Can you believe that we’re only two days away from the release of Shadow and Bone? The whole world is getting ready for its launch, and if you still don’t know the first thing about it, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered here with 8 interesting tidbits, which are easy to follow, and even featuring some interview and BTS snippets straight from the cast members, author, and showrunner themselves! There’s no time to lose; let’s enter the Fold together!
1) Ok, What’s the “Fold”?
First things first, Shadow and Bone is a fantasy-type show, which means it’s set in a fictional place, and features some badass, powerful displays of magic. The Shadow Fold is a swath of unnatural, impenetrable darkness crawling with winged monsters called Volcra that feast on human flesh. Also known as The Unsea or simply The Fold, it was accidentally created by an infamous Shadow Summoner known as the Black Heretic. Upon its creation, the wall of darkness split a country named Ravka in two – East Ravka and West Ravka – leading to years of conflict and turmoil.
Eric Heisserer, showrunner/executive producer/writer on creating The Fold: Early iterations of the Fold were fruitful failures in that it showed us that we didn’t want it to look a certain way, and we kept trying, and that’s part of research. Some of our early ideas made it look too smoky, or look too natural, or then too alien sci-fi? It was finally when my VFX supervisor Ted Rae had brought me these close up images of our sun—sort of the swirling madness that happens on the surface of the sun—he said, “Look what happens when I do a photo negative version of this: it gives a very dark version of that (the sun). Doesn’t this feel like the opposite of Alina?” And we used that as a texture that helped in forming the exterior look of the Fold that you get to see once you’re closer to it.
2) There’s A Diverse Cast
What you’ll see in Shadow and Bone is a mixture of different people coming together, and representation is clearly seen in this show. When asked about how much representation matters, here’s what a few cast members had to say.
Jessie Mei Li, playing Alina Starkov, who is half-Shu (basically half-Asian) in the show: (As someone who is also half-Chinese,) I grew up similarly to Alina, never really feeling like I belong anywhere, like I’m too Chinese to be white, but too white to be properly Chinese. That feeling has always been a part of me, and it was really nice to be able to express that in this role, so that other people who felt the same—who, you know, even if you’re not mixed race; maybe you live in another country you weren’t born in, or something, and you always feel separated from something—I’d love to be able to watch that and really relate to Alina.
Amita Suman, who was born in Nepal and raised in the UK, playing Inej Ghafa: I never thought I would be in a fantasy, epic TV show playing an assassin. When I was at drama school my peers told me to practice the Indian accent, they said “oh, you’re probably going to be playing a terrorist” and to look into forced marriages and whatnot. It is just so empowering to see the industry changing, because back then I never thought anyone who looked like me to be on TV or playing an exciting part to say the least. When this came through and I saw Inej, her background, where she comes from, who she is, and her storyline, it’s the best feeling in the world, and Netflix is doing such a great job of diversity.
Kit Young, of Scottish and Ugandan descent, playing Jesper Fahey: One of the great things about Six of Crows is that those things are written in. Netflix made a valiant effort to bring that diversity to the Shadow and Bone book as well, which originally seem to be very White, and quite Russian. To really put diversity across the whole show, first of all, gives more little kids role models as they might enjoy the show; I think that’s wonderful. I had never seen someone playing a role that I’m playing when I was a young kid, so I hope I’m getting to do that for youngsters. I think it’s a really good thing for everyone, no matter where you are in the world, for people to see faces doing things that they haven’t seen before, and to kind of change the tropes.
3) On Creating A Show That Is Already So Rich, Compared To Creating A New Show From Scratch
Eric: It is a relief in that you already have the blueprints to a house that you got to build, versus having to do that first, and then build the house? This really turned into a situation of discovering what adjustments can be made in the building of it, and what new ideas that the people that come to help you make that thing can contribute to it. [For example,] Wendy Partridge (the costumer designer) spoke about approaching the construction of the keftas with embroidery that was bullion, and one of the reasons why she was drawn to that was that it was something that was often used in military insignia and patches on military uniforms, and she felt that would be a good way to represent that the Second Army had a kind of status of sorts.
4) On Working With Other Cast Members
Archie Renaux (playing Malyen Oretsev) and Jessie on working with Ben Barnes
Archie: Ben’s great. I worked with Ben before, actually, on a show called Gold Digger, literally a year before we started filming Shadow and Bone. And even on that, he was great to me. He took me under his wing, and taught me things, gave me advice; and that carried on into Shadow and Bone.
Jessie: I had so many scenes with Ben, especially at the beginning. We had lots of scenes together, so if I had a question like “what does that mean?”, or something, Ben was always there to help. And it was just him having so much experience and knowing how things work, meant that when we were coming up with ideas or rehearsing scenes, he had a really good idea!
