‘Shadowhunters’ Dominic Sherwood on Jace’s Relationships with Clary, Simon, and Alec
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Dominic Sherwood talked about the audition process he went through for this role, how proud he is of the show’s diverse cast, the characters’ very human problems, staying true to the characters in the books while providing something new for fans, Jace’s relationship with Clary, what Jace really thinks of Simon, the dynamic with Alec (Matthew Daddario), the extensive training they do for the fight scenes, and what he most enjoys about living in this world.
Collider: How did you come to this show? Did you go through a whole audition process for this role?
DOMINIC SHERWOOD: Yeah. Not that I’m in the stage of my career where they’re offering me parts in The Revenant, but I try very hard to go through the audition process because I feel like I learn quite a lot about the character and the people I’m going to work with. The last thing I want is to get there on day one and realize that Kat [McNamara] and I hate each other. So, I went through the entire audition process. I was actually doing a movie in L.A., at the time, so I missed the busy audition season. I finished filming and was freaking out going, “I’ve been unemployed for four days. What do I do? I’m going to die alone without a job, for the rest of my life.” My manager was like, “Just calm down. Stuff is coming.” And then, I got Shadowhunters and I was like, “Oh, I love this, and I’m sorry that I panicked.”
A lot of times, actors talk about not wanting to get stuck in the supernatural genre. Having done Vampire Academy, were you ever hesitant about doing Shadowhunters, or did the genre not matter to you?
SHERWOOD: The genre absolutely mattered, and it is something that worries me. I became an actor because I enjoy playing a variety of different people, rather than playing one person for the rest of my career. I was doing a movie when I got the call about Shadowhunters, and I did two movies before that and Taylor Swift’s video (for “Style”), which were all very different characters between Vampire Academy and Shadowhunters. So, I did delve into a couple of different people.
Had you ever imagined that you’d be able to include a Taylor Swift music video on your resume?
SHERWOOD: I’ve known Taylor for almost three years now, and she texted me. I had actually just finished a movie, so I was at home and she texted me and said, “Would you ever be interested in doing a music video?” And I said, “Well, it depends on who for and who with.” And she said, “It would be for me.” I was like, “Sure, I can’t really say no now. You’ve put me in a bit of an awkward spot.” Plus, it turned out that the guy who filmed it was a friend of mine, Kyle Newman, who’s a visionary and truly fantastic. For me, it wasn’t just a music video. I got sent the storyboards and it was actually a very artist short film piece. I really enjoyed it. It was just working with great people and having fun. In my opinion, that’s the key to life.
One of the things that’s really remarkable about Shadowhunters is that it really has a very diverse cast of actors and characters. Is that something that you’re proud of being a part of, especially in a climate that’s demanding that change?
SHERWOOD: I’m exceptionally happy with it and very proud to be a part of a show that does deal with diversity, in race, sexuality and humanity. It’s about different people from different walks of life, coming together and achieving the same goals. For me, that’s great. I’m very proud of that. It wasn’t a conscience decision on my part, but I’m exceptionally happy about it. I just feel honored to be working with such great actors, writers and crew.
This is a supernatural show that’s set in its own world, but these characters have very human problems. Is that what helps you relate to this character?
SHERWOOD: Yeah, I don’t have any angel blood, as far as I know. I think a good basis for any form of media is to envelope the audience and have them be able to empathize with the characters, and I think the only way to do that is to give them human problems and have them make normal human decisions that perhaps you or I would make, if we were in that scenario. It is a supernatural world, and it is the Shadow World where Shadowhunters fight in this war that human beings can’t see, but it’s set in modern-day New York. I think that helps, as well. We’ve had fans say, “Well, how do you know that isn’t happening?” They’re obviously right. I don’t know that that’s not happening. Maybe there are Shadowhunters out there, in the world. I don’t know.
These books have a large following and are beloved by their fans, and this character is very much loved, as well. What was the most daunting aspect of being true to that while also making it your own?
SHERWOOD: The fans are the most daunting part, for me. I want to try to forget about that and work as hard as I can, and just do the job that I was hired to do, developing the character. It’s very helpful to have such a rich stimulus from Cassie Clare’s books and from all of these different areas about who this character is and why he is the way he is. I don’t have to make a backstory for Jace because he has one. It exists already. We work very closely with the writers, directors and producers and try to stay as true to the characters as possible, but keep it fresh. The way we do that is to stay as true to the characters as is humanly possible, so that the characters are all very similar to how they are in the books, but the obstacles they face and the trials and tribulations that they go through, throughout the story, change. That’s what helps us keep it so fresh. As much as there is stimulus, I still have to make the decisions as Jace based on the scripts we have on the day, and those are not necessarily the decisions in the books.
You really hit the ground running on this show. Aside from the obvious attraction between Jace and Clary, what does he think of her, at this point? Does he see her as more of an asset than a hindrance?
