Mortal Instruments Scribe Cassandra Clare & Series Bosses Talk SHADOWHUNTERS Season 2
It’s hard to deny that the scope of the Shadowhunters universe is one of the story’s most appealing qualities.
From creatures to customs, the diverse world of shadowhunters, mundanes and downworlders is vast and rich in more ways than one.
During the series’ season two panel on Saturday, showrunners Darren Swimmer and Todd Slavkin, along with The Mortal Instruments series author Cassandra Clare, teased fans about what kind of physical changes they could expect to see in the show, particularly during Season 2A. While the series already has plenty of characters–and thus storylines–to juggle, the show’s conductors aren’t afraid of the challenges that come with building, developing and exploring the nuances of these complicated communities.
Following the departure of Ed Decter, former Shadowhunters showrunner, just prior to season two, fans began to wonder what changes they might see to within their favorite universe. Were new showrunners Darren Swimmer and Todd Slavkin of Smallville fame going to drastically change the world that had been established in season one? How much of what we were going to see during season two would mirror what TMI author Cassandra Clare had created with her bestselling books series?
ScreenSpy had the chance to sit down with showrunners Swimmer and Slavkin, as well as the mind behind the book series, Clare, to talk about what kind of world and character building fans could expect to see in January, as well as what pivotal scenes from the books are crossing over from page to screen for the series’ expanded second season.
Taking the reigns of someone else’s world is not easy feat, but Swimmer and Slavkin weren’t just taking over what Decter built. They were also continuing the world that Clare imagined, a presumably difficult balancing act that is only complicated by their desire to grow the series in their own way. For fans worried about how that juggling game is going, not to worry. The showrunners promise that season two’s creative changes are putting the show two steps forward–and no steps back.
“We came fairly late in the game and so we’re trying to elevate what was already cool and make it cooler,” Slavkin said. “That comes from adding more emotion to the show, deepening the characters in the show, making the world bigger, the stunts are cooler, the visual FX are cooler, sets are bigger, New York City is all over the show. We’re just trying to add richness and texture to something that was already great.”
“You’ll see the look is a little bit darker, a little bit grittier–reflecting Urban Fantasy,” Swimmer followed up. “We wanted to kind of bring that into the show.”
The success of a TV universe isn’t just dependent on how visually appealing it is, though. Almost any action movie box office flop will show you that. How compellingly you navigate your characters–and actors–through that world is just as important, and the Shadowhunters showrunners know it.
“Our goal is to write scenes where the actors show up in the morning saying ‘I can’t wait to act in that scene because as a writer that turns us on,” Slavkin said. “We get so excited–we’re crying, we’re laughing. So I think you guys will see that performance. We’re all so invested now, these kids are so turned on by the material.”
Last season we saw a lot of the characters playing around in the New York City shadowhunter community. But there are a lot of major players, places and stakes in the shadow world that exist outside of structures like the New York Institute. So what should fans expect to see for characters like downworlders Simon, Luke and Magnus?
“With Valentine out there creating a threat for everybody and the way The Clave is responding to it, puts a lot of pressure on this uneasily alliance between the different groups–and we find that really interesting,” Swimmer shared. “The wolf pack, the vampires, the seelies. Later in the first ten we’re going to see things become a little more tense between them.”
“You’ll have to wait for 2B for your seelie moment,” Slavkin teased. “But there’s a great scene in 2A where all the heads of the downworld except for the godfather get together and you have the warlocks and the werewolves and the vampire and the seelies in this meeting of “What are we going to do?”
The downworlders won’t just be coming together in grand ways either. There will be more personal moments, scenes and relationships that get explored, including the bond between Simon and new werewolf Maia, a character that many fans of Clare’s series will recognize. Swimmer and Slavkin describe the new character, played by Alisha Wainright, as “funny, sexy, charming and kicks total ass,” and revealed she is set to make her series debut in episode three.
While the showrunners confessed they haven’t done a lot with the character yet, they are taking cues from Clare’s series about how Maia fits into this Shadowhunters world.
“Cassie’s created not just vampires or werewolves, but a downworld that’s so expansive,” Slavkin said. “We want to explore the different relationships like Maia and Simon. Do vampires and werewolves like each other? Of course not, but yes they do because they can relate. Simon can’t talk to Clary like he can talk to Maia. You know it’s like, “You do what? You did that?” [Simon] can’t talk to Clary, but he can talk to Maia because Maia understands what that’s like and Clary’s more like “Really?”
Simon and Clary aren’t the only characters fans should expect to see Maia hanging around with though. According to Slavkin, she’s entrenched with several major shadow world players.
“It’s really fun. She plays with Luke a lot, she plays with Simon and Jace, and a little bit of Clary. But as Cassie said earlier, Clary is a little bit on the outside as all these people are now downworlders. But [Wainright] is great and I think fans are really going to enjoy her.”
Season two will also be bringing in other major elements of the book series, including more on the history and dynamics of the Parabatai bond between Jace and Alec. It’s a logical narrative move considering that 2A will be driven largely by everyone’s search for Jace.
Clare admitted that she was a fan of translating the Parabatai bond to screen, something that fans got a taste of during season one.
“From what I’ve seen, [they] are super invested in the idea of Parabatai and what that means,” Clare said. “They love the idea of this deep friendship being respected and honored in this way. There’s a really great line in the first episode [of season two] where Alec is talking to Magnus and he says ‘Jace is the other half of me and if he dies part of me dies, too.’ And I was like ‘I’m so glad to hear that articulated because I felt like unless you were a book fan it might have missed you in the first season.”
“I was so glad to see the way that they are going to develop that,” Clare continued. “I can’t tell you anymore but there’s going to be a ton of Jace and Alec stuff as their relationship is really significant. There’s a great new stunt guy and we definitely talked about what it meant to be a Parabatai and fight together. So I’m really excited to see how that goes on screen.”
Slavkin noted that while season 2A won’t have a lot of fight sequences for the Parabatai due to the distance between Alec and Jace, there will definitely be even more emotional exploration of that bond and how it’s created–something that the showrunners had already teased fans with over Twitter.
“Not necessarily with the fighting, which was in the pilot, but you will get to see the Parabatai ceremony–there’s a flashback– it’s really cool and the young actors casting is great,” Slavkin said. “So you’ll get to see all of that. It’s really special.”
With one season under its belt and the show making tweaks both major and minor to both its packaging and contents, how does the woman behind the Shadowhunters universe feel about how things in season two are going?
“Todd and Darren have been super great about including me, calling me, running through things with me, asking permission on some stuff that’s probably going to blow your mind,” Clare teased. “It’s an interesting and new direction on stuff from the books.”
“I feel like this season really honors the spirit of the books and in a way that I really hope will work for people who have read the books,” Clare continued. “Hopefully they’ll be surprised enough and appreciate some deepening of the world and getting to see more of it. And getting to see the world behind the world that we see with Clary, [expanding] out and [seeing] things from other people’s point of view. I think they will also appreciate getting to see some of the things that they–like the Seelie court scene–that they remember and love.”
Shadowhunters returns Monday January 2 on Freeform.