'Shadowhunters': 9 Spell-Binding Secrets From The Set Of 'The Mortal Instruments' TV Show

Shadowhunters 9 Spell Binding Secrets From Set Ofthe Mortal Instrumentstv Show

Tucked neatly away on Simon’s bookshelf, next to his black, electric guitar and cobalt blue acoustic, across from the Brooklyn Bridge tapestry that adorned his bedside wall, were two rather innocuous books: Stephenie Meyer’s 'New Moon' and 'Eclipse.' At first glance, it may seem weird that a 20-year-old accounting student who moonlights as a rock ’n’ roll frontman would have half of the unfairly maligned 'Twilight' series on his bookshelf, but if you know Simon Lewis like I do, then this made perfect sense.

In late August, I, along with a few other reporters, arrived on the set of the new Freeform (nee ABC Family) series ' Shadowhunters ' in Toronto. Based on Cassandra Clare’s popular supernatural series ' The Mortal Instruments ,' 'Shadowhunters' follows Clary Fray, now 18, on a whirlwind journey of self discovery through the depths of the Shadow World. Vampires, werewolves, seelies, warlocks, demons -- every fictional creature you can think of, called 'Downworlders' in the series -- it’s all true. And then there are the Shadowhunters, angel-human hybrids, who are tasked with keeping them in line.

During our seven-hour adventure into the Shadow World, as well as a second solo day MTV News spent with various behind the scenes creators, we inspected several key sets. The New York Institute was the hub of most of the action for our Shadowhunters, their base of demon-killing operations. The abundance of modern technology felt cold next to the gothic architecture and ancient weapons that adorn the walls.

Next, we set up camp outside of the Jade Wolf, a small, intimate set that looked like it was stolen right from my imagination. Everything about the Jade Wolf was exactly how I pictured it — from the old, manual register to paper menus and the 70-cent cocktails. The linoleum floor was sticky under our feet, which seemed appropriate for a glamoured Chinese food restaurant.


Simon’s bedroom, which was conveniently located next to his beloved, spray-painted van, was disheveled when we arrived. (Fans of the books will probably understand the significance of this in terms of the Season 1 timeline.) Chairs were broken, mirrors were smashed, sheets left in disarray, but I couldn’t take my eyes off Simon’s bookshelf. You can tell a lot about someone by the books they keep in their bedroom, and I learned a lot about Simon that day. It’s not just that he read 'Twilight,' and happened to keep the two Jacob-centric novels by his bedside, but rather, he was the kind of guy who read them unironically. Simon wasn’t disingenuous. He was the loyal, loving best friend any person -- man, woman or Shadowhunter -- would be lucky to have.

That was something that stuck with me on set, as my eyes glazed over prop after prop, stele after stele: 'Shadowhunters' was trying so hard to give the fans what they wanted, to be genuine about it. Watching good-looking people do ridiculous things in front of a paper New York City landscape is par for the course on TV sets, but the set of 'Shadowhunters' felt more like a fandom celebration than anything else.

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Fan art covered the blinding white walls of the makeup and hair trailer. It's posted throughout the wardrobe department’s main office. It's in the break rooms. I didn’t check the bathrooms, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find a lovely drawing of Malec outside of each stall. Getting it right for the fans, whatever that meant, was important to them.

It's no secret I didn't love the pilot episode , 'The Mortal Cup,' [which MTV News screened several months later] but what I saw on that set that day made me believe in 'Shadowhunters.' Ironically, the pilot lacked what I felt as ubiquitous on set: heart.

