Chances are you know Katherine McNamara from her starring roles on Shadowhunters or Arrow. The actress is no stranger to stunt-heavy roles or chilling screenplay, but her latest project hits a bit closer to home this time.
Based on the eponymous Stephen King novel, Katherine McNamara now stars as Julie Lawry in The Stand—a story about surviving a pandemic and the apocalyptic pieces of the world that must be reassembled in its wake. With undeniable parallels to our current climate (and filming wrapping just before the onset of Coronavirus), it's safe to say this has been an odd time for McNamara, as it has been for so many of us. But in spite of everything, she's finding the silver lining by looking inward and rediscovering some of her favorite parts of herself—parts that were lost in the hustle and shuffle of pre-pandemic life. Ahead, McNamara shares how 2020 helped her shift more intrinsically, her new favorite beauty and wellness routines, and the lessons she's learned that will last far beyond the pandemic.
What has life looked like during the pandemic?
So this pandemic has been sort of the best and biggest change that I've had in a long time. It has a silver lining in that it's caused me to slow down a little bit. I'm never a person that slows down. I love my job and I'm a huge workaholic, so I never stop moving. And if there's anything I've learned this year it's that sometimes it's good to take a brief pause and just reset and learn. And that's been the biggest positive. But that being said, I do miss my job and traveling and being out and about. I'm a very social person, so having that aspect be taken away this year has been very different. But overall I've learned a lot about myself. I've set up a home office and gotten to explore a bit more on my own in Los Angeles.
And if there's anything I've learned this year it's that sometimes it's good to take a brief pause and just reset and learn.
And it's been interesting being in Los Angeles during this time—it's such a busy place, so it's been weird to watch it quiet down. I actually started doing this thing that I call reverse trick or treating. Baking is a huge form of therapy for me, it's something I've done for my whole life that I find super comforting. So I baked these huge batches of cookies and then delivered them at the end of my friends' driveways. And when I was doing that, it was almost like LA was in technicolor—there was no one on the road and everything just looked so clear and crisp.
Oh wow, you're in LA. So It's super early there right now.
That's the other thing though, because of the current climate I'm just so caught up on sleep that I've been waking up at 4 or 5 in the morning.
I'm a night owl so you're basically speaking a foreign language to me. What do you do with all that time in the morning?
So as far as beauty and wellness, well, first of all I've reorganized my entire collection of makeup and skincare. I can actually find things now, which is such a welcome change. I've discovered so many 'new' things that have just been sitting in cupboards for God knows how long. But also, it's been giving me time to think about all of those things. I've always been very meticulous about keeping my skin clean, because being at work, wearing a lot of makeup, I've been doing a lot of jobs that action-based for the last couple of years—so sweating and makeup—so you have to be very meticulous about your skincare. But it's given me more time to explore and get into some products and explore taking care of my skin in a new way. It's been fun to explore with different masks and cleansers and actually have time to see what works as opposed to being under the gun of work and having 10 minutes to wash my face before I pass out after a 17-hour day.
I've been experimenting a lot with connecting with myself more too. I've been trying meditation and going on hikes. Fitness is a huge part of my life, so obviously not being able to go to the gym or spin class or boxing training—which are the things that I would normally do—I've been hiking and trail running and exploring ways in mu house and outside that I can still stay active and still feel good mentally and physically.
And what about releasing The Stand? It's a story about a fictional pandemic, so what's it like to be releasing this project during a very real pandemic?
So what's interesting is that we actually finished shooting completely before the pandemic hit. It's been insane. I've had so many conversations with folks that were part of production and we're like... this feels like deja vu. There's so many parallels within the story and life right now. But I think ultimately The Stand was even poignant before the pandemic hit. Because aside from being about a pandemic, the story is more focused on the people and what happens after. And how folks recover when they're existing in a world that's so divided. It's such a spark plug for conflict. And even before the pandemic hit, I feel that our society was at a precipice of a lot of turning points and a lot of issues were sort of bubbling to the surface. And this year has allowed for a lot of those things to be assessed. We've all had time to sit this year and look at not only ourselves but the world and the way the world works. Because the world has come to a stop, we've had an opportunity to. look at things and ask, 'How can we do things better?'
