‘Shadowhunters:’ Dominic Sherwood Interview on Playing Jace and Learning the Mythology

Dominic Sherwood Shadowhunters
Dominic Sherwood as Jace Wayland in ‘Shadowhunters’ (Photo by Vu Ong / ABC Family)

Freeform (formerly known as ABC Family) is set to premiere the new fantasy series Shadowhunters starring Dominic Sherwood and Katherine McNamara on January 12, 2016 at 9pm ET/PT with an episode titled ‘The Mortal Cup.’ The series is based on Cassandra Clare’s bestselling The Mortal Instruments books and centers on Clary Fray (McNamara), a teenager who suddenly discovers there are demons and other dangerous creatures living among humans and that Shadowhunters (human-angel hybrids) are charged with hunting them down. Sherwood stars as Jace, a powerful Shadowhunter who introduces Clary to this dark and dangerous world.

At the 2016 winter Television Critics Association press event, I sat down for a one-on-one with Sherwood to discuss Shadowhunters, playing Jace, and learning the mythology created by author Cassandra Clare.

Exclusive Dominic Sherwood Interview:

When you say a line like, “I’m the best chance you’ve got,” do you feel like a hero?

Dominic Sherwood: “Yes and no. There are a few lines in the pilot that are laden with meaning that come into fruition later on in the series. There’s a certain arrogance to Jace so him saying, ‘I’m the best chance you’ve got,’ I think he just like saying it and he likes being the hero. But, yeah, it makes me feel like a hero, but also you’ll understand why later on. They’re not meaningless lines.”

Could you imagine Stallone or Bruce Willis saying something like that?

Dominic Sherwood: [Laughing] “Absolutely, yeah.”

Your character has a lot of the mythology to explain. Did it feel like a mouthful?

Dominic Sherwood: “Yes and no. Yeah, it did and then as I read the book and I understood it more, I was able to put myself in that place where I get it, especially for Jace because it’s nothing to him. It’s just how he was raised. A ‘stele’ to you and I is a pen, and it’s no different than me or you describing a pen because he just understands what it is and how it works.

It’s a mouthful to start with and then as your knowledge grows, it becomes easy.”

Were those sections harder to memorize than others because you have to be careful to get it exactly right?

Dominic Sherwood: “We had to get it exactly right. We also have conversations with the producers and the directors about the phrasing and how you pronounce certain words. Some of them, they were written down in the book but that’s up to someone else’s interpretations on how these words were pronounced. We had to be careful that it was very unified and we all said the same things. But they weren’t any harder to learn because once I got my head around it, it was everyday language.”

How does the sword feel in your hand?

Dominic Sherwood: “It feels great in my hand. It feels fantastic. They designed it for me so it was my grip-size and it was made for me in particular. I feel very good with it. And, also, whenever I have a free moment I’m practicing with it. Jace has been doing this his entire life so I have to look like I’m very comfortable with this sword. We get all these different kinds of sword training and fencing so you just feel comfortable with this weapon in the same way a soldier in Iraq feels comfortable with his M4.”

How heavy is the sword?

Dominic Sherwood: “Not as heavy as you would think, actually. Not as heavy as you would think. The light – the blue glow – is a practical effect on set so every now and then the device that lights it up comes loose and that feels very strange because I get used to the weight of the sword and then something feels different all of a sudden and I have to give it to props because I don’t know what I’ve done to my sword. But, they’re not overly heavy.”

Did you spend any time with Cassandra Clare?

Dominic Sherwood: “We did. She came a few times which is wonderful and she seemed very happy with everything, which is great. And then we did some press at New York Comic Con so we got to meet her.”

What questions did you have for her about Jace?

Dominic Sherwood: “It wasn’t so much questions as it was just like, ‘Please be happy with what I’m doing. You created this character. I really, really hope that you are enjoying your experience.’ She came quite late – not late in the process, she’s been very active throughout – but she came to the set in like episodes four or five so we were like four episodes deep at that point. So if she came to set and was like, ‘I hate everything,’ it would have been too late. I just wanted her to be happy with what we’ve done and she seemed to be very, which was good.”

What was one thing from the books that really helped you with Jace?

