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What Katherine McNamara Learned While Shooting Untitled Horror Movie - Exclusive Interview

Before Katherine McNamara was doing her own lighting, hair, and makeup for her new film, "Untitled Horror Movie," she donned bright red hair as the badass Nephilim Clary Fray in the fan-favorite series "Shadowhunters." While the show ended abruptly in 2019, the passion from the fandom, lovingly dubbed "Shadowfam," remains palpable today. Twitter users still find the #SaveShadowhunters hashtag frequently trending despite the show's not-so-recent goodbye.

In 2018, McNamara won the role of Mia Smoak on "Arrow." Her stint as Mia almost won her a spinoff show, but it wasn't in the cards. However, McNamara isn't just a TV star. In 2018, she starred alongside Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster in both "Maze Runner" sequels.

In 2021, McNamara treated fans to an onscreen reunion between herself and Matthew Daddario in "Trust." And the reunions keep rolling in with the impending release of her quarantine DIY film, "Untitled Horror Movie" — co-written by (and co-starring) "Shadowhunters" alum Luke Baines. Fans may or may not be successful in saving "Shadowhunters," but it doesn't look like the cast has any intention of slowing down their work together.

Looper spoke to Katherine McNamara during an exclusive interview for "Untitled Horror Movie," where she revealed what it was like doing a film at home during quarantine. She also dished on how she feels about her "Shadowhunters" ending, Clary's intended Season 4 arc, and what it was like working with Matthew Daddario and Luke Baines again.

Katherine McNamara: Future director

All of the main "Untitled Horror Movie" cast has significant experience doing major fantasy, sci-fi, or superhero shows with massive production values. What was it like having to do things like filming and lighting on your own? What was the biggest challenge?

It was probably the most terrifying part of the film for me. But also, I learned so, so much and was so grateful for it. I know I'm always the actor who asks too many questions on set. I would like to direct someday as well, so I'm trying to learn as much as I can about the technical side, and I've been fortunate enough to work with some amazing technicians and camera folks and directors who have taken the time to teach me a few of those things. But there's a big difference between observing it and understanding it and then practically doing it yourself in your house with little resources.

So I think all of us collectively just didn't want to be the one person to ruin the movie by doing something wrong or some technical snafu, as it were. But all credit goes to our amazing director of photography Kevin Duggin, because he has the patience of a saint and spent time teaching six actors on Zoom how to light, how to set up sound, and how to transfer footage at 3:00 AM when we're dead tired after filming and all props go to him. I mean, he is just an absolute saint, and he was our hero in this whole process.

From actor to ... everything else

That's amazing. What was this experience like compared to projects like "Shadowhunters" and "Arrow"?

It was a grand experiment, but we were very lucky we had a wonderful outcome. It's something that, as an actor, you try and stay in your lane. You go to set. You have your job. Half of an actor's job is staying out of the way of the rest of the artists and technicians so that they can do their job. And then you just go in and play, and try and help out as much as you can. 

Normally, the best way to help out is just to let the experts be experts. But it's fascinating because when you're doing it yourself, you learn so many little things that you would have never thought about — or details that have to be addressed. Or you always wonder why, in the art department, they keep moving that one flower vase in the background, but then you realize when it's your responsibility to think about, you're like, "Oh, if I just keep tweaking the flower vase, it looks so much better."

All these little details that you just ... It blows your mind as to the expertise of every single person on set. And I desperately miss being on set. It was so wonderful to be able to experience that and learn so much and make this film. But there's something about being in that physical space with people and having that camaraderie and building that family. That is one of the most special parts of my job for me.

Getting the gang back together

What was it like getting to work with your former "Shadowhunters" co-star, Luke Baines, again on "Untitled Horror Movie"?

I adore Luke. He's one of my dearest friends, and also I absolutely loved working with him on "Shadowhunters," so getting a chance to dive back in again was great. And especially since in the way he wrote this script, there are a lot of ... I know his sense of humor very well. So I understand the jokes, and there are a lot of things that I know are personal jokes for him or for us, or for experiences that he's had in the other friendships of people that he brought into this film. And it's just wonderful to see that all come to fruition and get to play characters that are so different than what we've done before.

I love how sort of ditzy Chrissy is because we haven't really seen you go in that direction a whole lot before. What was it like getting into that headspace and butting heads with Claire Holt's character Kelly?

It was so fun. I mean, especially because I adore Claire. She's an absolute sweetheart. And so whenever you have someone to butt heads with, but it's onscreen, and you adore them off

screen, it makes it so much more fun. But it's a great thing to do. It's always a challenge with characters, whether they're villains or people that are on the surface and archetype because as the person playing them, you can't judge them for whatever qualities they have on the outside. 

And I think my way into Chrissy was the way that she commits to everything. Whether it's her friends, or her job, or her belief systems, she dives into the deep end of the pool head first and will do anything to commit to the moment and commit to the bit there and literally. But that's what's so great about her, and about all these characters, is on the surface, they appear to be one thing, but as they're confronted with all of these things, you see so much more to each of them.