I imagine there was a lot of physical training that went into filming this movie. What kind of workouts did you do to prepare yourself?
So what's interesting is that having done Shadowhunters and Arrow, I've been in very physical, badass roles for a long time. So I've been in that training regimen for quite a while. So for me that's a lot of high intensity interval training, a lot of martial arts and weapons training, and boxing is one of my all time favorite workouts. But for The Stand, it was actually a very different kind of role... I play Julie and I describe her as the manic Tinkerbell of the apocalypse. I always say she's sort of an intersection of Erin Brockovich, Elle Woods, Harley Quinn, and Villanelle. Imagine those four women amalgamating.
But it's interesting because for Julie, it was a much more feminine role than I've played in a long time. I go from leather jackets and combat boots in previous roles to sequins and fur. I had to re-learn how to walk in heels.
When you're not filming a thriller or training for stunts, what does your normal exercise routine look like?
I never thought I could have any modicum of physical strength—I just never thought it was possible for someone of my body type. Then when I started Shadowhunters I met my trainer, and he showed me a whole world that I didn't even know was possible. If you train to your body type, anyone can achieve these astronomical things. I'm not afraid of hard work, so he taught me that if I put in the time and effort it could change the way I live my life. I love fitness because it's my me time. It's meditative for me. I take an hour or two every day and that's my time to do something good for my body. I disconnect, throw on a podcast, and just take a minute to decompress. And that's my favorite time of day. I get up really early in the morning and usually get it done before the day starts. Sometimes I'll only get time to run for 10 minutes—but even if I do that, it just wakes me up, shakes the cobwebs out, and I'm able to start my day with a fresh perspective. Especially during the pandemic when things just feel so abnormal, it's nice to have my exercise routine as the one thing I can count on.
Especially during the pandemic when things just feel so abnormal, it's nice to have my exercise routine as the one thing I can count on.
I couldn't agree with you more. My morning workouts are such a huge form of self-care for me. I feel off-kilter if I don't get one in.
Everyone finds self-care in their own way. But for me I've always been an athlete. So doing something physical that gets my blood pumping and gets my breathing heavy, it just sort of brightens my perspective on everything.
And I saw that you had an injury on a run a few months ago. I imagine you had to seek out some other forms of self-care while you were recovering.
Totally. I read a lot—I dove head-first into stories. One of my pandemic projects was setting up a home office and bookshelf, so I rediscovered a lot of books that I had purchased over the years and never read.
As a kid, I was never without a book in my hand. I think that's part of why I became an actor and why I love being a storyteller. Stories and characters have always been such a huge part of my world view and my life. And it gave me a chance to just slow down and take a breath and say alright, I can't run so I'm going to read and write and get all of those things done that have been on my to-do list that I haven't been able to do.
AI nd what about when you need a really special night of self-care to just indulge alone and reset?
Something I love is a cup of tea, a great movie, and a face mask. I've been exploring the world of sheet masks lately, and Patchology is a company I've discovered I love—all of the variety of sheet masks and eye patches. There have been a few companies I've discovered I love over the course of the pandemic. Tatcha is a huge one—I love the Silk Peony Eye Cream. And they have this amazing oil cleanser. And then sort of my stand by that I keep going back to and am currently using is this Chanel milky cleanser. I actually first discovered it when I was doing theatre and wearing all of the makeup. It really does moisturize and take the makeup off. It's my secret weapon cleanser and has been for years.
I feel so happy for you as you're talking right now, because it sounds like you've really made 2020 about rediscovering yourself.
That's what this year has been about. It's been about finding creative ways to get through this in a positive way. It's been amazing to watch my friends and people i love go through these different forms of discovery. It's so interesting to talk to people and see what they've discovered.