‘Shadow and Bone’: Ben Barnes Says 1 Scene as General Kirigan Made Him ‘Feel Sick’
Netflix’s latest hit is the fantasy epic, Shadow and Bone. Based on a book series of the same name, the TV version envelops viewers in the Shadow Fold as Alina (Jessie Mei Li) discovers her hidden powers as the Sun Summoner.
Bandits, Grisha, and politicians all want a piece of her, and she learns the hard way that not everyone is who they seem. One of those people is Ben Barnes’ General Aleksander Kirigan, the Darkling whose power has been unmatched until Alina comes along.
Barnes opened up about his role and noted how some parts of his character’s behavior made him uncomfortable. He objects to Kirigan’s season 1 antics in more than one area.
Alina and General Kirigan’s kissing scene changed
Leigh Bardugo — author of the Shadow and Bone trilogy — is an executive producer for the TV show and wanted to ensure Alina’s story reflected the times.
As a result, the showrunner and team updated the script to give her more autonomy over her body and choices. Consent was important for the kissing scene between Alina and Aleksander.
Ben Barnes told Decider they made sure Alina was the one to initiate their first kiss, and his character moved in for a second one. Later, there’s a scene where the general asks Alina if she’s sure she wants to take things further, signifying that she has authority in romantic situations.
However, Barnes explained that although the Darkling is a very lonely person, he’s also very manipulative and dangerous. That played out not only with Alina and the Grisha but with Mal and the everyday people of Ravka.
Barnes said the Darkling’s flowers move made him sick
While discussing his character’s nature and motives, Barnes also mentioned one aspect of Kirigan that he found really disturbing. He pointed to the scene where he gifts Alina with a bouquet of flowers.
“I mean, the worst thing he does in the whole season to me is find out about that she loves irises from Mal (Archie Renaux) and then he immediately gives her those flowers,” Barnes shared with Decider.
“It makes me feel sick to watch him do that because I like playing characters that don’t lie. He can manipulate, but lying is something makes me feel sick in general.”
He said that part made him not want to play the villain in the show anymore, but he acknowledged it’s all part of the script. Still, Barnes is not a fan of Kirigan’s ways.
“So, I think that that is the moment which is the most sickening to me. Which is strange because he slices people’s heads off and stuff. [The iris ruse is] just disgusting and it made me want to boo myself,” he said.
Barnes picked out blue irises in a different show too
Some fans may recognize Barnes from another Netflix show where he played the villain: The Punisher. Barnes starred as Billy Russo, a.k.a. Jigsaw, the big baddie in seasons 1 and 2. When season 2 put Billy in the hospital to recover from his physical injuries, he also underwent treatment for amnesia.
He and his doctor, Krista, engaged in an unethical, toxic relationship but eventually fell in love. The two made plans to run away together and while Krista packed, Billy went out to run some errands.
He picked up a bouquet of blue Dutch irises but when he arrived home, she was dead on the pavement. Billy’s complex past caught up with him. Krista, entangled in the fray, got pushed out a window. But in that instance, the irises symbolized the villain’s genuine love for someone other than himself.
Stream Shadow and Bone Season 1 on Netflix, and check out Barnes in The Punisher.