Oh, my Malec! It’s almost here.
By Malec, of course, I mean the romantic pairing of Magnus (Harry Shum Jr.) and Alec (Matthew Daddario) on the Freeform (formerly ABCFamily) series “Shadowhunters.” And by almost here, I mean that tomorrow is the premiere date for this highly anticipated series.
In the series, based on the uber-popular Cassandra Clare “Mortal Instruments” book series, Magnus is a bisexual warlock and Alec is a shadowhunter (one who fights demons and protects the humans of the world). Their romance, which was a huge part of the books, is one of the main things you see online or hear when talking to fans or hearing them scream at various public appearances, like last fall’s New York Comic Con.
But the show is finally beginning to air tomorrow, and we can dive into this world that gets upended when a supposed mundane who ends up being a shadowhunter, Clary (played by Katherine McNamara), comes into their world and kicks off the series. “Shadowhunters” also stars Dominic Sherwood, Alberto Rosende, Isaiah Mustafa and Emeraude Toubia.
As if you die-hard fans didn’t know, the entire cast with executive producers Ed Decter and McG were present this past Saturday at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour to talk about the series. After the panel, I sat down with the charming and surprisingly scruffy Daddario (of course we talked about his scruff!) to break down Alec’s journey, coming out and what he’s hearing from fans even before the show’s premiere.
Having seen the first episode, I like how we’re introduced to Alec without diving into the Malec of it all right away.
Matthew Daddario: We have to establish first that Alec is who he is. He’s closed. He’s a serious guy who is not happy, and if we don’t establish that then where do we go? If we just introduce Magnus immediately to Alec’s life that’s not going to be a very interesting story. So we have to establish Alec first and then a few episodes in we start to add the little elements.
The book goes into the fact that Alec was probably also in love with Jace whether he could admit that or not. Does that come up in the show?
MD: We toyed a lot with the idea, but I like to have this thought that Alec loves Jace. I think this is interesting because Alec loves Jace, because Jace is an attractive guy and he’s also his brother and he loves him as his brother in arms and all that.
[Alec] has trouble understanding his feelings for him because obviously underneath it he is in fact gay. He has trouble distinguishing between the two, but what it does is it allows for that outlet so he can feel something for men that is different than he can for women. So I don't know if he actually loves Jace in that way, but it's all part of his confusion and then when he sees somebody else obviously that changes.
Would you say season one is essentially his coming-out story? Is that a good way to look at it?
MD: There’s a lot going on that’s very tough [with] family, career and love, and those other parts, those are significant. So, it happens that this difficult love aspect comes in at the same time which is obviously very tough timing for such a thing, and that’s world-changing…that’s who you are and that’s a lot. So the story covers this very tumultuous time, and I think that that’s the most positive aspect of it.
You and the whole cast have been so on top of social media, but have you heard from young gay people even at this early stage?
MD: We see what’s on Twitter and Instagram and just generally on the Internet, and we try to keep track of it so that we can make sure that you learn from it. But when you see somebody say something like, “Malec was extremely important to me and we want to thank you so much for what you’ve done, and for you bringing these characters to life and being honest with these characters,” that’s tremendously meaningful to us and that drives us in a lot of ways to spend the amount of effort and time that we have on these characters and making it real.
I remember a time when I was a kid and I’d watch TV and see maybe one LGBT character, and they weren’t always a positive representation, and now there are so many gay characters and it’s often not even an issue in the show.
MD: That’s what’s fun is I think that Alec happens to be gay, but we get to see that realization and the process, the difficulty of that simple realization. For an outsider, it’s simple realization [that] you’re gay. This is just who you are, this is part of your life. Instead, for years and years and years and still unfortunately throughout the world and in the United States, it’s still a debate somehow. But it’s definitely important to us that kids, people, look at us [and] these characters and it affects them in a positive way, and I hope we’ve done that. The worst thing in the world would be if what comes out of this [is] like, “Wow, that’s just not real,” or “This didn’t have any effect on me.” I mean, that would be borderline devastating.
You wrapped shooting on the first season last fall. Do you miss Alec?
MD: I really like Alec. I think Alec is a great character. I think he’s a great person and he represents a lot of what’s good in the world with a person who cares about others more than he cares about himself, and a person who will do what’s necessary to do what he believes in. So I think that he’s got a good moral system, good value system and he acts to benefit the members of his world. So Alec, to me, is a person who I think a lot of people could strive to be more like. If only he could be more open and honest.
Tell me about your scruffiness today.
MD: Oh, yeah, you like it? I was doing a little project in Wyoming that I was directing. If you’re in Wyoming, I think there’s like a law you can’t shave there. So I like it and I like being scruffy. Alec doesn’t get to be scruffy. Maybe next season if we’re lucky enough to have it.
So if you’re directing something, does that mean you have bigger aspirations than being an actor?
MD: I don’t know. I like storytelling. I like being part of it. Acting obviously has all these other tremendous parts to it. Acting is such a wonderful thing, but storytelling in general is fun. The business itself is fun and any sort of facet of it. It’s all really interesting.
What is something that would surprise people to know about you?
MD: At this point I wonder what will surprise people. They have access to Instagram, they can analyze it. It’s just kind of a tough thing because honestly I try to be open about who I am without getting too much in my personal life, but I’m not dishonest so there’s no way to really be all that surprising.
Whatever you’re doing is working because the fans seem to love you.
MD: Yeah, they’re incredibly sweet.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.