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Changing the narrativeMeet Katherine McNamara

by Naureen Nashid

In the crux of Trump America when immigrant families were being separated and harassed by ICE officers, The Fosters premiered their immigration storyline episodes. This show and this network are openly bringing up the anxiety-inducing state of affairs going on in the world, but they did it unapologetically and with emotion that was hard to look away from.

Freeform, formerly called ABC Family, has earned its brand as a network that portrays current events in an honest and sincere way. They’re known to break barriers and make statements with the stories they tell. Shadowhunters, another hit show from Freeform, also touches upon something that has been recently stirring up the Internet and the news cycle.

#MeToo has been a movement that has seen its wins as well as its losses. It’s powerful and it’s loud and so much of it is women having their own narrative being taken away from them, such as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. With Shadowhunters, they do the opposite. They allow their female characters to own their narratives despite challenges. It’s important and a sign of hope for their female audiences. By showing that women can “own their space, their bodies, and their voices,” as said in A Look at the Complex Female Narratives of Shadowhunters, it empowers their female viewers.  

One such character is Clary Fray, who is played by Katherine McNamara. Known to challenge and courageously fight for change, she’s someone who plays by her own rules. Naturally, someone like that is one that empathizes and wants to do the right thing. For McNamara, playing such a pivotal role in the show, which is coming to a close this season, has been an incredible learning experience.

“I think the most valuable thing I learned on that show is the value of having groups of people that are a solid unit,” McNamara says. “That, I think, is the true magic of Shadowhunters, that every single person in every single department on that show really did care about making the show the best it could possibly be, and pushing themselves and each other every day to improve and to push those boundaries and to go beyond what any of us thought was possible at the beginning of this process. It’s very bittersweet as it’s sort of winding down, but Shadowhunters will always be something I cherish because of the community that it created and the creative output of the show that was a product of that.”

To be a part of something groundbreaking and move on can be a difficult process. Speaking on what she would miss about the show, McNamara shares, “Going to work every day on a set that felt like home. Hour for hour, I’ve spent more time in Clary’s clothes and in her world than I have on my own. But I’m sure that’s the beauty of the entertainment industry, is that you carry that with you, and every job you get something different and something new, each bond that you have with each group is unique, and it’s a family in and of itself. There’s always a new family that you find something else that you love just as much about. So it’s an interesting journey in this industry, but it’s one that I thrive on.”

Transitioning from that, McNamara is joining the cast of Arrow, as a recurring character named Maya. Similar to Clary, her character in this show is a strong and fierce female. McNamara reveals, “Maya is a fighter in form and in function. It’s her job and also who she is as a human being. She has grown up in this world and is not to be messed with. She has grown to be just as tough or tougher than her environment, and it’s served her well up until this point. I think it’s so smart and it’s not only reinventing the show, but also going back to its roots. It’s this dichotomy that somehow creates a fresh start with so much of the heart of the show that we love in Arrow.”

It seems that McNamara has an affinity of playing parts that challenge the common damsel in distress trope that women are portrayed as in most TV and film. It’s the kind of challenge and change we need, especially in this political climate. What most will be surprised to hear about the actress is her educational background. Not only has she graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Drexel University, but she has also done her Masters in Applied Economics.

“Education has always been a huge priority to me, and also a huge joy in my life,” McNamara explains. “I come from a family of scientists and medical professionals, so not only was education very prevalent in my childhood, but I credit my family and one of my first teachers ever with instilling in me this sense that learning and school isn’t a chore, it’s this journey of joyful discovery. I don’t know how they did it, but I’m eternally grateful that they did, because it set me up for the privilege of being a lifelong student. And now, everyday I set out to try and learn something new. No matter what happens to you in your life, no matter where you go and no matter what you do, your education is the one thing that stays with you, your knowledge and experience. That’s the one thing that continues to grow in life no matter what else happens, and to me that’s priceless.”

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