Exclusive Interview with Shadowhunters’ Owen Roth

Photo Credit: Jordon Alexander
Photo Credit: Jordon Alexander

Last week’s Shadowhunters saw Magnus Bane (Harry Shum Jr.) and Luke Garroway (Isaiah Mustafa) retelling the dark, traitorous history of Valentine and his Circle of fellow rebels, as Clary (Katherine McNamara) learned all about her villainous father and the destruction he will bring upon the Shadow World if she does not find a way to stop him from getting his evil mitts on the Mortal Cup. The old days of the Circle brought forward a newer, younger cast and with it, a younger Valentine Morgenstern, charismatically played by actor Owen Roth. I had the chance to talk to Owen about his role as the young Valentine, his acting career so far and his surprising ties with the Mortal Instruments franchise prior to his role on Shadowhunters.

Owen is known for his work on “System Crash”, “Shattered Glass” and “Cut to the Chase”. Read his interview below!

When did you start acting and how did it come about?

I actually started acting at a pretty young age. I took some youth acting classes when I was 10 and at age 11, I started acting in television. My grandmother had found an open call audition in the newspaper for a sketch comedy pilot and my family thought I should I give it a shot. We lined up outside the studio for a good 5 hours with hundreds of kids from all over the city. I was lucky enough to land the role and we filmed the pilot. It didn’t go through, but the next year the same producers asked me to come back and audition for a new show they were developing. I did that show for 4 years in the summers between school and it was a life-changing experience. After the show ended, I got an agent and started doing other film and TV stuff.

Was it something you always wanted to do?

I can honestly say it was. I was always a pretty outgoing, rambunctious kid. I didn’t mind speaking in front of a crowd, and I loved to make people laugh, still do. I was also obsessed with film, and still am. I just love the medium of film and television.

Is there a particular genre of role you gravitate towards?

Not really. I’ve been lucky enough so far that I’ve gotten to do a broad range of roles. I definitely seem to get cast as the villain more often than not, though. I do love playing the antagonist, they just seem really interesting to me. I also love comedy and wish I could do more of that. I started in comedy, and write comedy, and wish there were more projects I could be a part of.

You’re also a bit of a filmmaker – do you have a preference for one side of the camera or the other?

Both sides interest me immensely. What I love about working behind the camera is the control you have in shaping the project from beginning to end. I’ve been making my own movies since high school. I love writing – creating new characters and situations and seeing how they play out. I also really like editing my own projects. It’s just fun to get your hands in there and shape how a scene unfolds. You learn so much about the impact a single frame can have on the timing and emotional response of a scene.

Acting is a completely different ballgame. You prepare, work hard, put in your time, and go home. At the end of the day, you have to leave it all behind you. When you’re involved in the project behind the camera, you can have a say in the way the final product turns out.

How was your experience in auditioning for Shadowhunters? Was Valentine the character you were gunning for?

The experience was great actually. You usually don’t have much time to prepare for an audition after finding out about it. Maybe a day or two. In this case, it was one night. Stephanie Gorin, the casting director, was great because she was in the room and worked with me on getting the tone right. There’s a lot of directions you can go with a character like this, so we went through it a couple of times until it felt natural. It’s funny you mention the character I was gunning for because a few years prior I auditioned for the role of Simon in the Mortal Instruments movie. I thought at the time ‘Man, it would be fun to be Valentine on this one.’ And here we are!

What kind of research did you do for the role?

First I watched the Mortal Instruments movie to get a sense of the world and the characters. I know they wanted to go in a new direction with the series, but it was a good way to get a quick Coles Notes version of the mythology. I also utilized the Shadowhunters Wiki pages. There is so much information on there, it’s nuts! Then I read the first 3 books and that filled everything out from there.

What is your take on Valentine Morgenstern?

