After dropping the official trailer for Shadow and Bone this week, fans got a more in-depth look at not only the members of the court in Ravka but also their beloved Crows in Ketterdam. We spoke with Freddy Carter (Kaz Brekker), Amita Suman (Inej Ghafa), and Kit Young (Jesper Fahey) about filming and being a part of this eight-episode series. We talked about their characters one-on-one, filming some of their intense action sequences, and also touched a bit on their relationships with one another.
Fans of the Grishaverse will know Kaz, Inej, and Jesper as members of The Dregs, a vicious gang that operates out of Ketterdam, the capital city of the island nation of Kerch. Kerch is a country that relies solely on capitalism. Everything is about business and money, the Merchant Council rules the city of Ketterdam, and it also is home to a thriving criminal underworld. At the center of our story is the Crow Club, a casino run by the criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. At his side is Inej Ghafa, his spy, and Jesper Fahey, his sharpshooter
The leader of the Crows and also the burgeoning criminal mastermind of Ketterdam is Kaz Brekker, played by Freddy Carter. I spoke with Carter about his role as Kaz, and whether he found any similarities between himself and Kaz. “Well, I mean, Kaz is this violent, ruthless gang leader, which was pretty easy for me to get into because we’re pretty similar in all of those ways,” Carter joked. “But no, I think my way into him was his loyalty. His loyalty, and [how] you have to work very hard to earn his trust.” He added, “But when you’ve got it, it’s yours to keep. I think that was my that was my big key to him.”
Aside from being known as a man who will take a job no matter how dangerous or violent as long as the cash is worth it (earning him the nickname “Dirtyhands”), Kaz is also known for the fact that he carries a cane and has a limp from a childhood injury. Grishaverse creator Leigh Bardugo has spoken at length about how she uses a cane due to her osteonecrosis and how that became an inspiration for the creation of Kaz’s character. “It’s clear from just reading interviews with Leigh and meeting her how important, both the cane and Kaz as a character [are to her],” Carter noted. “She’s spoken about how normally the villain has the [cane] and although Kaz has some questionable morals, he’s not a villain.”
He continued, “It was really important to me to make it something that he was very proud of. Not something that held him back or something that he was worried about. In fact, he loved it about himself, and that all came from a conversation I had with Leigh where she said, ‘You know, it took me a while but I now love this about myself, it’s a part of me. And I wrote a character who loved it about himself, to sort of show people that it was possible.’ And that’s what I took on board and really wanted to embody. It’s something that never stopped him doing anything, and in fact, it made him stronger. There’s this amazing quote in the book which says, ‘There is no part of him which isn’t stronger for having been broken.’ And I think, I held on to that quite strongly when I was thinking about the cane.”
Kaz’s right hand is his trusty spy Inej Ghafa. Known by her nickname of The Wraith in Six of Crows, Inej is undoubtedly the most deadly member of The Dregs. An expert acrobat and the eyes and ears of The Dregs, she knows all. Although she runs with a bunch of thieves, Inej is one of the more kind-hearted and honorable characters. She’s religious and has a strong moral compass and often plays foils to her less reputable comrades. For Amita Suman, the books were critical for her understanding of Inej. “I’ve never really read any anything similar to who [Inej] is and what she’s capable of. She’s so unique. So, it was important for me that I didn’t pick someone to use as an inspiration because, you know, the books are so rich in describing who the characters are and what they do and how they hold themselves, and you discover all the reasons of their being.”
She continued, “For me, that book was the Bible. I know that [the Crows] in Shadow and Bone is a prequel. So, I was gifted this wonderful opportunity to develop Inej to the person you see in Six of Crows and show the audience her decision making and why she becomes the character you love in Six of Crows. The books are just brilliant, they’re such a great read, you really go through a journey. And funnily enough, you know when the book ends, we don’t really have any questions to ask about who they are, because the description in the writing is so deep and detailed.”
For Suman, finding this new version of Inej meant a lot to her. “There’s always this pressure and a tiny bit of insecurities in my work, because I care about the part so much, and I care about Inej so much and the show.”
Inej, who has done her fair share of suffering despite her young age, still has a strong sense of her morals. Suman said, “I think you see that she is ultimately good, but she because she’s been forced into so many bad situations. And because she cares so much about her Crows, she will do anything to protect them. At the same time, she’s a woman who still demands honesty and still demands equality and she will walk away when she doesn’t get those things. For me that was really powerful and something I held on to, because it is such a huge, huge part of who she is.”
