When you have the opportunity to speak with Luke Baines and the biggest snowstorm in the last 50 years hits the day before, it’s just a sign that there is something in the atmosphere. The talented actor and Oxfam supporter takes on the role of Jonathan Morgenstern on season 3B of Shadowhunters, and Baines could not have been kinder about working around the snow day (luckily he had already shot the show in Toronto and had just came back from Men’s Fashion Week in Milan, so he was a blast, and I’m not talking about the snow).
The following is a condensed and edited version of our exclusive interview with the charming and down-to-Earth Luke Baines.
Brief Take: What was your favourite part of filming Shadowhunters in Toronto?
Luke Baines: I generally just love Canadians. I think it was because I was born in England and grew up in Australia, so there’s a lot of similarities between those three countries. I just immediately connected with everyone in Canada. I genuinely did not want to leave and it’s a place I want to return to as soon as possible.
BT: What was something which you were first excited about when you booked the series?
LB: That’s a great question! If I’m completely honest, my initial response was just immediate nerves because this character has come from the books, and also was played before on screen by Will Tudor, who did such an incredible job. Obviously I wanted the job, and then I booked it and was like “Oh shit, I actually have to do that!”. [chuckles] I have friends on the show—Dom Sherwood and Kat McNamara—who I’ve known for years. So I knew that the fanbase are so passionate and so engaged with the show that I just didn’t want to make a misstep and ruin something that was so wonderful. And Jonathan in the books, he’s a very well-defined character, he’s got a lot there with which to work, but I was also genuinely nervous. [laughs]
BT: As you just mentioned, you’re very close with Kat and Dominic. What is the key to your bond with those two?
LB: I think that it is about having authentic communication and authentic relationships. I met Kat [pauses] about four years ago now? We had both auditioned for a movie together and we actually met in the waiting room, and we bumped into each other maybe six months later at a press thing. I’ve been in this industry long enough to know that you don’t meet good people often. So when you do, I really make an effort on establishing a friendship or a relationship with them. So when I found out that I would be doing a show and I would be working with Kat and Dom, Dom who I have known for 10 years, it was just so exciting because it’s already exciting to be working full stop as an actor, it’s exciting to be working on a show that you like, that’s a better step, and to also be around people you call friends, it just makes the experience so much greater.
BT: Tell me about working with Anna Hopkins because the two of you seem to have such a playful dynamic online.
LB: It’s interesting because circling back to your previous question about working in Toronto and Canada, two of the people with whom I really, really connected were Anna Hopkins and Kimberley-Sue Murray, who plays Amara, The Seelie Queen, the iteration of Seelie Queen, and then obviously Anna who plays Lilith. Immediately when I met those two women, I found that we’re very similar in the fact that we just kind of don’t really play the game and speak whatever we’re thinking. It just cuts out a lot of the crap and you can just jump in and actually do the work and have fun. I think that the work that we all produce together was some of the best because we just understand each other. I think that it makes for some really interesting stuff—I’ve seen a bunch of the scenes between the three of us and I think that it’s engaging and it’s interesting and that’s all I could really ask for.
BT: What was something for which you look back and think that you have enhanced the ensemble’s experience?
LB: Well we don’t know if I’ve enhanced it yet [laughs], but there were a couple of moments in my first episode. The first two episodes we actually shot in one block, and in my first episodes, I got a call from the showrunners and they just called and said “we’ve been watching the dailies and it is exactly what we want, and it’s also giving more inspiration to go in a certain direction with the character”. I made some pretty specific changes when I was coming up with how to play this character that kind of led me down one road, and I just saw that and they let me go there. This was something that was pretty interesting, and I don’t know if any of us have really been prepared for that. It was really nice to see that they saw it and it was working, and especially because you can make choices and do work, but it might not be on the screen and for it to be reflected through that, it was really great.
BT: What was your experience like shooting in Paris?
LB: I was very lucky to go. I’m sure it was a topic of envy among others, because there was only a couple of us who went, then obviously I’m the new kid and I got to go to Paris. [laughs] We shot in May of last year, but I still don’t think I’ve come to terms that it happened, because it was so incredible. We shot in some of the most insane places which I had ever been to, let alone in which to work. Those episodes that were shot there, they’re just so beautiful and I’m so, so happy and excited for the fans to see that because they’re so passionate about the show. The showrunners just went above and beyond and created something that’s so cinematic and it’s so rich to watch, so I’m really excited for that.
BT: Speaking of the fans, what’s your experience been like jumping into a series with a passionate fanbase and interacting with them?
LB: It’s an interesting one, because it’s not something I have ever dealt with before. You know, as an actor, it’s exciting because you have people who are engaged and you have an audience already. I’ve done a lot of indie films before this and the biggest obstacle is that, well, we’ve got a great script, we’ve got great characters, we’ve got a great director, we’ve got great everything…but no one is going to watch it. So the fact that there was already an audience there was really exciting, and then on the flip side, it’s also scary.
