It takes a great deal of talent, hard work and respect for your craft to fully embody a character, but British actress Amita Suman does so with grace and poise as Inej in Netflix’s Shadow & Bone. Amita Suman is not an actress to take lightly. The 25-year-old Brit moved to the United Kingdom from Nepal when she was a child. After graduating from The Academy of Live and Recorded Arts, Amita successfully pursued her passion for acting, appearing in hit television shows such as CW’s The Outpost, BBC’s Doctor Who and Netflix’s The Sandman, among others. But, the role of Inej Ghafa in Shadow & Bone holds a special place in her heart, and not just because it has catapulted her to stardom.
When the cult-followed fantasy series premiered on Netflix in 2021, the characters it followed were already internationally beloved, thanks to Leigh Bardugo’s seven Grishaverse novels. The cast had big shoes to fill. Especially, the six known as ‘The Crows,” a crime syndicate of youthful misfits who find family with one another. After an estimated 1.75 million households turned in during its first week, the verdict online was unanimous: Shadow & Bone had been perfectly cast. Fans, new and old, couldn’t wait for the next instalment. In the two years since this sentiment has only grown.
In the highly anticipated lead-up to the second season, Amita Suman speaks with Schön! about how her character has changed, becoming part of the Grishaverse fandom, doing her stunts, and more.
Before we get to Shadow & Bone, how were the BAFTAs yesterday?
It was great. The hosts were brilliant. It was a celebration of some incredible movies and filmmaking and such a beautiful time spent honouring creativity in its truest form with the most incredible and talented people, some of whom I got to hang out with over the weekend. Huge congratulations to both the nominees and the winners.
That all sounds amazing. I’ve caught what I could online, but living in America, I don’t get the full broadcast. I have seen the first six episodes of Shadow & Bone and I love it.
Oh, have you?
Yeah, I have. It’s great. I’m a big fan of the show and the books and I enjoyed it so you should be excited for people to see it.
That’s wonderful! Thank you.
This season gets a bit more into the crows and who they are as people. When you first read the script was there anything that excited you?
Absolutely. I liked the way they had written Inej. In this season, she takes more control over the decisions she makes and isn’t afraid to make them even if they go against what she’s been told. She did that in season one as well. Instead of sticking to the plan, she would break away when her morals demanded her to, but this time she’s defending herself. She’s protecting herself and fighting for her safety all on her own without the help of anybody else. I liked that. Also, I love the way they’ve written Inej and Kaz’s storyline. In season one, as an audience, you were thinking, “are they romantically involved? Are they more than just friends?” That’s the way both Freddy and I wanted it portrayed. Now, there’s no doubt that feelings are involved. I love the chemistry between the two characters this season and the scenes that allowed us to explore that more.
They are very good. I was a bit giddy watching! [Laughter] We touched on this, but this season Inej has a new mindset. Her belief system has changed. How did that affect how you looked at the character?
Her faith and her belief in her saints are the one thing that’s always kept her grounded. The one word she clings to is ‘hope.’ This season, because of what’s going on and what’s happening to her, she is having an internal battle over not losing hope. But it’s slowly breaking away and it’s bringing out this new side of her that is more reckless. She realises how far she can go and what it is to not be circumscribed by morals. She’s finding a home in the name of protection and fighting for what she loves. It was fun to play. I thoroughly enjoyed it. You don’t know where you’re going to end up. That’s what’s exciting about it.
Since this is the second season of the show, you have now seen the audience’s reaction to your portrayal of the character. Did you have any expectation or warning as to how the character would be perceived because of how beloved she is in the novels?
That is such a good question. When the show came out, it was during the pandemic, so all the reaction and celebration was online. You could only see it if you went looking for it. I tried to stay away from that. Meeting fans in real life, whether that is people stopping you on the street or at a comic con, that appreciate the way everyone has bought the characters to life is beautiful. It’s a great reminder of why we do our job and why I love my job. Other people get to share in the joy of it. I’m always nervous; I have bad impostor syndrome, I think I’m awful. I think I could have done this scene differently. I could have been better here. I could have tried harder. But I’ve received so much love and support from the fans, the producers and my cast. I’m so proud of everyone, to be honest. It’s a real joy to share this character within my soul and my heart and with everyone else that sees it.
I think Shadow & Bone has been adapted so well. It feels like you’re reading the books with extra material when you’re watching the show, which is the highest compliment I can give it. It amplifies the source material. One of the things I loved seeing was the friendship between Inej & Nina. I think their female connection rounds out the characters. How do you think that introduction changes Inej?