Dominic Sherwood: “His arrogance is constantly replayed in the books. I’m actually quite like an insular person. I like to kind of keep my thoughts and my feelings inside me a little more so becoming this kind of arrogant person… It’s in the books and with the lines in the books, and the different physical attributes he has for that – he’s always playing with his stele and that’s something I do in the series. It wasn’t great for me because I’m quite clumsy and I dropped it and broke – I think I broke 13 all together. That’s what we counted them as, which isn’t great. But things like that, the intricacies of Jace helped me make a more rounded character.”

What was a scene from the book that you couldn’t wait to film?

Dominic Sherwood: “The slapping scene. There’s a slapping scene where Clary hits Jace for the first time, and I was excited to film that.”

Did it live up to your expectations?

Dominic Sherwood: “She’s a lot stronger than you would think! She’s a very small girl but she’s got quite a slap on her. So, yeah, it did. It absolutely did.”

What are you looking forward to doing in season two?

Dominic Sherwood: “In season two we expand our world a little more. In season one we’re predominately in New York. We are a couple of other places, but mostly it’s in New York. From what I’ve heard, the rumors I’ve heard from the writers room, we go a little further afield in season two. I’m excited for that.”

Where are you shooting for the New York scenes?

Dominic Sherwood: “In Toronto. We shot the series in Toronto.”

If the setting moves in season two, will Toronto still be doubling for other cities?

Dominic Sherwood: “I don’t know. Here’s the thing: it’s so clock and dagger, they’re not telling me anything. I don’t know. I love to travel as well, it’s one of my other passions so hopefully they’ll fly me all over the world. That would be great. ‘We’re shooting this scene in New Zealand.’ ‘Lovely! Let’s go to New Zealand for a week.’”

As soon as you were cast as Jace did you start hearing from fans?

Dominic Sherwood: [Laughing] “Oh yeah. I heard a whole bunch from the fans, which was fantastic. I don’t think I read one negative comment that day which was so overwhelming for me. You kind of expect, especially for something that already has a fan base, you almost expect it to be like 50/50. 50% great comments and 50% of them hate me, and that wasn’t the case. I feel blessed, honestly, that people have accepted me into this well-loved character.”

Did you reply to any of those comments?

Dominic Sherwood: “I reply as much as I can. I’m not very good at the Twitter machine and the Facebook. I’m a little like a grandpa in that way; it kind of frightens me. I try and reply and if someone says it’s their birthday, I’ll always try and say happy birthday if I can. I got a message from someone the other day who said they were being bullied and I put it on my Twitter. I put my opinion on bullying on my Twitter because it’s unacceptable and I know it’s something that affects a lot of people. I wanted to share my opinion with the world. But, yeah, other than that I always feel like someone’s going to ask me what happens in episode 13 and I’ll be like, ‘Oh, this happens…’ and then I’d be like, ‘I shouldn’t have said that because I’ve given away the entire season.’ It’s safer for me to kind of keep it in my head.”

Which scenes did you audition with?

Dominic Sherwood: “We auditioned with a scene where we bring Clary into the Institute for the first time and she wakes up in the infirmary. That was it. That was my audition scene. That was all I did was just that one scene.”

Did you see The Mortal Instruments movie?

Dominic Sherwood: “I did. I did see The Mortal Instruments movie.”

Before or after this?

Dominic Sherwood: “I saw it before and then I watched it once again afterwards for kind of a stimulus and like learning different things about the world and the terms and stuff.”

Do you feel privileged to have the whole season to do the story?

Dominic Sherwood: “Massively so. I think the story, especially the books, they very much lend themselves to a TV show. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for them to film a movie and to try and fit all of this mythology into a movie. I can’t imagine. They did a very good job but I feel blessed we have 13 episodes to try and fit all of this mythology.”

Did that Jace do a good job?

Dominic Sherwood: “I think so. Jamie Campbell Bower, I think he’s a great guy. He’s very good-looking and he’s got the long, wavy hair. Yeah.”

What are you going to do between seasons?

Dominic Sherwood: “I don’t know yet. We’ll see. I’ve been inundated. I had a little time off when we finished season one. Me and my girlfriend got a puppy so I’m trying to deal with raising a puppy. And then I went back home and I had some time off. I came back here two days ago and I’m straight back into press. When press dies down, I can try and figure out what’s next and read the 15 scripts that have been sitting on my desk for two weeks.”

What’s your puppy’s name?

Dominic Sherwood: “Her name is Boo and she’s a Chocolate Lab. She’s a maniac. [Laughing] She got me up at 7am before I had to come here, which is great.”