Ben Barnes Has Some Advice If You Want to Pretend to Be Shadow & Bone's Darkling

Ben Barnes, Jessie Mei Li and Archie Renaux talk special effects in the magical world of Shadow & Bone, now streaming on Netflix.

By Lauren Piester Apr 23, 2021 11:37 PMTags
Watch: "Shadow and Bone": Meet Ben Barnes, Jessie Mei Li & Archie Renaux

If you want to know what it feels like to be a shadowy dark wizard, just get yourself a clapper. 

In Netflix's Shadow & Bone, which premiered Friday, Ben Barnes plays a General Kirigan, Shadow Summoner and leader of the Grisha. If that doesn't make any sense to you, you clearly have not yet ventured into the world of the Grishaverse, the world created by author Leigh Bardugo in the Shadow & Bone book series. But that's fine, because the show literally just premiered, and you don't need to know any of that to enjoy this video of stars Barnes, Jessie Mei Li and Archie Renaux

All that you do need to know is that the show is filled with magic and, as its title promises, shadows, and that means there are a lot of both CGI and practical effects following many of the characters around. Barnes' character is particularly shadowy, and the way he's often surrounded by creepy darkness is quite an impressive thing, on screen.

But it's not quite as impressive as the powers of some of the other Grisha (the name for the people with powers), and it left Barnes a little jealous. 

2021 TV Premiere Dates

"I was a bit envious of some of the other powers," he tells E! News. "Because the Squallers [who can control air] would kind of make their move and then this big wind turbine would turn on, and people would be ratcheted on harnesses across a forest, and then the Inferni [who can control fire] would sort of flick their gloves and something would catch on fire, and Jessie had wires down her sleeves with lights in her palms. And then for me, I would do these elaborate things and someone would just turn the lights down a bit." 

Barnes says he would turn to the special effects supervisor just to make sure that wasn't it

"Something is going are going to make something happen, aren't you?" he recalls asking, because in the moment, it didn't feel like much. 


A lot of the effects were actually pretty practical, and Barnes says you can recreate the Darkling's foreboding, shadowy aura yourself at home. 

"You can try it in your living rooms right now. Clap, and get someone to turn the lights off. It makes you feel like you did it." 

Archie Renaux, who plays Mal, suggests getting a dimmer switch to really up the spook levels. 

"You do feel quite powerful," Barnes notes. 

He also teases a romance scene in which he and Alina, played by Jessie Mei Li, lean in for a potentially ill-advised kiss while their shadows do the same. Basically, what we're saying is that at least in terms of shadows, Shadow & Bone really lives up to its title. TBD on the bone part. 

Shadow & Bone is currently streaming on Netflix.