It’s just so great. It mirrors real life a little bit because in season one, Freddy, Kit, and I hung out a lot and it was wonderful. We’re like a family. But I was thinking, “oh, it would be nice to have another girl here.” It’s just different having a girlfriend around. When we got to have scenes altogether, in particular the scenes between Inej and Nina, it’s a completely different energy. They bring out different parts of themselves in each other. Nina changes the dynamic slightly. It’s nice to have another woman in the group who also doesn’t put up with Kaz’s facade.
It’s also really interesting having Nina around because Kaz and Inej are such bad communicators when it comes to their feelings, but Nina is a Heartrender, so she can sense everything going on inside of them. She’s their lie detector! [Laughter] She isn’t afraid to speak her thoughts. She’s such a vivacious character. When she gives Inej confirmation of what Kaz is feeling, it’s very jarring but in a very exciting, thrilling and scary way for the character. We have so much further to go, but this is such a brilliant and beautiful start. I couldn’t welcome it anymore.
Another new thing this season is the more intense fight scenes. There are a few this season. How was preparing and filming for those?
I love fight scenes! I love stunts and I love moving my body. I love being physical, learning all these new skills and getting in that mindset of defense and attack. In terms of the character, when you put purpose in there and her skills on display, it’s such a wonderful character to play. This time around, she’s ruthless. Once she’s made up her mind, she just goes in for the kill, Both metaphorically and physically. I have an incredible stunt team.
When we shot the fight scene in episode three, I had three hours of sleep in the past 48 hours. I was so tired that day. My mind wasn’t with it, but I love this character so much that filming allowed me to completely forget myself and have something crystal clear to focus on. I just can’t believe the way it turned out versus how I was feeling on the day. That’s what happens when you’re given such an incredible character! That’s the power of great writing and great material. No matter what kind of day you’ve had, you come on set and even though you might have slept for a few days, you love your job so much and you love the crew and the people around you so much, it doesn’t matter.
I would never have known that watching it. This season ups the romance as well between all of the couples. There is a lot of tension between Kaz and Inej, as we touched on. If she were your friend or younger sibling, what relationship advice would you give her?
That’s a complicated concept because their relationship is so complicated. The best dating advice I’ve been given is to find someone who celebrates your individuality rather than tries to change you. Someone who can be loyal and give you full commitment. On set as an Inej, when I’m thinking about Kaz, it’s always so complicated in my head. I genuinely don’t know what I would say to her.
I feel like they almost don’t want to like each other.
Of course they don’t! Inej is very scared to feel what she feels for Kaz. They both live in a very hostile environment where having feelings can perceived as a weakness. I think Inej sees them as a strength but, obviously, Kaz sees them as a weakness. It’s complicated between them. I love playing all of that and giving myself up to it. It’s intense. It’s an extremely passionate place to be in, but also very complicated. There’s never really a right answer.
I understand that. Plus, an audience loves to watch a slow burn. I noticed you’re involved in UNICEF’s Climate Crisis petition. I wanted to give you space to speak about why that is important to you if you would like.
Absolutely. UNICEF is one of my favourite charities. I’m a great believer in children. They are the next generation, so I think providing a space for them to feel free to play and learn is extremely, extremely important. UNICEF has my support continuously. Right now, global warming and its effects are extremely devastating. You don’t see the damage every single day — it’s not as obvious as other things happening around the world are. It’s important to be educated and to remind yourself the little things you start doing daily, like recycling and turning off the lights, are extremely important, not just for fresh clean air, but for the lives of children all over the world who are suffering from the effects of climate change.
I think this can be said for a lot of things, but especially global warming when it’s at the forefront of the news cycle, people will think about it more. But, as soon as there’s something more pressing, it gets pushed to the background when it’s one of the most constant things happening today. It’s not going to go away.
It’s not going away. Exactly. You’ve said it beautifully.
Finally, to bring everything back to Ravka and The Crows, if you were part of a heist, which role would you play?
I would want to be the person who gets to dress up and talk to people. Instead of hiding in the shadows and waiting for any danger to happen, I’d want to be a bit like Jasper: dressed up, put a wig on, pretend to be someone else and get information that way.
Season 2 of Shadow & Bone is streaming now on Netflix.
photography. Daniel Jackont
fashion. Gal Klein
talent. Amita Suman
production. Clara La Rosa
hair. Miguel Martin Perez
make up. Victoria Bond using Chanel Beauty Spring-Summer 2023 Make-up Collection + No.1 de CHANEL Rich Revitalizing Cream
set design. Gili Ofir
video. Greg Bushell
b-cam operator/gaffer. Aggelos Tzouanakis
music. Laurence Unger
interview. Sydney Bolen
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