Shadow and Bone is based on two book series by author Leigh Bardugo. Before Barnes was cast as The Darkling, fans of the books picked Barnes for the role if the series was ever made into a TV show or movie. In a funny twist of events, both Barnes and Bardugo saw the hypothetical fan-castings on Tumblr.
Ben Barnes was a popular fan choice for ‘Shadow and Bone’
Barnes became famous for playing Prince Caspian in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. He has also held popular roles in Westworld and The Punisher.
Due to his charisma, attractiveness, and knack for playing villains, fans on Tumblr named him as the ultimate actor to be cast as The Darkling. After he was cast in the role, Polygon shared that “the past month saw engagement of the site’s ‘Ben Barnes’ tag surge 639%, with buzz for Shadow and Bone also skyrocketing 594%.”
Ben Barnes saw a ‘Shadow and Bones’ Tumblr post
Eric Heisserer is the creator and showrunner of Shadow and Bone on Netflix. In an interview with Polygon, he revealed that both Barnes and Bardugo shared a Tumblr post of a fan-edit with Barnes as The Darkling during casting for the show.
When Heisserer mentioned to Bardugo that he was considering Barnes for the role, she sent him a Tumblr post with Barnes as The Darkling.
“I had this old Tumblr post where somebody had done an edit of Ben with this fantastic quote, as the Darkling,” she told Polygon. “And I sent it to Eric, and I was like, ‘Thumbs up for me.'”
As Heisserer moved forward with seeing if Barnes would be interested in playing The Darkling, he discovered that Barnes knew of the same Tumblr post that Bardugo sent him.
“Toward the end of the lunch, Ben slid over his phone at me. And it was the same Tumblr post, [and he was] like, ‘You’re gonna hire me now, aren’t you?'” Heisserer said.
Ben Barnes turned down the role of The Darkling at first
Barnes might be the perfect choice for The Darkling, but the actor originally had no desire to join the cast of Shadow and Bone.
“I read it and my character wasn’t really in the first episode. And so I sort of said, ‘There are a lot of other projects around, if I want to do this I really want to be involved,'” Barnes told Metro.
He added, “‘It’s difficult to uproot your life and go to Eastern Europe or wherever it might be in the world that isn’t your home for half the year, and you don’t know if you’re going to do more series.”
After Barnes’ hesitation, he was allowed to read the scripts for a few more episodes. He also took the time to read Bardugo’s first book, and he met with Heisserer. This helped convince Barnes to sign on to the Neflix project.