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'Shadowhunters' Star Emeraude Toubia On Moving to Hollywood and Learning to Use a Whip

She calls her character a "badass in 7-inch heels"!

Emeraude interview
ABC Family

The teenage demon hunters of the Mortal Instruments books have inspired a wildly faithful fan base since they first appeared in 2007. In that time, six books have been published, one movie has been made, and now the story of demon hunter Clary Fray and her friends is being adapted for a new Freeform (previously ABC Family) television series that premiered last week. Episode 2 airs tonight (Tuesday) at 9pm/8 Central.

Emeraude Toubia plays Isabelle, one of five core cast-members on the new show, but it's unlikely you've seen her before. An up-and-comer from bordertown Brownsville, Texas, Toubia got her start in beauty pageants before moving to Mexican telenovelas. We had a chance to speak with the actress, and she couldn't be more excited about breaking into American television. Here's what she had to say:

Hi Emeraude! Congratulations on the new show. What's it like making that move to Hollywood?

EMERAUDE: I am from a really small town in Texas, so just moving to LA was like going to a whole other world. And then going into the fantasy world was just like a whole other ballgame. I did not read the books before I auditioned, but after I booked the role I did read the first book, and I do understand why these people are so fascinated by these characters that Cassandra Clare created. Because you can relate to them so much.

Even though it's a fantasy world, the situations are so real — like the stuff between my mom and I; the stuff between my brother and I. Society has so much pressure on who you should love, and how you should love, and that's part of what makes these roles so relatable.

The fans for the Mortal Instruments books are very enthusiastic. Have you had a chance to meet them in person yet?

We did Comic-Con where we got to meet a bunch of fans and Freeform did a surprise thing where we flew 12 fans to New York, and they got a sneak peek of a lot of what's happening on the show.

What was it like meeting the fans at Comic-Con?

It was amazing! These girls were crying. They were telling us their experiences. They were saying how being able to read the books and identify with the characters helped some of them to come out of the closet and be happy and be comfortable because of these characters that Cassandra [Clare] created.

It's really nice to see how much she impacted these young girls. It was amazing. To me it was such a beautiful experience and it makes you want to work hard for them.

Have you seen the cosplays for your character? Have you met any Isabelles?

Oh yeah! [Laughs] A lot of them. It's on Instagram and in person. I think Isabelle's such a strong character that the girls love and want to be her, so it's nice that she's a positive role model who they can look up to. I feel like the young generation is a little bit confused because there's so much reality TV going on that they don't know what to look up to or who to look up to. So it's nice to have strong powerful women on TV so they know that's the way to go.

Isabelle is such an interesting mixture of high femme and still very grounded.

She does love to dress, like dress sexy and stuff. But at the end of the day — what I love about her — she sees much more than the physical stuff. She knows what's going on. She knows what's important, and she fights for it. She fights for her brothers, for her brother to feel comfortable in his own skin. She fights for equality. She sees much more than what's in front of her face.

She already knows what's happening from the first second between Clary and Jace. She already knows the true feelings of her brother. And she's above the game. You know? She's in the lead.

Isabelle has this very interesting friendship with Clary in the books. How's that going to play in the series?

Yes. It's in episode one, and Isabelle is really smart in identifying who's good and who's bad, so she sees right away that Clary is heartbroken with her mother gone, and she receives her with open arms. Isabelle is like her older sister, and that's something that's really nice about this relationship. It's all about woman empowerment and not about a catty fight between two girls. It's more about being with her and supporting her and being like an older sister to Clary.

What's it like to transition to this from Spanish-language TV?

I was doing Spanish television, and you dream of being in Hollywood. I think that's every actor's dream. I moved to LA leaving everything behind to book one of the starring roles in the show. I feel blessed. I feel thankful that ABC Freeform believed in me and believed in my talent. It's about hard work. I've been training and taking acting classes and everything to fill myself with every possible thing that I need to know about. I think as long as you work hard you can accomplish anything you want and I'm just so blessed that this opportunity came my way.

What's the biggest difference between working on a Spanish language TV show and moving to a Hollywood production like this?

Well in Spanish language you do about 25 scenes a day back-to-back. It's mutli-cam. And on a TV show like this you shoot about four scenes a day. That's a huge difference. Here you have a little more time to find your character while on camera.

Right now there are a lot of Young Adult properties that have been turned into movies and TV shows. How will this show distinguish itself from the pack?

The most important thing about our show is that what's going on with the characters is what's going on in life — like in most people's lives. Even though it takes place in a fantasy world, you can relate to all these characters. You have your first kid, your first love. You have someone who's not comfortable in his own skin. He's gay and he's trying to identify if that's good or it's bad. He doesn't know what's going on. And then you have Isabelle who's completely comfortable with her sexuality, and a lot of girls are not able to master that.

Each person can identify with someone from the cast, and I think that's what keeps people wanting to see these kinds of things. You identify with it.

So are we going to get to see you be an action star in some of these future episodes?

Yeah! She is a badass in seven-inch heels! I do all my own stunts. There's Isabelle with a whip and it's very dangerous. I hit myself a couple of times because every time you whip it, it comes back to your face. So yeah she gets to do a lot of cool stuff. I do most of my stunts, and it's a lot of fun!

What's the craziest stunt you've done so far?

There was a stunt where I had to whip someone's hand, and I made a mistake. I don't know what happened. I ended up whipping a camera guy, and I felt so bad! But that was one of the craziest things. The whip is so long, maybe 12 feet long, so yeah it's scary.

Now do they cordon off the area when you've got the whip and say, "Look out!"?

Yeah! [Laughs] Every time I go to set now everyone just runs away and I'm like, "Ooookay."

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