I think when you portray any villain you’ve got to find out what makes them the way they are. He’s a natural leader and he’s charismatic, sure. But to me, Valentine ends up doing what he does because he absolutely feels it’s right. During the Uprising, when he goes on his rampage, it’s to instill purity of the bloodline. The demons were winning and he’s so far gone he thinks the best course of action is to create a new Shadowhunter army, which is forbidden. Eventually, we learn the motives that push him completely over the edge in the show are different from what they are in the book. He believed Jocelyn and Luke were having an affair. He had his heart broken, and his world shattered, and that causes insane repercussions. I think you empathize with Valentine more because of that loss of love. There’s just so much to be explored with Valentine’s past, I would love to come back and do more.

Have you had any communication with Alan Van Sprang (Valentine) about the character, prior or otherwise?

I never got to meet Alan. He was never at the studio the days I was filming, unfortunately. But I absolutely insisted on seeing his performance for reference. I got to watch a very brief glimpse of an early cut of the Pilot, which was cool to see. I didn’t want to focus on just mimicking Alan, though. People change enormously from their teen years to their adult years and I felt Valentine would be no different. I wanted to give my own take on the character and play it in the most interesting way I could, based on the scenes I had.  Alan found me on Twitter and tweeted some awesome feedback about my performance when the show aired. And that felt great. As an actor, I’m sure it was weird for him to see someone play a younger version of himself. But he was super supportive and couldn’t have been nicer.

You had a fair amount of fighting to do! Was there any particular training you were put through?

We had a very small amount of training, about a day ahead of the actual scene. We stayed late with Steve Lucescu and his crew trying to choreograph the fights in a brutally realistic way. Steve and his team are just amazing. The amount of knowledge they have for this stuff blows my mind. I had never done stage fighting before so it was all very new for me. It was tough but a lot of fun!

Given the choice, would you drink from the Mortal Cup or be a Downworlder, and if so which one?

Downworlders certainly have some unique abilities, but I think I’d take my chances and drink from the Mortal Cup.

Since our website is called TNWU, what is something nerdy about you? What do you “nerd-out” over? 

Oh, I’m a complete nerd for anything film. My bedroom consists of props, figures, and posters from movies of all genres. I have a replica Loki Mask from “The Mask”, the bar of soap from “Fight Club”, Han Solo’s blaster, and a glass display case with Hot Toys Batman and Joker figures (from Burton’s ‘89 version). I definitely have an unhealthy obsession with Batman! I also have a signed DVD of “Jaws” from Richard Dreyfuss, from when I worked with him on a Showtime movie a while back, that I display within the original 70s movie poster. I’m a huge Harrison Ford and Indiana Jones fan too. The scene in Shadowhunters where I take the Mortal Cup from the Hall of the Accords is kind of a dream come true – it’s my very own version of Indy taking the idol at the beginning of “Raiders”. 

Lastly, I get really into Halloween. I obtained the blueprints of the Ghostbuster Proton Pack and worked weeks on creating my own replica. I ended up winning the costume contest that night for the bar I went to. I showed the pictures to Isaiah Mustafa on set, who’s a huge Ghostbusters fan and he got a big kick out of it. So yeah, I’m a huge nerd!

We know it’s pilot season. What are you currently working on? Are there any upcoming projects you can tell our readers about?

In this business, your life can completely change from one week to the next. You really have no idea what’s coming. We’re almost done our Crime-Comedy short film that we’ve spent the last year making. I co-wrote it, produced it, edited it, and star in it. It’s called “Masters in Crime” and it’s about a guy named Hank Franklin who’s always dreamed of being a Master criminal. The only problem is he’s very inept. So he puts together a crew of misfit thieves to help steal his biggest score yet – an experimental drug from a medical facility. It’s really fun and has some awesome imagery and action. It’s got great production value and we’re really proud of it. The website will be up soon at www.mastersincrime.com where eventually there will be a link to download the film. We’re also adapting it into a TV series and are nearly done writing the Pilot episode. So, exciting stuff to come.


Watch Shadowhunters tonight at 9pm/8c on Freeform, and tomorrow internationally on Netflix.

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