1:00 pm EST, February 20, 2019

‘Shadowhunters’ interview: Luke Baines on resurrecting Jonathan, drawing inspiration from the fans

As great loss settles over the Shadow World, a presence returns. We spoke with Luke Baines about joining the Shadowhunters family when the series returns on February 25.

While the character Jonathan is not new, Luke Baines carves out a distinctive space for this version of Jonathan. The premiere episode, “Lost Souls,” picks up during the days following the 3B finale.

Jonathan’s entrance, in the episode and the Shadowhunters 3B trailer, has an air of confidence that makes for a striking contrast against the unease that has settled amongst the remainder of the cast. This is a character who has had no connection to his birth mother, was experimented on by his father, and has the blood of the Queen of Edom coursing through his veins. The efforts to bring him back to life were nearly as tragic as the ones that took it away in the first place.

With people fighting over whether to eliminate or resurrect him, what, if anything, can keep Jonathan on level ground?

Ahead of the Shadowhunters 3B premiere, Luke Baines took some time to speak with Hypable about drawing out the core of what drives this version of Jonathan.

What intrigued you most about Jonathan’s arc when you were first introduced to the role?

His backstory. I really have no interest in playing one dimensional “bad guys.” I’m so much more intrigued by what makes someone commit acts of evil, and exploring the light side of a dark character.

Thankfully the writers were on the same page and gave me a lot of room to explore why Jonathan is the way he is, and while I know a lot of people aren’t going to like him, I hope that by the end of the season they’ll be able to better understand him. That’s all I can really ask for.

You’re coming into a role which, although it existed already, is almost an entirely version of Jonathan. Fans are getting a clean slate, but so are you walking into the part. What went into creating this role that has a complicated backstory? How much input was given for your take on how this character would react, carry himself in these circumstances?

It was honestly the most challenging job of my career for that exact reason. I walked into a role that was not only played by another actor, but was a literary creation that was later adapted for the screen. That meant there was a wealth of material informing who this person is, and I had to decide what to use and what not to.

And everyone seemed to have a different opinion, including the fans whose comments I read before filming because I felt like the character was more theirs than he was mine.

I also worked with a criminal profiler to come up with a real life psychological profile of someone who had experienced some of the things that Jonathan had been through – less being injected with demon blood as a child, and more being tortured by a foster parent at a young age.

That also heavily informed how I developed the character, adding in qualities like uncontrolled fits of rage and disassociation.

We know that we’ll be catching up with the Clary and Jonathan apart from rest of the Shadow World when the show returns. What was building that rapport with Katherine McNamara like early on in terms of bringing Jonathan and Clary together.

That was probably the easiest part of the job. I’d known Kat from before the show, so developing an on screen relationship happened very organically. We also happen to have a very honest friendship – I’d go as far as to say that’s the thing that brought us together in the first place because it’s a rare thing to find in Hollywood – so there was a level of inherent trust from the beginning, which makes for a great dynamic.

Especially a sibling one, where they’re constantly calling each other out on their crap.

What, in your opinion, grounds Jonathan and Clary’s story in reality the most?

Connection. I think as humans it’s what we strive most for, and Jonathan and Clary in particular have always felt like they didn’t belong. They’re each other’s only immediate relative, and even if someone is completely lost, there’s still a sense of belonging that comes from blood.

Take away the magic and the demons, and what you have is a story of a brother and sister just trying to find their way in the world.

How has the experience been witnessing the fandom’s activism in the face of the show’s cancellation?

I’m genuinely in awe of it. I think resignation is one of the scariest things we face as a generation, particularly given the current political climate. The idea that we’re powerless and can’t change things is frightening, and yet it’s such an easy trap to fall into. But the fans haven’t quit.

Even in the face of constant criticism, and when the odds continue to stack up against them. I think that’s something to be praised, and something to admire. I know personally they’ve inspired me and made me want to do more to change the things in the world I don’t agree with.

Can you describe Shadowhunters 3B in three words or less?

Epic, and bittersweet.

Shadowhunters season 3, episode 11, “Lost Souls,” airs Monday, February 25 at 8:00 p.m. ET on Freeform.

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