In shadow and bone Season 2 General Kirigan, also known as Darkling, is the most vulnerable but also the most violent. This meant scenes Ben Barnes shared with Jessie Mei Li required a lot of communication and trust, he said news week.
The Netflix hit returned to the small screen on March 16, and in it, Li’s Alina Starkov searches for the last two Morozova amps to gain the strength she needs to defeat Barnes’ villain.
However, while she is on this mission, Alina and the Darkling share a mental link that allows them to access each other’s minds and communicate with each other.
However, one of those scenes takes a nasty turn when the Darkling attacks and threatens Alina in order to get her to return to his side and see that they are more alike than she would like to believe.
The connection between Alina and Darkling is a concept borrowed from Leigh Bardugo’s original shadow and bone Trilogy on which the show is based, although slightly adapted for the show.
In the aforementioned scene that turns violent, Kirigan holds Alina as he explains that he will take the children from the orphanage where she grew up and has already attacked the soldiers stationed there. The scene escalates to the point where the Darkling pinches Alina against a wall and puts his hand to her throat.
Barnes shared that making sure Li felt safe filming the scene was “very” important, and he explained that communication between them is important to that.
“I hope that the trust that builds when you’re filming something romantic is the same as when you’re filming something violent,” the actor explained, referring to romantic scenes between Alina and the Darkling in season 1. “It’s some kind of loss of confidence and she must be comfortable enough to say it [things].”
“You know, I was there, I remember scenes where I was being choked and I was like, ‘Actually, I want to be choked a little bit more because I think it’s going to help me feel like a burden’ or ‘ Actually , that limits what I’m trying to do, can you stop for a bit?’ and I think we got to a point where we felt comfortable enough to communicate that way.
“She’s my little sister, they’re all my family and I feel so loving and protective of all of this cast but especially Jessie in that way and I think we’ve built a really good system.”
Barnes added, “I like to go on set with actors and ask them what they’re interested in highlighting and drawing from the scene – how does their dream version of that scene feel? [we can] Find a balance because in real life when you walk into a room with someone, they have their dream about how the interview is going to go [or] this date will go.
“And when you’re acting, ask someone what they want to make of it, and then say what you want to make of it.” I mean, some people hate that, but I think Jessie and I did a language where we really like that. So yeah, that’s how we build it, really with communication.
It was also important to Barnes to humanize his character in the connections between Alina and the Darkling versus the one-sided interactions in the books, which are told from Alina’s point of view.
“I think in the books, especially the second one [Siege and Storm]he becomes quite representative of a darkness in her mind, and I think being able to play a human character instead was important to me,” Barnes said.
“I think the other key difference was realizing that they can access each other’s mind palaces, and their two attempts at manipulating that were interesting I think.
“Then we have to be very honest and say, ‘Okay, Alina is a bit naïve about the ways of this world in that regard, so he’s the one who can figure that out first’ and then when she comes her manipulation he kind of smells because he’s been alive a long time and knows this stuff.
“People who are one step ahead of each other feel like a very real relationship, and I think a villain with experience is more scary than a villain with no experience.”
The connection allowed Alina and the Darkling to be more honest, Barnes thought, as he added, “They were able to drop all the masks and tell each other the truth with that format, which felt quite liberating because obviously I’m playing quite a manipulative character.” .
“I don’t really mind playing bad guys, I don’t like playing liars. So in a way it was more comfortable for me to play a guy who just puts his hand by your throat and pinches you against the wall and tells you how he sees it, you know?”
Season 2 of shadow and bone sees Barnes’ character in a much darker place, no pun intended, and to convey it punisher star tried to draw on his own experiences, particularly how it has been for him during the COVID pandemic.
“He’s the most vulnerable, also the most broken, the most violent, most of all,” Barnes said. “And I think those things were all reinforced by the fact that Eric [Heisserer, the showrunner] and I have been working together on this concept of shifting what is happening to him in terms of his mortality because of these inner shadow demons [Nichevo’ya] poison him, you are essentially dealing with a man who, having lived for hundreds of years, is becoming increasingly aware of his mortality.
“It makes it more human, which means time becomes more precious, moments become more important, relationships are more important, the few he keeps. I think in the first season we meet a guy who’s alone, who’s lonely but surrounded by people, and in the second season he’s lonely but very alone and I think that heightens everything for him.”
“But for me, honestly, post-COVID we still had a lot of that structure when we were shooting season two, so there was a lot of alone time,” he continued. “And I guess I wasn’t exactly my most playful, happiest self during filming because I tend to feed on people and all of that.
“Then when everyone else is filming separately from you, it kind of feels like you can access the abyss more easily, so pretty quickly I felt connected to this empty feeling that he’s playing [with] near the beginning. I think the grudges and stuff is harder to access.
“But I appreciated being able to go back to things that probably most people in the world have felt over the last few years and then just give it a horrifying, dark, evil and violent twist.”