  1. Finding Clary's perfect shade of red was a long process. Freeform

    When adapting a popular YA series for the small screen, dealing with fans' high expectations is pretty commonplace. Everything is scrutinized, from hair color to fashion choices. That's just how the Internet, and sometimes fandom, works. Case in point: Clary Fray's red tresses. When 'Shadowhunters' started production back in May, Katherine McNamara's red locks were a serious topic of debate for fans . The show's head hair stylist, Ryan Reed, explained the exasperating process:

    'It was quite a road to get there,' Reed told us. 'It started in Los Angeles with [Kat's] hairdresser Jeremy, and he set a wonderful base for the color, but it wasn't quite the right shade. So then we had some followups that we did here in Toronto. It was a couple trials and errors, many trials and errors, but we just kept depositing the color. I didn't want her to be blue-red, which would have been that very fake, bright red fire engine. We wanted it to be something warmer, like a natural ginger. I think we achieved that because it really suits her. And she is a natural ginger, believe it or not.'

  2. Fan art is a huge source of inspiration on set.

    In order to find the perfect shade of Clary red, Reed scrolled through Tumblr and printed out the fan art he thought best emulated Clary, and even Jace's, hair color.

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    'I like that it's kind of loose and nonchalant but it's still really cool and current,' he said. 'It speaks to me. That's our Shadowhunters. They're not trying too hard. It just so happens that they're awesome, and I think that's what this drawing is all about. They're effortlessly cool.'

    With her newfound Shadowhunters swagger, fans can also expect to see a physical change in Clary as those curls get sleeker and bouncier.

    'We changed the size of the curling iron barrel,' Reed said. 'As a mundane, Clary was like, 'I don't really care that much about my hair.' So not much effort was put into it. Then, it's a slow progression to her realizing her potential as a Shadowhunter and believing in her abilities. As she does that, the barrel gets bigger.'

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  3. Author Cassandra Clare was down with the changes from the beginning. Freeform

    In July, Clare visited the set of 'Shadowhunters' for the first time. There, she was introduced her to the fantastical world executive producer McG and showrunner Ed Decter had created. For series star Alberto Rosende (Simon), however, the thought of meeting Clare was almost too paralyzing.

    'It was very interesting to meet her because I became a huge fan,' he said. 'I read all of the books, almost immediately, and so when I met her, I was already a fanboy. When she came to set, I was a little nervous because I thought, 'Oh gosh, what if I'm not the person she thinks should be playing Simon?''

    However, Clare surprised Rosende with her willingness to give not only Simon, but the entire world of 'Shadowhunters,' to the cast and creators. It was effectively theirs now.

    'It was this beautiful thing where it felt like a parent who had let go, who had kind of been like, 'I'm very happy with who everyone is, and I'm very happy with where this is all going to go, so I don't want to say anything because I'm letting you guys have that license. Take that freedom and tell my story in a new way,'' Rosende said. 'So I think that was the best thing she did; she gave us the world.'

  4. Jace and Simon are actually good friends IRL. Freeform

    As any 'TMI' fan knows, the friendship between Jace (Dominic Sherwood) and Simon (Rosende) isn't always an easy one. In fact, Jace throws a lot of shade Simon's way in 'City of Bones,' and fans can expect to see that same tempestuous dynamic throughout the season.

    'It's funny because Dominic and I have become such good friends,' Rosende said. 'But as soon as we get on set and we're in character, we start bickering because there is this very contentious relationship between them. Simon has always loved Clary, and he's always seen himself as the guy she goes to, and then to find himself in a situation where he can only do his best to help her but he doesn't know how to is hard. And then to find this superhero-like guy, with a chiseled jaw and handsome, comes in and kind of sweeps her off his feet. I can't be mad because he's helping, but at the same time, it's like, 'That's my girl!' So there's a tension between them.'

  5. Magnus Bane has the best wardrobe, obviously. Freeform

    If you ask Shelley Mansell, the head costume designer on set, who her favorite character is based on wardrobe alone, she won't even hesitate to say Magnus Bane (Harry Shum Jr.). Sparkly guyliner? Check. Expertly tailored threads? Most definitely. Flashy nail polish? Of course. Perfect hair? You bet! When it comes to the Shadow World, there’s no one cooler than the High Warlock of Brooklyn himself, Magnus Bane. Of course, his wardrobe also presented some unique challenges for Mansell on her team.