Of course taking on a role for Inej Ghafa will inevitably come with a strong physical component. Inej, an experienced acrobat, is often found running across the rooftops of Ketterdam and slipping quietly in and out of spaces in her time as a spy. Suman lamented that this was sadly not a trait she shared with her character. “When I got the part I knew exactly what Inej was capable of physically, and I really really was not. You know, I was getting tired carrying the shopping bags home. And I said to myself, if I can’t build her strength and build her stamina and the flexibility I can’t do this role any justice.”
“So I did a lot of training, and it was my first experience of having built muscle for the first time and having stamina. And in terms of the silk, it looks easy, it looks so graceful and beautiful and then you come on, and my teacher said, ‘Oh, just hold yourself,’ and I couldn’t, because I had no core strength, at the time,” she said, teasing a scene in the season where we see Inej using aerial silks. “Learning all of those skills was really empowering and I really appreciate people who are masters at their craft. I really learned how much time and effort and practice and dedication it requires.”
On top of her skills, Inej is also known for the fact that she carries over a dozen knives and names them all over the saints. On this, Suman said, “I didn’t really get any specific training, I was just gifted 14 gorgeous knives and I had the pleasure of playing around with them and making them part of my character. Not just in an aesthetic way but Inej names all of the knives after saints, so she has a personal connection and an emotional connection to it. So, every time I had the opportunity to use it, I really had to ask myself, ‘Is this from a character’s point of view? Is this really worth using such deadly weapons?’ And it was very empowering. My knives really felt like armor and I hadn’t really experienced that before.”
And the third member of the group is Jesper Fahey. A sharpshooter who never misses, but he might have a bit of a gambling problem. He’s never seen without his pearl-handled revolvers. And speaking with Kit Young about playing Jesper, the actor also happened to have his prop revolvers on hand, twirling and flicking them around in his hand with practiced ease. We’ve already got glimpses of Jesper’s skill in the trailer, with him shooting a coin in mid-air, but this, Young said, all came after some practice and a bit of time at “Crow Camp.”
“We arrived to Budapest, and we got very lucky that we had almost a month of pre-production before we all kind of started shooting, so we were put straight into stunts, what I kind of call ‘Crow Camp.’ We were set to work, really put through our paces, and I was first given these pistols — these kind of prop pistols that I tried to spin. I dropped one, [and it] smashed everywhere. I was told it was the only pair,” he recounted.
“And then, I was gifted another pair to go home and practice with, one of which is here,” he said, pulling out the prop and spinning it around. “Because I take them everywhere. Now they’re just extensions of my arm, and I’m constantly kind of, you know, playing around with them. They’re just part of who I am now, mainly because I was probably very annoying on set, I was constantly twizzling around guns with ammunition in them.”
One aspect of Jesper that sticks with him throughout the books is that he is constantly on the move. This man is the definition of restless leg syndrome. He loves to be at the card tables, even though he seems perpetually on the wrong side of lady luck. Young pulled from the character of the books, and also the writing style of Bardugo’s books to gather together Jesper’s character for the show.
“I think it comes back to this thing that essentially [he] is like an adrenaline junkie and is constantly looking for this thrill. There’s a brilliant moment in Six of Crows, where they’re trying to escape Ketterdam. It’s Jesper’s chapter, when they’re getting attacked at the dock, and it’s great. Because the book is so filmic and [Leigh Bardugo] does this thing where each person’s perspective is almost a different genre of film. So Kaz’s feels very film noir-esque, some of the others have different strokes, but I think Jesper’s often feel like an action movie. It’s something like guns blazing, and here we go. There’s a brilliant moment where he comes alive when the fight kicks off, and I think that was really useful for this season to know that [when] shit hits the fan. Jesper is almost the best equipped person to suddenly respond. He’s never going to back away. He’s gonna lean in, maybe too far.”
Crows Crossing the Fold
And when the action kicks off, it’s a big spectacle! For anyone who wants to go to Ravka, they must also secure passage across the treacherous Shadow Fold. A mysterious and deadly gash at the center of the map, the Fold is pure darkness and full of dangerous creatures known as Volcra who are basically like giant deadly winged demons. Young teased a bit of what the Crows must face in their crossing of the Fold.
“That was crazy. That was crazy for all of us. I mean there were four of us in a black box, that was purposefully built for the interior of the train, and they had to take out each wall to get the cameras in different angles. The same with the roof as well. So it was three days in a black box with fire. That was moving. Oh yes, and there’s a goat,” he said, garnering a laugh from everyone. Obviously fans can feel free to speculate what decisions lead to this crazy situation.