Clary's arc cut short

Were you drawing on any real-life diva experiences, or was that total fabrication?

I've been really fortunate. I've worked with generally very lovely people over the last several years. I've heard a lot of horror stories, but I haven't experienced very many myself. Everyone knows what that kind of is in a context. And when you have people that are down to play and create that banter, it makes it fun.

Switching gears a bit, how did you feel about Clary's ending in "Shadowhunters"? And is there anything that you would've liked to do in the series before it ended that you just didn't get a chance to, since it was sort of a swift cancellation?

Yeah. I mean look, as sad as it is, the show came to an end. We were so grateful to be able to do the two-part finale that we did and pay homage to not only the story and the world that we'd built, but to the fanbase that's stuck with us through all of this. And it gave us all closure in a way. And is there anything I would have liked to do with Clary? Maybe five more seasons would've been fun. That would have been super fun.

But now that you say that, we were sort of planning an interesting turn for the following season with Clary in that she'd just come out of Jonathan's control. And she'd done a lot of things that were obviously in direct opposition to who she was, and a lot of evil things and dark things. And having worked so hard to gain the trust of the Shadow World, she'd destroyed it all — even though it wasn't of her own free will. And so there was a lot of work to be done and a lot of guilt that Clary was harboring.

Where was Clary headed in season 4?

And the way we were going to go about her way of making up for that in her mind was to commit to being a Shadowhunter and to go full soldier for the next season. And almost to the point of Alec in season one, where she does play by the rules, and she works hard, and she just laser focuses in and commits to being that fighter, that warrior, and that soldier. But also her relationship with Jace, him having been the Owl and her having been under ... I was about to say Luke [Laughs] Jonathan's control for so long. Only they could've related to that kind of guilt and that process.

So it would have been interesting. We got to do a little bit of that in the finale. But overall, I spent a lot of time talking to Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer about the ending, and about what their idea was, and making sure it was right. And ultimately, they came up with something brilliant. 

Although it's not ideal that the show had to end at all, the fact that we were able to, at least the way I took the ending, was to make the statement that despite anything, despite any angels spike or demonic forces or forgetting, memory curses or anything, it's Clary's connection and her love for Jace and for the Shadow World. And it is love as a whole that is stronger than anything and will persist no matter what. And that's, I think, the message of the whole show, and that's what we wanted to say. And that's, I think, the whole undercurrent of the Shadowfam.

Finding a family on-set

What was it like working with the "Shadowhunters" cast? And then you also got to work with Matthew Daddario again recently in "Trust." What was it like working with him again and doing a little bit of a romance when you guys have such a real-life sibling thing going on?

This is the thing when you're in any kind of situation where there's intimacy on-set, it is the least romantic thing you will ever do because you're not only in an environment with a bunch of people watching, but there's a camera like 20 inches from your face when you're ... And it's all entirely technical and completely choreographed out. And the most important thing when you're in those situations is being with somebody you trust, and obviously, Matt Daddario is like my big brother. I trust him with everything, including my life.

And, you know, the fact that you can work with someone that not only you have that kind of shorthand of a working relationship with already, but you can trust them, it's really, really wonderful. And having done that and then getting to work with Luke, the "Shadowhunters" show was such a microcosm of lightning in a bottle. It's such a collaborative experience, and I know everybody goes, "Oh, we're a family on set," but we were.

These guys, I will be friends with them for the rest of my life. And from the cast to the crew, to the creatives, to the writers, to the fans, it's this community that will live on. So I'm definitely planning ... I have some things in the works of other reuniting experiences with other "Shadowhunters" cast members. So stay tuned.


The #SaveShadowhunters movement is still going strong years after the show ended, which I think is just so cool. How do you feel about that strong passion and support? Do you think a revival is possible? And would you be down to participate if one happened?

I will say this once and for all, if you ever need Clary Fray to come back to this world in any way, shape, or form, I would jump at the chance. She's truly special to me, and playing her was such a part of me becoming who I am as an adult, and as an artist, and just as a person. So I would jump at the chance to go back. I think she's really, really special, and that world is so special. But also look, if "Friends" can do a reunion 17 years down the road, there's hope for "Shadowhunters."

Above anything, I am eternally grateful and just forever in awe of the Shadowfam. The fact that they've taken a show that they can all connect to and built a community ... That goes way beyond the show and beyond any of us and our characters, and anything. It's this positive force for good that can accomplish, as we saw with the #SaveShadowhunters movement, astronomical things — and great, wonderful, beautiful things in this world. I'm so floored and so grateful to just be a little part of that community.

Fans can buy tickets for the "Untitled Horror Movie" Worldwide Livestream Premiere Event here or stream the film on VOD on June 15. "Shadowhunters" fans can watch every season of the series on Hulu.