Ben Barnes (playing General Kirigan) on working with Jessie
Ben: She is as close to human sunshine as I have ever encountered in a human person, so it’s no confusion as to why they cast her at all. It’s one of her first jobs she’s ever done, and she just brought with her a special kind of leadership. I said to her in the beginning, I said, “You’re number one on the show, so, you have to lead by example,” and boy, did she. She’s always sort of looking out for everyone and making sure that everyone feels okay, and I wanted to be the one who could be there for her, to make sure she was okay, which I think in my position, and given the subject matter, was an appropriate thing. I think she represents hope for Kirigan, and she made that very easy for me just by being so hopeful herself as a human, as a person.
We were there (in Hungary) for five and a half, six months, and she seemed to learn Hungarian when we were there. I learned about three words, and she’s just extraordinary, and she’s to be revered, to be honest. So she went from this kind of shy girl that we met on the first few days to this woman who spoke Hungarian and who was commanding the set and just being magnificent by the end, so I’m so proud of her.
5) New Term Alert: Grisha
The Ravkan armies are split into two groups – the First Army and the Second Army. The latter is the kingdom’s magical military elite called the Grisha, who are divided into three Orders according to their specific abilities:
- Corporalki: Dressed in red kefta, they are the highest-ranking and most valued due to their abilities in manipulating the human body. The order consists of Heartrenders who are trained to kill and Healers who are trained to mend.
- Etherialki: Dressed in blue kefta, they are Summoners who can manipulate the elements of fire (Inferni), water (Tidemakers), and air (Squallers).
- Materialki: Dressed in purple kefta, they are Fabricators who can manipulate physical materials. Durasts focus their power on metals, wood, and glass, while the Alkemi work with textiles and chemicals.
6) Which Grisha Would You Be?
Ben: I found the Heartrenders very appealing, in terms of the way they relate to other human beings, which is always most intriguing, but they can use their powers in a more forceful way by stopping people’s hearts, or they can make them pass out by sending a rush of blood to the head, but they can also use their powers in a very calming and soothing way to slow—they can tell if people are lying by their heart rate, they can soothe and calm them, and I think after the year we’ve all just had, I think that power to be able to calm and soothe is probably a very valuable power.
Amita: I won’t be able to pick one. If I had all the power, I would pick a different Grisha every single day, because why would you want to limit yourself? And every single Grisha has their own powers and abilities in a unique way. So I would be a Heartrender when I’m feeling ill, and then I would be a Materialki if I wanted to create something—
Kit: *snorts and laughs* Just choose one!
Amita: I can’t! Just… don’t limit yourself.
Kit: One. One. We’re asking for one.
Amita: Okay. If I had to pick one, I’d probably be um, a Materialki.
Kit: I would be a Shadow Summoner. It just looks fun. Making shadows, mood lighting… Nothing evil.
Freddy Carter (playing Kaz Brekker): And I’d be an Inferni, because I can’t stand being cold.
7) On What Filming Was Like
Archie and Jessie on challenging scenes to film
Archie: Um, I’d say that the big action sequences were quite tricky, because it required everyone to remember where they needed to be, what they were doing, and what was happening when, especially with a lot of the CGI special effect shots.
Jessie: Yeah, agreed. I think the choreography and everything, and obviously you’ve got so many different shots, and so many different things going on, especially when (for myself) Alina’s using her power, so there’s the lighting effects on top of everything else. I think the action sequences often took the longest, and we’d tend to all get a bit hysterical, I think—we’d all get the giggles. So they were really fun, but also really challenging too.
Ben on special effects
Everyone else seems to be very lucky with the special effects. I mean, the Squallers, when they did this *performs movement with his hands*, there would be a wind machine, and someone would be pulled on a wire and stunt people would fly all over the place and the Inferni would do this *performs another movement*, and suddenly there would be flames, and even Jessie I think had these wires with lights that would come out of her hands, and with me, I would do this *performs yet another movement*, and then someone would just turn the lights down. It would just get dark, and I would be like, “Really? Is that scary? Because it just feels like night time.” And then sometimes when I do a certain movement, I would do these big moves and flick the cloak in slow motion and I would suddenly like send this thing, and nothing would happen, and someone would fall down, and I’d be like, “You’re gonna put an effect in, right? You’re gonna make that feel like I’m powerful? Because at the moment I’m just doing this (movement) in front of people.
8) Not Really A S&B Tidbit, But We Love This Ben Barnes Tidbit So We’re Sharing It With You Too
Q: So you did mention the other iconic characters that you played before, based off of books: Prince Caspian was mentioned; you played Dorian Gray, and now you play General Kirigan. I was wondering out of those characters, who do you relate to the most?
King Capsian, I think, was sort of somebody I felt a little more connected to, because he felt more grounded in his place, and he really deeply cares about those—he’s very protective of those around him, a bit like I am with my Shadow and Bone cast. So I think probably, I would say King Caspian, maybe. So, just “Your Majesty” from now on, please.
His Majesty is also very excited for people to see Shadow and Bone, so make sure you do tune in this Friday (23rd April), only on Netflix! We’ll see you in the Fold! If you’re super intrigued and want more BTS/interview snippets, we’ve got more waiting for you, where they all talk about working on the show, or discuss their characters in length!