“There was a lot going on, and by the end of day one we were pretty delirious and by the end of day three, we could barely take anything seriously. We were losing our minds, but it was great fun. The mad thing was obviously the goat, having it in your arms, and it starts kicking around because it doesn’t want to be near guns and fire, and me probably.” Yes, you heard right. There was a goat involved. Actually, Young clarifies, there were two goats named Running and Jumping in Hungarian. “They should have been called Screaming and Pooping, because one was the screamer and one was definitely the pooper.”
“We had to stop and clean the set,” he continued. “I’d have like little snacks in my sleeve trying kind of like pass it things. It was tricky. And then the really annoying thing about the goat is when it was working with Archie [Renaux] it was seamless. But, yeah, it was amazing fun. It was my first ever action sequence, so it was daunting, as well as exciting.”
But, it’s not all goats and snacks, Suman also talked about Inej’s desire to cross the fold, seeing it as an opportunity for freedom. “In the show, she is indentured to Tante Heleen and is forced to work in the brothels. For her, crossing The Fold is the opportunity for freedom, and her freedom, to her, is life and death. I think it’s a real testament to who she is because once she crosses it, and she has the prize in her hands, you see her make a very powerful and important decision, and a very selfless decision of putting her faith first and doing the right thing first, regardless of the consequences for herself. What’s really gorgeous is that all of us have our own different reasons [for crossing]. And I think that really gives so much more into the storytelling and the depths of the characters and what makes it even more enjoyable to watch.”
I couldn’t let the opportunity to ask about Inej and Kaz’s relationship pass. Kaz and Inej, or rather Kanej, as the shippers call them, is a cornerstone of the Crows duology. On top of the heists and schemes and crazy plot twists, there’s also romance. I already talked about Helnik in my previous interview with Danielle Galligan and Calahan Skogman, and sadly we haven’t been able to spot a Wylan Van Eck in the mix of the Crows in this timeline. But when it comes to slow burn romances, nobody does it quite like Kaz and Inej.
Both Carter and Suman spoke about the relationship and what audiences might get to see in the series and in these earlier versions of the characters. “Yeah, I think, for both of them, because they both have such a traumatic start in life, and for pretty obvious reasons they both have trust issues and issues with connecting and sort of vulnerability. I’d say Kaz probably a little more so than Inej, [he has his] guard up 100% of the time,” Carter explained.
“So he finds it very confusing, it’s a very sort of tricky thing for him to define, he’s not someone who’s particularly good at talking about that stuff, or even accepting that there’s feelings to be talked about. It’s so far pushed down, so that when it slips out, and I think it does sort of in the show, it comes across similarly to the book, it comes in moments of pressure. When something slips and he sort of gives away more than maybe he even realized he was thinking. We both [are], as it’s been mentioned, big fans of the books and wanted to get that dynamic right. We put a lot of work into making sure we stay true to the books, while also serving the scripts.”
Suman agreed, addding, “To me, their relationship is something I’ve never experienced or seen on screen because they both have their traumas.” In talking about their dynamic, she said, “Inej [is] one of those people that forces the good out of people. Kaz always has questionable morals and tactics and she is the person that is always knocking at him, even when he doesn’t want to hear it. She tells him that there are so many admirable qualities about you. Not literally, [but] in their language of not being able to use their words but using their actions to kind of speak for themselves.”
Missing Links from Six of Crows?
For fans of the Six of Crows duology, there is obviously a missing link in the group, in the form of Wylan. A demolitions man with his own baggage from the past, Eric Heisserer did mention that there was a possibility that we could have seen Wylan. “Often times in the writer’s room, we would have scenes that we would call Act Zero, which are essentially like little scenes before, moments before, or things that took place before the episodes themselves. One of our favorite scenes was really before Kaz left Ketterdam, knowing that they were crossing the Fold, knowing that they were possibly crossing paths with the Darkling himself, he visited Wylan and he said, ‘Can you make me some sort of device or bomb, something that might give me a second of freedom if I ever encountered the Darkling?’ So that was a fun little piece of fiction that hopefully will go into the show’s DNA in the future if we ever get a chance to do that.”
Well, did we get you guys excited for the show? Fans have been clamoring for more content, getting more and more excited for the series release. Don’t forget to follow The Beat for more coverage of the show as we approach its release date.