Shadow and Bone just landed on Netflix, and fans have been waiting with bated breath to see the adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s stunning fantasy world. The series is a combination of two of Bardugo’s series: the Shadow and Bone trilogy and the Six of Crows duology. Both take place in the “Grishaverse,” originally set two years apart, but will run simultaneously on the show. We got to chat with Amita Suman, who will be playing Inej Ghafa from the Six of Crows duology, on the pressures of taking on such a loved role, best memories from the set, and more.
The original series, which came out in 2014, has amassed a large and diehard group of fans. Suman’s character Inej is a fan-favorite, which comes with a word of responsibility. “It’s my first time doing an adaptation and I truly mean it when I say that I am one of Inej’s biggest fans,” Suman says, adding, “I felt like I could really empathize with the diehard fans out there. I felt this incredible amount of pressure to be given this gift, but at the same time, there was such love for this character that I really gave it all I had.”
Although Suman revealed that she hadn’t previously read the series, once she auditioned and was sent the book, she knew this was the role of a lifetime. “When I decided I wanted to be an actress, I knew I wanted to play a hero who was good and wasn’t sexualized and was just well-rounded,” Suman reveals. “That is Inej. There were just so many beautiful qualities about her, and she’s had such a traumatic past but she can still find the beauty in things. She wasn’t bitter or broken; she picked those pieces up and created something quite dangerous.”
Suman reveals that she left an instant connection to Inej: “First off, she was brown and was actually written that way, which isn’t something that happens often. I also think her commitment to herself and her worth is so admirable. One of the things I discovered about Inej is she really understands her self-worth; she never loses self-respect and always demands it.”
The first season acts as a prequel for the Six of Crows cast, so the process of building Inej’s character was extensive, even with the literary material to go off of.
“Our storyline in the series is kind of like a prequel to Six of Crows; everything you see now is completely new,” Suman says, adding, “The Inej you see in the show isn’t quite the Inej in Six of Crows, so it was really important for me to really find her journey and take it in this route where she ends the series as the Inej you see at the beginning of Six of Crows.”
Part of that process was working to match Inej’s physical capabilities. In the novels, Inej is known as the Wraith; She is a spy and a professional with knives. “When I got the part, I was so unfit!” Suman exclaims. “I did tons of training and silk training, but by the time filming started I could do a basic routine. I also had a great stunt double! In terms of knives, I actually didn’t have any professional knife training, it was down to me to understand the feel and balance of them all.”
One thing that fans are counting on to save Shadow and Bone from the fate of other failed YA adaptations is Bardugo’s involvement as an executive producer on the show. Bardugo even has a cameo in one of the episodes.
“I don’t really get starstruck, but I remember [Leigh Bardugo] coming on set and when I met her I lost all my words,” Suman says. “Sadly, I wasn’t there on the day she shot her cameo.” Many of the cast have reported working closely with Bardugo to stay true to their characters, including Suman: “For me, every character smells different. Leigh Bardugo and I actually talked about this and what her home smelled like and what Ketterdam smells like. I found this scent, and every time I got to set or right before a scene, I would spray it on myself and that smell would trigger the mindset I would have to be in to play Inej.”
Although the Six of Crows cast and the main Shadow and Bone cast are only in a few scenes together, they hung out a lot off camera and helped each other rehearse lines.
“Sometimes when one of us wasn’t filming other members of the cast would come on to hang out. Most of the time we all just stayed together and sang, or danced, or played games,” Suman says. “My favorite parts were when we played games. My other favorite was when Eric Heisserer, the showrunner, was on set and I was decked in my Inej costume so I went to go say hello but as I was running down the hill I slipped and literally tumbled to his feet.”
Suman, who previously acted on CW fantasy series The Outpost, says the roles are almost incomparable.
“It was a whole new level,” she says. “The scale of production and detail that went into it was incredible. I did tons of training and just had so much more time to create the character. It was the best, hardest, and most intense six months of my life.”
Although the show just came out, many fans are already on the edge of their seat for information on season two. Suman currently doesn’t have any information on a new season, but she does have ideas: “If I was a writer on the show, I would bring all the fans in and have them be extras. I would ask what they wanted and just give them the money to do it. It would be complete havoc but it would be totally fun!” Suman is an absolute gem to watch on screen and her performance is only rivaled by the amazing chemistry she has with both of her scene partners: Freddy Carter as Kaz Brekker and Kit Young as Jesper Fahey.
The bottom line is this cast is new, fresh, and talented. They bring the Grishaverse (which Suman describes as “unique, epic, fantasy”) to life with dazzling authenticity. “The heart is an arrow” and, as a fan of the original books and now the show, my heart is waiting for news of season two.