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Shadowhunters star Isaiah Mustafa Chats With BGN

Shadowhunters star Isaiah Mustafa Chats With BGN


Interview conducted by Abbey White

When Shadowhunters star Dominic Sherwood assuredly told a crowd of New York Comic Con attendees last October that Season Two had “changed stuff,” it’s safe to assume most fans weren’t expecting that “stuff” to be episode four’s final moments. The death of one of the book series’ defining characters, Jocelyn Fairchild (Maxim Roy), was a stunning, unforeseen twist for a show that’s in every way a TV adaption, but that still continually illustrates a genuine desire to honor its source material. It would seem though that Shadowhunters is as much about bringing a beloved story to life as it is about tactically using creative liberty to deliver a truly unique imagining.

Ultimately, Jocelyn’s death halted her character development, but her roles as Luke Garroway’s (Isaiah Mustafa) love, Clary Fray’s (Katherine McNamara) mother, and the chief motivator of both characters’ hero arcs will live on, perhaps most significantly through Shadowhunters’ long game. As we saw during last Monday’s episode, Clary had quite the emotional goodbye and will have to grapple, in the absence of her mother, with what it means to be herself in a world she still doesn’t fully understand. Luke, on the other hand, was curiously absent until the episode’s final moments, wherein viewers were given a glimpse at what the New York City pack leader had been up to. Lying in the middle of the woods during what appeared to be a transition, Luke was bare (literally), alone, and far away from the place we assume he—and viewers—would’ve wanted him to be.

So what happened, or is happening, to Luke? And how will the events of “Day of Wrath” impact his development, if at all, for the rest of the season? Shadowhunters star Isaiah Mustafa took some time to chat with Black Girl Nerds about getting the deadly news, Luke’s unique grieving process and what fans can expect for the leader, Downworlder, and father figure from here on out.

Black Girl Nerds: I’ll start with perhaps the most obvious issue: Jocelyn’s death. How far ahead did you know about it? And was there ever any discussion with the writers about the possibility of her dying before you found out?

Isaiah Mustafa: We knew about it when we sat down for our table read. That’s when we find out everything. [Laughs] They were pretty cool about not letting that one out of the bag. Sometimes they leak to us just for fun, but that one they did not. They kept that one close. When they did tell us we were all pretty shocked. You know, it was one of those things where you don’t like to see that because you develop a relationship with your co-worker and you have a bond, and then you’re like “Oh my gosh, my co-worker’s not going to be here anymore.” Unless she comes back in a dream sequence or whatever. But I can see—or at the time I saw—how it could propel the story forward. For the storyline and what the show’s trying to do, I believe it made a lot of sense, just based off of conversations that I’ve had with the creators and showrunners. It seemed like that was going to boost the show or throw the show in a direction that we may not have been ready for, but that eventually, fans will see had a purpose.

BGN: Jocelyn and Luke’s arcs both in the show and books were pretty tightly woven together, so with Jocelyn’s death, a lot of what was cemented for Lucelyn is simply no longer possible. Going forward, how drastically can fans expect Luke’s storyline to diverge from book developments into original storyline territory?

Mustafa: I think the television show is an original storyline, just because it’s made for TV. You just have to take things and alter them. If you work in television and you watch television, you see that you can do things really close to original source material, but at times because of commercials and different ways people watch TV nowadays, you have to kind of alter it—push it in a direction where it moves a little faster and engages the viewer a little bit differently. I think most fans will be happy to know that Luke’s storyline will continue to move in the direction of him still being Luke. There’s nothing that’s going to change in him as far as his personality. He’s still going to be that alpha, overseeing, good person and good Downworlder who is fighting for the cause above all else.

BGN: Luke has been missing since the demon attacked the institute, so viewers can’t be sure if he knows about Jocelyn’s death yet. Clary was given some screen time to grieve, but what can we expect to see from Luke in terms of his grieving process? Will he—like Clary—have a response to Alec’s role in it all?

Mustafa: With any death, you don’t know how it’s going to hit you. It can hit you at different times and different ways. You may be the kind of person who goes and works out for hours and hours on end or the person who locks themselves in their room and cries. This next episode you’re going to see how Luke grieves. He’s grieving and trying to do the best he can, but because he’s a werewolf and that’s the first thing he is, you’re gonna see how he grieves and how he has no control over that.

BGN: Obviously Luke isn’t just one-half of Lucelyn. He also has a significant role in the Downworld as a pack leader. But as we’ve seen with other characters, grief can impede one’s loyalty to their other “duties.” What changes or connections, if any, can we expect to see from Luke, a leader and a father figure, but also a victim yet again of his former parabatai?

Photo credit: Freeform

Mustafa: I think you’re gonna see that he has a connection with each of these main characters a little bit differently. Of course Clary, you know that relationship and where that stems from. Simon is the same thing. You know that they’ve known each other for a long time, so you know where that bond comes from. Now Jace—I think that Jace and Luke have a really special bond that maybe not too many people realize and that’s because of what Jace is going through with Valentine. Luke can relate to that because he went through the same exact thing, just in a different way. When Valentine was telling everyone in the circle “We have to do this, we have to revolt,” Luke was there. Then suddenly Valentine turned on him.

So [Luke] understands what Jace is going through and who he’s dealing with I think more than anybody now that Jocelyn is gone. There’s a really special connection there that I think fans should clue in to. I know we touch on it a bit in a few episodes coming up, but just really pay attention to that relationship because it’s a lot deeper than it lets on. Alec, of course, he’s got a special bond with because he understands what it’s like to be a Shadowhunter or a Downworlder who’s in love with a Shadowhunter and vice versa, because of his love for Jocelyn. I want to see a lot more of his relationship with Magnus because they have a history and they go back—though we haven’t heard too much about that yet. But that’s the relationship or bond that I really want to get into more.

