Alberto Rosende
Alberto Rosende stars as Simon Lewis in Freeform's "Shadowhunters." (Vu Ong/ABC Family)

Shadowhunters: Alberto Rosende, Simon would be chill

Alberto Rosende wishes he could do more action scenes in Freeform’s “Shadowhunters,” but he’s happy playing his favorite character from Cassandra Clare’s “The Mortal Instruments” book series.

Rosende stars as Simon Lewis, the Mundane—or human—friend of Clary Fray (Katherine McNamara), who learns in the series premiere that she is a Shadowhunter, a part supernatural being charged with protecting humankind from beasties of the Shadow World. “Shadowhunters” airs at 9/8c Tuesdays on Freeform.

Playing a Mundane, Rosende doesn’t get to use a cool weapon or dress in ready-for-a-fight leathers. Simon wears sweaters and use his brains more than his brawn. At least for now. Still, Rosende thinks that if he and Simon had met in high school, they would have been chill, as he put it.

“We could be bros,” he said, imagining what he’d say to Simon. “We could hang out, play XBox, listen to Yo LaTengo together. And then go get burritos or something right after. Cool. Then we could talk about ‘Star Wars.’”

When Rosende and I talked at the January meeting of the TV Critics Association in Pasadena, Calif., Simon hadn’t yet faced vampires from the Shadow World. [Spoiler alert if you’re not caught up!] But in upcoming episodes, Simon’s “vampire symptoms” grow even stronger after he was bitten.

Here’s an edited transcript of my chat with Alberto Rosende.

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Are you sad that you’re a Mundane and not somebody who can do all kinds of kick-ass action stuff?

Yes and no. There are pros and cons, the pro being a mundane—no one expects anything from you. If you’re a Mundane and you do something cool you kind of impress them. I like that ability. I also like the fact that I get to see things like the audience does. I get to see this world from our entire [human] point of view. … Like, “Whoa, this is new!”  But I do wish that I had bad-ass weapon and got to walk around in leather and look cool.


Are you going to eventually be doing something?

Eventually Simon becomes more engulfed in the Shadow World. He definitely grows from the nerdy guy who needs to be protected to the guy who wants to protect himself. He grows into that. And he wants to protect Clary. But it takes a while.


How long can his relationship with Clary be just as best friends when he’s thinking, “Boy, I would date you if I you would?”

That’s definitely very present. But he doesn’t know what to say. He’s like, “Wow, I love you. I love you more than a friend but you can’t see that yet for some reason. But I’ll be here waiting.”


Is he brave enough to say that?

He’s just afraid of losing her. So he knows that he could be her best friend and he thinks that eventually she’ll just see that he’s the guy that she’s meant to be with. She’ll figure it out. Just like one day the veil will be lifted and she’ll realize he’s been there the whole time. She’ll be like, “Oh my God, yes you have.”

But it’s frustrating for him and it’s definitely very hard when Jace comes into the picture and this guy just sweeps her off her feet and he can see it. And he doesn’t know why he was never able to  do that with her.


Will he always be angry with Jace over this?

It’s not really anger. It’s an extreme jealousy. Simon’s not an angry person. He’s like, “OK, so this really handsome guy can twirl a sword around, but does he know when your birthday is? Does he know what you did when you were 15?” No, he doesn’t. “I’ve been here.” 


But Simon’s a handsome guy.

Simon does all right. [Laughs.] Yeah, he does well for himself.



Did you have any fear of taking the role in this project because these characters have been popular both in the book sand the movie?

I didn’t watch the movie until after we finished shooting because I didn’t want to have that in my head at all. I took the essence of who the guy was in the book and I was like, I can just be as honest as possible. … If I just come with my own sense of truth to really who I believe he is down in his core then there’s nothing I can do other than that.

I couldn’t think in terms that I’m not the right person, because right now I am the person playing Simon. They chose me so I am the right person.

But also I want to do service to the books. I want to do service to who this amazing character that I’m lucky enough to hang out with. I want to make sure that I really brought him to life because he’s a fan favorite. He’s my favorite character reading the series.


You read the books before?

I read the first three. I finished reading the third book coming back from L.A. after the audition. … I felt like we would have been best friends in high school. We’re slightly different but close enough that he and I would have been really chill.

It was scary, but as soon as I read them I thought I know who this guy is. I wasn’t worried. I just wanted them to know that I was going to do my best to be as honest as possible.


What do you like about him?

I love that he has such a sense of integrity. And that’s something I always admired in people in general—when I can tell someone has a true understanding of integrity and who they are. Simon is that through and through.

Simon isn’t the only character [like that], but he’s the one that while all this stuff happens around him he stays Simon. Does he grow within his own person? Yeah, he understands a little more about himself. He gets a little more confident. He gets a better understanding of the world around him, but he’s still Simon. He’s still always going to be there for the people he loves, especially Clary. He’s always going to be someone who people can count on. And when he says he’s going to do something, he’s going to do it. Those are qualities that I think people admire in him and in the people that they meet.

He’s selfless. If Clary needed him to run across the world and back in a day, he would figure out a way to do it. And that’s what I think is going to be really cool—and learning with him.


What did you draw on of yourself to bring to him?

Within my family we have a very strong sense of integrity. So I think that’s why him and I understood each other right away. I was like, “Oh, you know who you are. You kind of know where you stand on things.” He’s willing to learn, which I like. But we’re the same with a very strong sense of who we are.

I love his taste in music. I’m trying to learn more about it. That’s one thing I have to challenge myself because during shooting I couldn’t listen to a lot.


Are there specific bands or songs?

In the book she brings up one band that I had been listening to for like six months before I read the books. Because one of my best friends is like this band is awesome.


What band is that?

Yo La Tengo. So I’d been listening to them and then I read in the book that one of his favorite bands was Yo La Tengo and immediately I was like, “Oh, we have a similar thing here.”…


I feel like he’s the new kind of nerd—the cool nerd. What do you think?

He’s the type of nerd that’s interesting to talk to. I feel like what my friends are—we’re not nerds, we’re just interested in everything and excited about lots of stuff.

If you’re a nerd you’re just passionate about something. I always felt like those two words were confused. I was classified as a nerd but that was just because I was excited about everything that came my way. I was excited to play sports, I was excited to do this and do that. Being excited just seemed bad.


Did you have insecurities growing up that you can use playing Simon?

Simon and Clary are starting they’re first year of college. They’re both learning about who they are going to be. I still am [too]. I don’t think you ever figure it out. There’s that feeling when you enter a new world; you start to question things. I just graduated from school and I entered the [working] world, so I kind of entered the world the same time as Simon. I graduated in December [2014] and in May I was given Simon.


As an actor do you feel like you’re constantly learning about yourself through your character?

Absolutely. It’s one of the best things about being an actor is being able to learn about yourself through someone else’s eyes. There are times when we’ll do a scene and what Simon does kind of hurts him. … And you think, “Oh shit, I do this to myself.” And it’s like what Simon goes through. We’re not that different. I should learn from this. … Definitely there’s a lot of sort of therapy there.

Alberto Rosende)
Simon (Alberto Rosende) laughs with Clary in Freeform’s “Shadowhunters.” (Freeform)
 That’s it from Alberto Rosende for now.