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Interview: Shadowhunters’ Isaiah Mustafa

by Charles Trapunski

It is a couple of days after the Super Bowl and we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with Isaiah Mustafa, who is very candid about many subjects. We chatted with Mustafa about everything from the Tide Super Bowl spot in which he reprises his role as ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’, to the upcoming season of Shadowhunters and the relationship with his cast mates, to his routine of playing hockey and with whom he has played. In all, Isaiah Mustafa shares quite a bit with Brief Take.

Here is an edited and condensed version of our conversation.

Brief Take: Was it a secret that you were going to be in the Super Bowl Tide commercial?

Isaiah Mustafa: Yes. Proctor and Gamble keep things tightly wrapped up, so they definitely didn’t want anybody finding out about that. So when I got the job, I had to keep quiet for about a month or so, which was super hard because you want to tell your family, “oh, by the way, make sure you watch the Super Bowl”. *laughs* People would be like, “So what are you doing? Why are you going to the studio right now?”. “Oh, no reason”. *laughs*

I think that the whole Tide campaign went really well. David Harbour crushed it in all those spots. It was actually a cool thing to see him slope between different ads and just handle them, you know? He couldn’t have been a nicer guy and fun, and he’s got a real nose for comedy. He was very personable and funny. I was very excited to meet him because he’s going to be Hellboy. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen Stranger Things,  but I’m a HUGE Hellboy fan. So I thought, “Wow, this is Hellboy, that’s awesome”.

BT: Are you still a competitive athlete?

IM: Yes. I am extremely competitive in all athletic things I do. I can’t stand losing, but you’re not gonna win ’em all, you know, you learn from each loss. I try to get out to the ice five times a week, but sometimes my schedule doesn’t permit that, but I do skate Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and I go out on my own on Saturdays. It’s nice right now with the outdoor rinks. I tool around and do whatever, but as soon as we’re done, I’m heading out to a skate. I started in L.A. in 2012 to get some exercise, but now I’m a die-hard, I’m crazy about it. I’m a season ticket holder for the Kings. A few times they let me lace up a little before the game, and I’ve had fun skating with different NHLers. I’m friends with P.K.[Subban], we’ve hung out several times.

BT: How much can we talk about the upcoming season of Shadowhunters?

IM: As much as you’d like, but it depends on how much I can tell you. *laughs*

BT: What can you say in general terms about Season 3? 

IM: So going into Season 3, there’s kind of a new villain in town. [Lilith, who will be played by actress Anna Hopkins] Ooohhh, I don’t want to get more into it than that, you saw sort of who she was at the end of Season 2. You saw her like walking in this wasteland of bodies, so she comes in and pretty much, without giving too much away, she makes the shadow world her own. *laughs* She comes in and pretty much starts building things from the junk. That sets everybody off and new allegiances are formed and there’s people who were friends, who are no longer friends, because she’s kind of like inserted herself into the shadow world. It does really put our whole world on its ear. Like she flips it upside down.

BT: There’s a lot of buzz from fans about the new season.

IM: We premiere March 20th. I’m excited. I just heard from a friend that saw the first episode, and he was telling me, “Man, it looks good!, and your showrunners and your executive producer Matt Hastings, they like upped the ante. They really went for it. They’ve definitely got a vision and they are crushing it!” And that’s coming from someone else outside the show. I haven’t seen the first episode yet, so for me to hear that, that was awesome, because you want to put your best foot forward. When a critic or someone says, “that looks awesome”, we want to feel good about it.

BT: What do you feel like your role is on set between takes? You always seem to be having a lot of fun, but do you think of yourself as a quasi father figure? 

IM: When they come to me with advice, I think that I give them a good sense of…I have a good perspective, as someone that’s been around a little bit longer. But I wouldn’t say father figure because they seem to have a good handle on things. Each one of my cast mates is pretty mature and they’re savvy. They know how it works and how to navigate it. I never throw my advice on ’em, but when they do ask for advice, I try to give a little bit of perspective.

BT: Maybe more like Dad *jokes*?

IM: Definitely. What I think happens is that because *Luke* is like the father figure on the show, naturally it kind of bleeds over into real life.

BT: What is your favorite part about shooting in Toronto? 

IM: Toronto’s an awesome place to live, there’s so much room. Man, it’s great! It’s easy to get around in as well. I think that the hardest thing about living here is being away from family in Los Angeles, and that’s pretty much it. The neighbourhoods are so distinct. You go to Cabbagetown or Kensington Market or Queen West or West Queen West, all these little cool neighbourhoods, it’s kind of fun. It’s such a hip city. Everybody’s kind of artsy and doing their thing and I’m blown away by the different foods. You could have so many forms of sushi, it’s a haven for good food and sushi. It’s good, man.

BT: Are you excited to watch Marvel’s Black Panther?

IM: I’m going tonight as a matter of fact! [It was opening night] Everybody was talking about it, I had to have a media blackout. I did that with the whole series of The Walking Dead. My fiancee and I, we just started watching about a year ago, so we’re just like, “Shut up! Don’t talk about it!”. *laughs*


Season 3 of Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments airs on Freeform beginning on March 20th

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