BGN: Are you saying we probably won’t be getting into that more in 2A?

Mustafa: No, didn’t say that at all.

BGN: As of late on this show, parenthood seems to be catching a bad rap. Recent episodes have sort of situated all of the show’s parental figures in opposition to their children, from the Fairchild’s and the Lightwood’s to Magnus’ backstory and even in perhaps a less obvious way, Simon and his mother. Luke, however, has always been this cool, calm and collected figure. Will he stick to that approach of his fatherly duties, or can we expect that to start shifting now that he is the most prominent parent in the room?

Mustafa: Luke is fair. He’s extremely fair and he understands everybody’s situation because for the most part he’s either been in it or dealt with it. He’s seen it from their eyes or been in their shoes, so he’s going to maintain that trait of “Hey, maybe I wouldn’t have done that, but I understand what you’re going through so next time do this or next time do that.” He’s going to try to appeal to each character because as a pack leader, he’s learned that that is what he has to do.

Now, there’s some trouble going on in his pack because his pack is saying “Hey, this situation with the Downworlders and The Clave, we don’t like it.” He has to be the mediator there, but they’re not looking for a mediator. They’re looking for a pack leader to say let’s move forward with our plans. He’s not doing that because he knows The Clave, as crazy and political as they are, they have their reasons, and they are the law. And as Luke said in a past episode, he’s on the side of the law. Now, that just means he’s trying to keep everything right. He may find that he’s not able to do that or maybe he has to figure out how to do that in a new way.

BGN: Regardless of his Downworlder identity and Jocelyn’s death, Luke’s relationships still situate him as a major player in Shadowhunter society. That includes his ties to the Iron Sisters, who will make their first appearance in Monday’s episode. Victor has sort of edged Luke out, so will we see him wriggling his way back into Shadowhunter relations with the introduction of his family? And can we expect any tension to surface as a result of this potentially rekindled connection?

Mustafa: You can definitely expect him to have a bigger role in regards to the Iron Sisters because of the family tie there. I really like the way the writers and showrunners have moved that storyline—his past—and how they’re going to show you what it has done to him, where it’s taking him, and why he is the way he is right now. It’s really hard for him if you think about it because his whole family and anyone who he ever grew up with is a Shadowhunter. That’s who they are, that’s the world they come from, that’s where he came from, and now he’s an outcast because of something that his best friend or blood brother did to him. He’s dealing with a lot, but he still has love for ‘em. [Laughs] Like no matter what Luke’s like, “I still love you even though you guys all turned your back on me. I’m still there with you.” You’re gonna see exactly how that plays out literally in the next three episodes. You’re gonna go “Oh crap!” It just builds like “Uh-oh, uh-oh, uh-oh!”

BGN: During New York Comic Con, showrunners Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer teased that fans will see a giant meeting between the Downworlders. I think it’s safe to assume Luke will be present. However, there’s something that sets Luke apart from the rest of his Downworld brethren: his connection to Valentine. How will that relationship affect Luke’s role in the fight to save the world and perhaps who trusts him to lead it?

Mustafa: There’s going to be tension there, and I can tell you where it stems from. It doesn’t stem from anything with Valentine because once Luke turned, he lost all his runes and that bond was broken. What he does have is that feeling of betrayal, and that runs deep with him. As far as anything else, his main concern is Clary. Now that her mother is gone, he’s taking on a bigger responsibility. Only through himself. He hasn’t said anything about it, but he’s taking on a bigger responsibility because he feels has to be there for her. That’s the first thing he’s looking out for, and he’s thinking “If I have to look out for her, let me look me go ahead and protect everybody.” [Laughs] He knows that if he protects everybody, she’ll be alright, so he puts an umbrella over the whole group. But again, there’s tension because maybe they don’t want his help, and on the flip side, Downworlders may be like “Why are you so concerned with these Shadowhunters? You have an obligation to us first.”

BGN: At the end of this past Monday’s episode, we saw Luke rather exposed in the middle of the woods, clearly dealing with some aspect of his transformation process. What will viewers learn while out in the woods with Luke? Was there anything particularly hard about acting something that is, in the end, so dependent on you physicalizing something that’s not actually happening?

Mustafa: The director of the next episode was so amazing. Amazing at how he would sit down and talk to me about what Luke was going through, and asking how do I think he feels about everything. I [told] him if it’s me in the situation, which it sort of is, the grief is uncontrollable. The rage and the blood lust underneath that a werewolf goes through are uncontrollable. It’s very easy to put yourself in a place that you feel like you’re out of control. In a sense, when you’re out there in the woods baring it all, you kind of are out of control. [Laughs] You don’t have much control over that situation, so it wasn’t too hard. It was fun, though. I have to say this episode that’s coming up probably was the most fun I’ve had on set during Shadowhunters for the entire run because it was just so engaging and the director was so, so kind and nice. He really understood how to talk to the actors about what they were doing. It was really cool to work with him. I’m really looking forward to this episode and to what the fans think. You may have gotten a taste of what a werewolf goes through, but you’re really gonna get a first-hand account of it all this next episode.

Abbey White is a freelance entertainment and identities journalist who has written for USA TODAY Network, The Mary Sue, Black Girl Nerds, ScreenSpy and Paste Magazine, among other outlets. She currently lives in New York City where she serves as an editorial intern for The Nation magazine.

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