There are people who are so drawn to these characters because of their relationships to the books, or because they’ve got their relationships in theory. And I just didn’t want to ruin that. I was a huge Harry Potter fan back in the day. I still am. [laughs] I remember reading those books and I was so nervous to the see the movies because I didn’t want them to ruin something, you know, a picture that I had in my mind that I created. Going into this, I had that in the back of mind, like: “please don’t fuck it up, Luke!” And at some point, I had to just put that to rest, probably a week before we started shooting, because I had a bit of time on this, I had two months before I actually worked, so I spent a lot of time doing research and researching the books and other research. I worked with a psychologist to tell me how to really understand this character, I worked with acting coaches, and a bunch of different stuff to just feed into this character and develop him as much as possible. I even went through some of the fan blogs, I went through Twitter. I was looking at what people were talking about with the characters because I wanted to make sure it was reflective of what the fans wanted. And then about a week before, I was like “Okay, I’ve done all that work, now I have to let go and play this character with as much truth as possible”, and then hopefully that will all work out in the end.
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Honored to be playing Jonathan Christopher Morgenstern. I know a lot of people are gonna have strong feelings about this, and I get it – @willtudor1 is incredible and what he did with Sebastian was nothing less than extraordinary. Going into this, I was intimidated as hell. But I am very excited about this role and where we’ve taken him, and you better believe I’m going to give you, and him, everything I've got. To the #Shadowhunters fans who have already graciously welcomed me, thank you. It has not gone unnoticed x
BT: Did the Harry Potter movies meet your expectations, and to what House do you identify?
LB: [laughs] I loved the movies! I loved the movies in a separate way, if that makes sense. The love that I have for the characters in the books is just a little bit different than that of the movies, but yeah! There were a couple of characters with which I was disappointed, and I remember hearing an interview with both actors specifically that they hadn’t read the books and I was like “Well, that’s why I didn’t like it”. [laughs] Stupid! Read the books!! I do love them, yes.
Great question. I…don’t know, because I always do those quizzes, but I can always tell into what house it is going to sort me by the question. And I want to be in Gryffindor. I don’t know if I would be in Gryffindor, I’d probably be in Slytherin, let’s be honest, The Sorting Hat lets you choose. And I want to be in Gryffindor, so maybe they’ll let me be in Gryffindor. [laughs]
BT: What is something that you can say about your performance as Jesus in Under the Silver Lake? Have you seen the movie yet?
LB: Yeah! It’s amazing. I know the film hasn’t come out yet, but a lot of industry people have seen it and the reviews have been a bit mixed. It’s a lot of movie, you know? There’s a lot going on. I personally think it’s honestly one of the best movies I’ve seen in the past 10, 20 years. Like it’s so interesting and I just feel like the best part about it is that it’s so creative. And it’s not like anything that I have seen before, really, and I think that the reason that the movie’s so great is that the producers really stepped back and let David Robert Mitchell do his thing. I don’t know if it will be in its initial release, or in ten years or five years time, but I do know that that movie will find its audience, because it’s too good not to! It’s one of those movies you can just watch over and over again, because I’ve seen it a few times now and every time I see it, I see a different movie. I think that’s a really good mark of storytelling – there’s something really interesting and layered going on – but at the heart of it, it’s a fun movie, and that’s what it’s meant to be. I think if you take it too seriously, you might have a hard time digesting it, but it’s a really cool movie and I genuinely cannot believe that I was a part of it.
It’s interesting, Andrew Garfield and I were talking about it after the AFI screening recently, and we were even like “Look at that part there, what did she have?” There are easter eggs in this film that even we didn’t know about! So we would pull David aside and be like “Hey, what’s this, what’s going on there?” [laughs] and then he would tell us. It’s really fascinating and I can’t wait for a mass audience to see it. I will definitely have fun reading the posts, like the conspiracy theories that will be flying around about it.
BT: You are very charitable and I was wondering if you would like to speak to that a little?
LB: Thanks for asking! Working with Oxfam is so incredibly important to me and I’ve been working with them for three or four years now. Before I started working with them, I had just decided that I wanted to work with a charity and work with them for the duration of my career. So I did a bunch of research into all major national NGOs and they were the ones that really stood out to me, because of how they operate. They’ve got such an incredible network to actually be able to affect change, and they have incredible policy makers. I really wanted to work with them and thankfully, once I reached out, we work quite well together, and it’s a really nice fit. So that’s a really big goal of mine, especially this year, but over the next five years is to try and help them advance their agenda as much as possible.
BT: Who are some people you’d like to work with again or you would like to work with in the future?
LB: I did a film with director Nick Simon called The Girl in the Photographs, it premiered at TIFF 2015, and I worked with him on another film, and we’re talking again about working on another film, actually something that I’ve written, so that would be cool. Like I said before, it’s just great when you get to work with friends. But I would love to work with some creatives that push me and I guess frighten me. You know, I really like being outside of my comfort zone because there’s where we do the most amount of learning. For example, when I did Under the Silver Lake, the specific thing with Andrew (Garfield) and I in the bathroom in which he came at me with so much passion and conviction. It was intimidating and so wonderful and to work opposite someone like that, it was probably one of the best acting experiences that I’ve ever had. So I just want to work with some really fierce people. I don’t know why Sarah Paulson is one of the first names that popped into my head, but I want to do a film with her. [laughs] The fans tweeted at me recently and said “With whom would you most like to work?”, and I said “The incomparable Sarah Paulson. I could watch her read a telephone book without getting bored”, and she actually saw and wrote back and was wonderful.
Shadowhunters season 3B returns on February 25 on Freeform