Cassandra Clare’s YA book series “The Mortal Instruments” has already been adapted for scripted entertainment once before – the 2013 The Mortal Insturments: City of Bones starring Lily Collins as series protagonist Clary Fray. That film didn’t exactly flop, but it failed to recoup its budget and plans for a sequel were shelved.
But the books being as popular as they are, attempts at a successful filmed adaptation weren’t shelved entirely. Enter Shadowhunters, Freeform’s upcoming series based on Clare’s novels and executive produced by McG and Ed Decter. Starring Katherine McNamara as Clary Fray this time out, the series debuts on Freeform January 12.
Will the new television series succeed where the film version failed? That remains to be seen, but during the show’s TCA panel this morning, Freeform execs insisted the series will be a crucial part of how the network rebrands itself from ABC Family. Asked at one point about how they might be toning down some of the novel series’ darker and more adult elements, Decter said the opposite is true. “The coolest thing,” he said, came when he pitched the show to ABC Family/Freeform and the executives explained the plans to rebrand the channel. “I said the show is gonna be darker, sexier, it’s got some racy content, and they said bring it on.”
So the network is supportive, but what about the fans? Clare’s novels have an extremely devoted fanbase rivaling that of other notable young adult properties in intensity if not size. Decter and McG, joined onstage by cast members Alberto Rosende, Dominic Sherwood, Katherine McNamara, Emerude Toubia, Matthew Daddario, Harry Shum Jr. and Isiah Mustafa, made it clear they’re making this with those fans firmly in mind.
“We stay unbelievably true to the spirit of the books and we love the books,” said Decter, though new fans are being courted as well. “We wanted to have surprises for the real hardcore fans, and we wanted to introduce new fans to the world carefully and slowly.”
The actors agreed. “Everything the fans want, I like to think there’s at least an element of it in Season One,” said Sherwood. “It’s all there in some way, shape or form.”
The first season uses the first book in the series, “City of Bones,” as its spine, the cast and producers confirmed, but the program will draw heavily from Clare’s works overall to flesh things out. For example, elements from the sixth book were added to the first season, though Decter said “they’re just solutions to things we wanted to clarify.”
The books’ fans also will be comforted by Clare’s involvement, producers say. “Besides writing the books where everything came from, she was especially involved in casting,” says Decter. “We didn’t think that we would get this kind of response, but every single casting decision we ran by Cassandra.”