SHERWOOD: I don’t know how much of an asset she is. Jace has nearly died three times, Simon is struggling with some stuff, and Jace’s relationship with Alec isn’t going very well. So, I don’t know how much I’d say she’s an asset because she’s definitely causing the characters some pain right now, but there’s definitely more to her than meets the eye. That’s what started the initial attracted between Jace and Clary, and that hasn’t gone anywhere. That hasn’t changed. That initial attraction is still there. When he makes a decision, he’ll stick with it. That’s his law and his gospel. That’s what he did with Clary. He bumped into her in that alleyway outside the nightclub and, in that moment, he decided there was more to her and that he was going to put some effort into finding out what it is. He hasn’t changed that because he is so stubborn.
You know that fans of the books are waiting to see Jace and Clary’s romance, but you don’t want to jump into that too quickly. Will we see a progression in their relationship, going forward, or will they be forced to redirect their focus with everything that’s going on?
SHERWOOD: It’s interesting, the fans of the book know the arc that this relationship follows. We have stayed true to some of that, but we put Clary and Jace through their trials and tribulations. Let’s just say that the relationship isn’t the same, at the end of Season 1, as it is at the beginning of Season 1.
What can you say about what’s to come for the Shadowhunters and for Jace, specifically?
SHERWOOD: I feel incredibly blessed because the end of the season very much hinges on Jace’s decisions. We leave the end of Season 1 on a massive cliffhanger, and it centers around a decision that Jace makes. I’m very excited for people to see that. At the end of Season 1, Jace is a completely different person to the person we saw at the beginning of Season 1. I’m excited for people to see the journey we go on and where we get to. We set the characters that the viewers have fallen in love with through Season 1 on this journey for the Cup, Valentine and Clary’s mother. At a certain point, it takes a bit of a change and the levels of importance shift. I’m excited for people to be able to see that.
Jace is always so focused and so serious, but we’ve gotten glimpses of his humor and a certain silliness. Is that a side of him that’s always been there, or is it Clary that’s drawn that out of him?
SHERWOOD: Even from the beginning, Jace has had a morbid sarcasm to him. He has a dark sense of humor, but Shadowhunters are trained to believe that emotions and feelings just get in the way. An actual humor and levity to any of these characters is branded in them as incorrect because it hinders them from doing their job.
Do you think that Jace really finds Simon as annoying as he makes it seem, or is he just lashing out because he doesn’t know how to deal with having feelings of jealousy?
SHERWOOD: It’s interesting because Alberto [Rosende] and I got very close, over the course of filming, and we’ve discussed this at length. We’ve said that, if Clary wasn’t there, we probably would be really good friends. Simon is intelligent, brave and loyal, and he actually has all of the traits that would make a good Shadowhunter. I actually think that Jace and Simon would get along really well, if it weren’t for that damn Clary getting in the way.
Alec’s feelings for Jace run a bit deeper than he realizes. How does Jace feel about what’s going on with Alec?
SHERWOOD: That’s something that we’ve discussed at length. Does Jace know that Alec is in love with him, in a sexual, intimate way, rather than a brothers-in-arms way? What we decided, after the experience with the memory demon, was that Jace does not know. He knows that Alec loves him, but he feels like it’s the same way that he loves Alec. Whatever tight bond that they have is from having been raised together and being best friends. So, at this point in the story, we’ve decided that Jace doesn’t know.
Is there a trick to passing yourself off as one of the most skilled Shadowhunters out there?
SHERWOOD: It’s training. That’s all it is. We work exceptionally hard. Kat is a little clumsy at times, so every now and then, we’ll hear a clatter and see a glowing sword on the floor, but she is supposed to be that. Clary is not supposed to be as well-trained as the rest of us. As for myself, Emeraude [Toubia] and Matt [Daddario], every spare moment we have, we’re in the training room. We had a wonderful trainer set up for us by our stunt team, who are also incredible and have helped us make this transition into life-long warriors. We scarf down our lunch as quickly as we can to run to the training room to pick up the swords or work-out. Jace was basically born with a sword in his hand. So, I’ll come in a couple of hours early and ask the props guy for my sword to just have my sword in my hand and work as hard as I can to make that sword a part of me. We trained in different martial arts, so I knew how to move and to hold my hand. The stunt team guides us through that because they’re incredible martial artists. They trained us as quickly as they could within eight months, to make everything look as polished as it possibly could. By the end of the season, it was almost second nature.
What’s been the coolest thing about getting to play this character and live in this world?
SHERWOOD: This is the dream job for me, as a little boy. I get to make out with a beautiful girl, play with swords, and be a hero. What more could I possibly want out of my life? It’s really great. I don’t know if they’re ever gonna show any blooper reels. I hope they don’t because a lot of it is me dropping stuff. I’m a clumsy guy. Through 13 episodes, I’ve broken 12 or 13 of the device we use to rune ourselves. Props were giving me a rubber one because I was dropping it and breaking it. There are definitely challenges in becoming these people, but what I like more than anything else is that it is a challenge. I wasn’t cast as me. I was cast as someone completely different as me, and I have to really work at it. That’s my favorite thing. I enjoy that. Shadowhunters airs on Tuesday nights on FreeForm.