'Shadowhunters' stars Katherine McNamara and Emeraude Toubia on training to ward off vampires
"Shadowhunters," which is loosely based on the best-selling, young-adult, fantasy novel series "Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments" returns for the second half of Season 2 on Monday at 8 p.m. ET on Freeform. The main character, Clary Fray (Katherine McNamara), is immersed in a world of vampires, werewolves and warlocks, then discovers she's a shadowhunter -- a human-angel hybrid who hunts demons -- in the process.
Fray and fellow shadowhunter Isabelle Lightwood (Emeraude Toubia) frequently kick butt and take names throughout the scripted series. The physicality of the roles requires its actors to not only train extensively, but to learn how to fight in a synchronized manner.
"Shadowhunters" was recently renewed for Season 3, so espnW caught up with McNamara and Toubia to discuss their workout regimens and why chasing vampires is not for the faint of heart.
espnW: What drew you to your respective roles?
Katherine McNamara: There are so many strong, independent women on the show who you see kick butt and fight for what they believe in. The show features a lot of girl power and highlights that there are different types of strong women.
Clary is still learning how to be a fighter and hone all of those skills. She has the shadowhunter instinct because it's in her bloodline, but she doesn't know how to use those talents yet. I've been able to grow and mature with the character -- not only personally and emotionally, but physically, as well.
Emeraude Toubia: Living with a character as an actress, you go through everything they are dealing with. With Isabelle, she was always a strong and empowered woman, and then suddenly she breaks and hits rock bottom [with an addiction she's struggling to control]. The different depths of Isabelle have challenged me to get out of my comfort zone. I hope viewers, especially those dealing with an addiction, recognize that no matter how far someone may fall, they can still rise.
espnW: The show is so physical, what is the training process like?
KM: I didn't know what I was doing with a sword [when we started], and I barely knew how to throw a punch. Now boxing has become one of my favorite pastimes. I've also been doing a lot of intensity interval training, sprints, TRX and high-low repetition activities. I'm slowly on my way to being able to do a pull-up and have even worked my way up a 36-inch box jump.
ET: I get to fight in 6-inch heels, and it's a workout when you're wearing them for 15-plus hours a day. However, I grew up doing ballet, jazz, flamingo and belly dancing. Learning fight scenes are just like choreography, and that helped me a lot.
espnW: How do you make the magic happen in fight scenes?
KM: It often takes several hours to shoot the fight scenes, we [typically] do them over 30 times. Mistakes happen, and you may get hit with a sword, but you have to pick yourself back up and go at it again. It takes a lot of strength and stamina, and then we still have to make it look like it's the first time we're doing it and not the 31st. That's why we train so hard.
espnW: You both do the majority of your stunts. Why?
KM: The cast takes so much pride in being able to be part of every aspect of their character, and that includes doing a lot of their own stunts. So much of Clary is physical; she's a supernatural warrior. Some things I can't do myself because I'll get told, "It's an insurance thing," but I have an amazing stunt double, whom I've learned so much from. She's a world-class fighter and martial artist.
ET: I enjoy doing my own stunts. It gives the viewers an authenticity and realness from me doing them. I take pride in that as an actress. I love that I did all of my own stunts for Season 1, but because the stunts are becoming more challenging and for safety reasons, I also have an awesome stunt-double.
This interview has been edited for length.
Gianina Thompson is ESPN's senior publicist for NBA and MLB shows and on-air personalities. She's sports all day every day and lives for OT games, unless they're on Thursday nights, when she's locked onto "Grey's Anatomy," "Scandal," and "How to Get Away with Murder."