    'His costumes have no bounds. We like to have a lot of fun with color and play, and Harry is a huge inspiration for his character. Every time he comes in for a fitting, we start with a base piece, usually a shirt and a pant, and then we have all of the elements that we like to play with. We have all sorts of different fabrications.'

    For example, the particular jacket Magnus wore in the photo above was a Versace jacket that Mansell customized herself by adding royal blue snakeskin on the collar, changing the buttons and of course, adding a bit of sparkle and flare.

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    'We custom-made a tuxedo stripe going down the matching royal blue pants, as well,' Mansell added. 'The shirt was also custom-built for Harry, just to add more sheen. Then, we took a simple pair of black shoes and hand-painted silver details.'

    And just in case you were wondering, the makeup team applies all that glitter by hand.

  6. The show added two new runes, meaning there are 79 runes in total.

    A Shadowhunter's best tool to help fight the demonic Incursion are the Marks of Raziel, a complex runic language given by the Angel to grant powers beyond mundanes. These runes are applied directly to the bodies of Shadowhunters. In the current 'Shadowhunters Codex' there are 77 runes, but the Powers That Be behind 'Shadowhunters' added two new runes you can only see in the show.

    'We built a rune that allows sight in the dark, called the NYX rune, so that works with Vision, which allows them to see far away,' Katie Brennan, chief makeup artist, said. 'And then we also added the Shape-Shifting rune, which people who've read the books will know that there are shape-shifting demons, so we added a rune to help with that. So now there are 79.'

    When it comes to applying runes in the scripts, it's an extremely collaborative effort among the creative forces behind the scenes.

    'When the writers are writing the episode, and they write, 'Izzy ignites the rune that allows her to see,' then I come and I offer the director of that episode, our showrunner Ed Decter, and most of the producers and the writer -- so, about eight people -- three or four runes that could possibly work for what they're writing about,' she said. 'Then, the director usually chooses, and Ed will yay or nay that.'

  7. They go through a lot of runes. Freeform

    The runes may be easy to apply to the actors, but that doesn't mean there isn't any grunt work. The show's prosthetics designer prints and ships all of the runes on large paper. Then, the show employs a full-time cutter who's tasked with cutting out each, individual rune for more streamlined application. 'Somebody is always cutting,' Brennan said. 'If you're not busy, then you've got a pair of scissors in your hand and you're cutting.'

    Since a few of the actors have tattoos, Brennan and her team first cover the existing tattoos before applying the runes. 'From the time you place it, seal it and then mattify it, it's probably four minutes for each rune,' she said. 'Hopefully, it goes on smoothly, if you have enough water. Some of the actors are wearing up to 22 runes at this point.'

    As for the actors, they don't mind the application so much. It's the clean up that can become a bit tedious after a while.

    'We take them off at the end of each day, and some days, it's harder than others,' Sherwood said. 'On the shirtless days, I have 25 or 26 runes, so it takes a load of time to take them all off. It's quite a process, having multiple people helping you wash them all off. But they would get ruined if they stayed on overnight. They'd be ruined runes.'

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  8. There's a 'TMI' library in the make-up trailer. ABC Family

    The makeup and hair team not only keep all of Clare's 'Shadowhunters' books in their trailer for reference, but also to use as a pseudo-library for the cast. So far, Rosende has taken advantage of the library the most, having read all of the 'Mortal Instruments' books and some of the other 'Shadowhunters' novels in Clare's cannon. (And of course, Rosende is #TeamSizzy.)

  9. Finally, yes, it's a requirement that every Shadowhunter have awesome hair. Freeform

    Staring at Matthew Daddario's hair is a bit like staring into the sun. It's magnificent and other-worldly, really. According to Daddario, that's just the life of a Shadowhunter.

    'We're an elite force that fights demons, and we need to have fantastic hair,' Daddario said. 'It's actually something we talk a lot about on set because it's really great. You're fighting something, and you come out of the fight, and you're looking just as good as when you started -- and that's a Shadowhunter quality.'