‘Shadowhunters’ Emeraude Toubia, Alberto Rosende Interview: Playing Izzy and Simon

Shadowhunters' Alberto Rosende and Emeraude Toubia at WonderCon
Alberto Rosende and Emeraude Toubia from ‘Shadowhunters’ at WonderCon (Photo © Richard Chavez / Showbiz Junkies)

The cast of Freeform’s Shadowhunters was a big draw at the 2016 WonderCon held for the first time in downtown Los Angeles. Series stars Katherine McNamara (Clary Fray), Dominic Sherwood (Jace Wayland), Alberto Rosende (Simon), Emeraude Toubia (Isabelle Lightwood), Matthew Daddario (Alec Lightwood), Isaiah Mustafa (Luke Garroway), and Harry Shum Jr. (Magnus Bane) participated in a lively Q&A with fans and also took part in roundtable interviews to discuss the popular series which has earned a season two renewal. Shadowhunters is based on Cassandra Clare’s bestselling The Mortal Instruments and in our interview with Alberto Rosende and Emeraude Toubia, they talked about meeting with the author and how they’ve approached the roles of Simon and Isabelle.

Alberto Rosende and Emeraude Toubia Interview:

How difficult is it to do the action scenes in high heels and tight costumes?

Emeraude Toubia: “I don’t really think about it when I have them on because if I start to think about it, it’s really going to mess with my mind. Like, ‘I can’t do this,’ and, ‘I can’t do that.’ But I just get into character and Izzy can do anything and everything, so that’s what I do. I don’t think about how much my feet hurt. I don’t think about how uncomfortable it is. I just think about doing it because I know how much fans love this character. She’s kind of like a superhero. She has special powers and she has to do it. She does what she has to do.”

There’s a weight on your shoulders taking on characters that fans love and feel like they know. How does that feel as an actor taking that on?

Alberto Rosende: “I know at first we were all felt the pressure of coming into a series that had such an established fandom and had such an established world. Already an incarnation of each of our characters have happened in a movie, but we couldn’t really concern ourselves with what the masses wanted because then we would lose what we really needed to look for and that was finding each of those characters within ourselves. And that was the best we could do, and hopefully that was going to be good enough. And, thankfully, it seems as though the fans seem very supportive of our choices and who we’ve brought to the screen. We feel really lucky that because of the fans, we got a season two.”

Emeraude Toubia: “I love the fact that the fans from the books – they don’t know what’s going to happen next so they’re intrigued about everything that’s happening. I love that. It’s like going on an adventure with your favorite characters in an alternate universe. I think it’s so cool. And as a fan of Star Wars or all these things, I love to see all these different things that happen with my favorite characters.”

There was a great episode with the alternate universe. Can you talk about filming that?

Alberto Rosende: “For Simon, I kept Simon the same. I made him more confident. It was interesting to be in a world where Simon’s first preoccupation wasn’t Clary. But other than that I wanted to make it known that Simon’s the same guy no matter what world he’s in.”

Emeraude Toubia: “Izzy changed a bit. She’s still intelligent. She still knows what she wants, but let’s just say she doesn’t know how to fight as well. She has a black eye. I love the fact that she gets nervous around Simon. In the real world it’s the other way around. It’s the opposite. It seemed like fans liked this universe. I loved it so I hope we get to see more of this universe.”

Have they given you a heads up about season two as far as what you can expect?

Alberto Rosende: “At this point we’re on the same side as the fans. We’re like, ‘All right, come on – tell us! Come on, we need to know what we’re doing.’ But we know that it’s going to be very exciting. The way that they want to build the story, it seems like they’re really going to open it up and have a lot of fun. That’s what we’re here for. I’m excited.”

Open it up as in…?

Alberto Rosende: “As a book fan we know that the second book…everything leads up to the third book, right? And then it starts over again in the fourth through sixth. So we’ve kind of started that trajectory and then in the end of the season which you’ll see, really kind of to me ramps it up. And then I’m really excited to see where they take us in season two because of where we go. It’s very exciting.”

What’s been your favorite fan reaction?

Alberto Rosende: “When Emeraude and I both were announced, I received a Facebook message from a girl from Argentina who wrote me a long thing how she’d always dreamed of being an actress and how for the first time in her life she feels like her dreams could come true because she saw Emeraude and I – Latin people – get roles that were written for Americans. And it was the first time that it didn’t say, ‘Izzy: Latina, this and this.’ It didn’t define her; it was just part of who she was. And the same thing with Simon. That was the best part to know that because of us other kids feel that their dreams are now able to be accomplished.”

Emeraude Toubia: “And especially right now with everything that’s going on with the Latinos and what people are talking about, I think it’s a huge responsibility to do a great job. To be good role models and to leave the door open for people that want to continue the acting path or any other career that they want to accomplish.”

Alberto Rosende: “Through hard work in anything, you can do it.”

Emeraude Toubia: “Hard work, dedication, passion, preparing yourself.”

It must have been really touching to receive that message.

Alberto Rosende: “Oh, I cried. Yeah, I mean, I never understood that. I think that was the first time I got the glimpse of the responsibility we now have. I had just come out of school and social media wasn’t a thing for me, and to have that and know that, ‘Oh my goodness, this many people are going to look to me as someone to say what do I do in this situation? What did he do? What do I say or how do I feel? How do I go about becoming an adult?’ We’re all still learning, you know? Just as I have people to look up to, hopefully I can be the same for people after me. They can then take on the torch as is their job when they get there.”

Were you both able to talk to Cassandra Clare?

Emeraude Toubia: “Yes. I was the first person she met on set!”

Alberto Rosende: “I was the third.”

Was there anything in particular she told you that really helped you get into your characters?

Emeraude Toubia: “What I love about Cassandra is that she never came in and told us anything. She just wanted to meet us, wanted to thank us, and basically left the door open for us to ask anything. She never came in and said, ‘You’re Izzy and you’re going to have to do this.’ No.”

Alberto Rosende: “She gave us her baby, essentially. She was like, ‘Hey, look, I made this for you guys but this is yours now.'”

Emeraude Toubia: “She did say, ‘Anything you guys need I’m here.’ So she basically was just very motherly to us. I think we’re like her babies.”

Alberto Rosende: “It’s very cool. Also, like I was watching her…we all went to dinner when she was in town. I looked at her and I saw her while we were all talking, she looked at every character and I saw her like nod. She looked at Dom [Sherwood] and she’s like, ‘That’s Jace.’ She looked at Emeraude and she’s like, ‘That’s Izzy.’ You could tell that there was a part of her that was sad to let go but also part that was proud of the people that she was trusting with her story. We take that responsibility very seriously.”

Emeraude Toubia: “It’s really nice, I’m assuming for her, that so many people love her books and they love her characters and she can continue growing her stories and making more. How many books does she have now? Eight or nine?”

Alberto Rosende: “As a fan you know you get sucked in. Like, I want to read this next series. Lady Midnight, I got it early and I was so happy.”

The scene where you realize you’re turning into a vampire is so moving. How did you approach that?

Alberto Rosende: “At that moment I’m glad I read the books because I feel like I wouldn’t have understood Simon. The hardest thing for him that we see in book two is when he can no longer say the name of God and he wants to pray but he can’t. Remember that? To me, that was that moment in the graveyard where he lost everything that he used to be. So it was the loss of innocence, essentially. It was that first moment where you realize, ‘Oh, I’m in this alone,’ and it’s a very scary place. I feel like some people go through it in a different way, but Simon unfortunately got it in a way where his life was changed completely. It was very hard.”

Watch the full interview with Alberto Rosende and Emeraude Toubia on Shadowhunters: