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Performers Of The Month - March Winner: Outstanding Actor - Matthew Daddario



Protecting loved ones is one of the most primal aspects of humanity. It's also an incredibly hard thing to fully capture and convey when acting. Capturing such a primal human instinct is doable, but it's very hard to sell its believability. A performer's ability to make it believable could make or break a storyline, especially one that takes place in a fantasy setting. Performers usually pull from real life experiences to infuse authenticity into their performances. Those that do that bring an extra element of realism to their work that helps the barrier of the screen fade away and pull the audience right into the middle of the scene. Luckily for Shadowhunters, they have a whole cast that has figured out how to expertly do just that. Chief amongst them is the ferociously talented Matthew Daddario who plays Alec Lightwood. With his overabundance of charisma and exceptional talent, he not only embodies the essence of Alec, but he taps right into his core, that primal need to protect those he loves. It's no surprise he was voted SpoilerTV's Most Outstanding Actor of March for his powerhouse performances in the mid-season finale, By the Light of Dawn (2x10).

Alec is a complicated character so focused on his duty that he sometimes denies himself his own happiness. He's so busy trying to take care of everyone else that he usually forgets about himself. Luckily, and thankfully, Alec found Magnus (Harry Shum Jr.). Together they are each learning how to have a pure and passionate love that not even the very old Magnus had ever experienced. These two characters complete each other and their love was a big driving force for Alec throughout the episode. When Alec thought Magnus might have been amongst the downworlders killed, the pain that Daddario brought to Alec's eyes was downright heartbreaking. Fear and anger seeped through his every word and his body was incredibly tense as the fearful idea of losing the man he loves consumed him. He even exhibited some anger towards Jace (Dominic Sherwood) which is odd in and of itself given their close bond. Everything was made worse by the fact that he was busy trying to help everyone else while Magnus was in danger, therefore, he was unable to be by the side of the man whom he adores. He even confessed the immense fear he'd felt for Magnus during the mission, but the confession wasn't necessary as Daddario's performance made Alec's fear heartbreakingly evident. When they finally embraced at the end of the episode it was truly a moment of relief for Alec.

Daddario and Shum are a perfect pair and their chemistry is off the charts. Every time they share a deeply emotional scene it tears at the heartstrings. When they kiss, they put everything into those kisses to ensure that all the emotions their characters are experiencing are fully expressed. The one in this episode was especially poignant as it capped off the journey they've been on since the start of the season. For these characters, all that mattered in that moment was the need to embrace and be close. They had spent the day surrounded by evil and death, so to be back in loving arms was exactly what they each needed, especially Alec. When their foreheads pressed together post-kiss, the deep emotional weight was evident in Alec’s expression. The amount of intensity Daddario brought to this reunion ensured that there was no doubt what Alec was feeling and experiencing. For the first time that day, Alec was able to properly breathe. Daddario’s ability to capture these intense emotional moments takes a great amount of acting prowess and he always delivers.

Even though he has unbelievable chemistry with Shum, he's got a very powerful energy that allows him to easily forge bonds with other members of the cast. The Lightwood family is immensely complicated and flawed, but Alec will go to the ends of existence for his mom Mayse (Nicola Correia-Damude), little brother Max (Jack Fulton), and sister Isabelle (Emeraude Toubia). He is their rock and they are his heart. Long before Magnus appeared in his life, he had them and even though they don’t always see eye-to-eye, he's always there for them. When he found out his father left his mom he was there to support her and be a remarkable son. He even helped plan Max's first rune ceremony. Not to mention all he's done for his sister. This is the kind of man he is and while these are all tremendous characteristics for a character, they are far from easy to capture and convey to an audience. Yet, despite the challenges, Daddario always seems to pull it off and make every emotional moment feel very real.

He shares great chemistry with Katherine McNamara (Clary Fray) and Dominic Sherwood however, it’s his bond with Emeraude Toubia that really allows him to show off Alec's super protective side. While none of these characters really need saving -- they are all more than capable on their own -- that doesn't stop Alec from doing everything in his power to keep those he loves safe. It's part of who he is at his very core. There are very few places anyone foolish enough to mess with his sister could hide. He demonstrated that with both Raphael (David Castro) and Victor Aldertree (Nick Sagar) whom he felt presented a threat towards his sister. He confronted them both when he felt they were putting her in danger. Though he knows that he has to let her do her own thing, and make her own mistakes, but he’ll always be there the moment she needs him.

Daddario and Toubia have a strong sibling connection. All sibling relationships are complicated, but the primal need to protect that other person at all costs is hardwired into all siblings. It's no secret that siblings fight and bicker, over petty things most of the time, but at the end of the day, if anyone were to mess with the other, all bets are off. That's the way it is between Alec and his sister and the need to protect is powerfully portrayed by both performers. They are both intense performers with enough similarities that it's easy to buy them as siblings. When Isabelle came to Alec and Aldertree's rescue at the institute, Daddario made sure to show Alec's serious concern for his sister. After the brief fight she engaged in to help them, she was left weakened and barely able to remain on her feet, there wasn't a second's hesitation before Alec was at his sister's side. In real life, Daddario has sisters and that sibling bond between brother and sister is something that can't be faked. He often mentions his real siblings on social media and always seems proud and supportive of them much in the way he infuses that into Alec's bond with his sister.

Even though there is a very heartfelt and emotional side to Alec he's also an extremely physical character. Another reason why Daddario was very smartly cast in this part was that he can handle the taxing emotional moments as well as the high intensity and taxing fight sequences. This episode had several climactic fights as Alec reluctantly teamed up with Aldertree to try and retake the Institute. That same tense team-up also produced some exceptional scenes where the two men squared off in intense verbal confrontations. This was an odd team-up of characters, but the performers made every scene impactful.

While Daddario and Nick Sagar have shared scenes before there was an extra intensity to the ones in this episode. Alec had made assumptions about Aldertree and in the end, it turned out that the two men really aren't all that different. When Aldertree confessed that he too once passionately loved a downworlder -- as Alec loves Magnus -- only to reveal that his love ended in heartbreaking tragedy it clearly hit a cord with Alec. As Sagar delivered the painful story of Aldertree's lost love there was an interesting shift Daddario made in Alec. At the start of the scene, his arms were crossed tight against his chest and he held Alec in a very tense and guarded posture. Then, as the scene progressed and Alec really came to understand Aldertree there was a softening in his posture and a gleam of understanding in his eyes. While those transitions might seem easy they really aren't. For a scene to truly hit its mark, a performer must be able to deliver those subtle changes at exactly the right moment. Some viewers think the only thing that matters are the words being spoken, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Daddario not only has exceptional line delivery skills, but his reactive acting is precise and always hard hitting. He has incredible control over his performances that allows every scene he’s in to feel very engaging.

It's evident, from everything presented above, that he works remarkably well with all of his scene partners. Throw any situation at him or stick him with any other performer and he will excel. There has yet to be a single scenario that this show has thrown at him that he was unable to deliver with near perfection. An impressive feat, given that Alec isn't the easiest of all characters. He's a series of conflicts and feuding emotions trapped all together in one body. What Daddario has so beautifully done is take each of those factors and turned them into strengths for his character. A lot of this comes from the top-notch writers that the show employs who know their performers and characters so well that they can tailor to their strengths. Except, it would seem, that very little of that is needed in regards to Daddario. They've thrown so many vastly different things at him and they've all been perfectly executed. He's truly one of the gifted ones who was meant to act and bring incredibly complex characters to life.

While there is absolutely no doubt that he's a truly gifted performer that's not the only thing viewers look at these days. One big trend in fandoms now is how the performer acts outside of actually performing. There are performers who choose to shy away from the spotlight and hide out for the sake of their own privacy. No one can really fault them for that given the visceral hostility that can float around most fandoms. Then, there are those performers who embrace the fans and put themselves out there to engage with those who choose to patronize their work. Matthew Daddario is one of the latter. He's constantly touting support for LGBT causes and engaging his fans. He uses varying degrees of social media to ensure that he can interact with as many of his fans as he can. He gives back to those who have supported him in his career.

Recently Shadowhunters won the GLADD media award for Outstanding Drama Series and it was certainly well deserved. Matthew Daddario and co-star Harry Shum Jr. were on hand to accept the award. Both seemed exceptionally proud of the work they do and of the relationship between their characters. They each seem genuinely overjoyed at the honor. The show's dedication to this storyline has been impressive, but the performances delivered by Daddario and Shum are what have made this couple so endearing. It's their chemistry and heartfelt performances that keep their fans coming back for more. Combine that with a cast of exeptionally talented performers and powerhouse writers and it's a recipe for success.

Daddario is only one in an ensemble cast, but he stands out in everything he does. When he's on the screen it's impossible to not take notice of him and watch him work his craft with diligent care. From his ability to navigate the complex emotional scenes to the action-packed fight sequences and to the all-important displays of love, he makes it all count. His warm smile can light up a scene yet when Alec is in hardcore protector mode his tense exterior can ratchet up the intensity of a scene tenfold. There is no doubt that he was deserving of this win. Unfortunately, this article could only cover a small fraction of the performances he delivered in this episode, so please feel free to use the comments to talk about all the scenes and moments that this article couldn't cover.

PLEASE READ: Please keep comments on topic and just discussing the performances of the winner.

Special thanks to Donna Cromeans, freelance editor/proofreader (@DJRiter on Twitter) for editing this article.

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