in part on my stepdad, so my mom has always been attached to Luke. … I told my mom we had cast him and my mom goes, 'I'm married to the Old Spice Guy?!' She was very happy. The books are all about how you find your family. I'm very happy."
"We all have started to look up to Isaiah," Sherwood added. "Isaiah is a genuine, beautiful soul in this world and it's wonderful to have someone like him to look up to. … I want to be like him as much as possible."
When asked which scene they were most excited to film, McNamara responded immediately: "Every single one."
"I was quite excited to do the slapping scene, and then we got to scene and I was told Cat was going to slap me," Sherwood said. "She's got a slap on her, and -- on top of that -- [Jace] has to react like it didn't hurt, but it did! It really did!"
"You told me to hit as hard as I could!" McNamara protested.
"For those of you who like Chairman Meow, stay tuned," Decter teased.
Another fan asked Daddario if his skills with a bow and arrow were comparable to Katniss. "They are vastly superior," he insisted.
Toubia revealed that, if she had the opportunity to take a prop, "I would take the whip."
"I would take a stele! Clary's an artist," McNamara said.
"I'd take Emeraude's whip, too," Rosende added.
A fan cosplaying as a Shadowhunter approached the mic to share her story about how characters like Alec and Magnus inspired her to be true to herself. As she began to cry, she was brought up on stage, where she received hugs from Clare and the rest of the cast.
"We're just not makers of TV and movies," Clare said. "We can only put our trust in the people making the movie in hope. In this case, I think this is a smart team of people. I will be watching it with you. Maybe we'll have a big ‘Mortal Instruments’ Shadowhunter party."