Season 2 of Shadow & Bone brings new depth to all its characters, but especially to Kit Young’s Jesper Fahey. Donning a cape, swinging a sword, or, in the case of Shadow & Bone, slinging a pistol, is almost second nature for the 28-year-old British actor. Over the last three years, his life has revolved around fast-paced fantasy dramas, like Netflix’s The School For Good and Evil. As an actor, Kit is well suited for those roles. He’s quick to turn on the charm or crack a joke, but there is a level of emotional depth to him that remains rarely seen on screen. A new side to Young can be seen in his role as Geirr in The Origin, Andrew Cumming’s stone-age thriller which recently premiered at the Glasgow Film Festival. He is also set to star in The Beautiful Game, a film based around The Homeless World Cup, a real-world philanthropic event.
While he still may process magic powers in the latest screen instalment of Leigh Bardugo’s beloved novels, the show moves past simply introducing its colourful characters and delves deeper into their backstories and traumas, allowing Young to let his talent shine. The sophomore season of Shadow & Bone has been viewed for over 50.4 million hours in the week since its debut. Proving that Shadow & Bone’s strong suit lies not with the plot as a whole, but with the actor’s abilities to create empathetic and relatable characters within the fantastic world. For Netflix, Kit Young and his screen partners are an asset worth keeping around.
On the day the second season dropped, Kit Young took some time out of his morning to speak with Schön! about all things Grishaverse, his favourite additions to the season, portraying more grounded roles, and more.
The biggest congratulations on Shadow & Bone season 2. I love what I’ve seen so far. How do you feel now that it is officially out?
We all worked quite hard on the season. It feels really good to finally have it out there for people to be able to see.
What is your release strategy? Do you look at everything online or do you avoid the reaction?
I’ve already seen it because we get a chance to look at stuff a little bit early so we know what to say and what not to say during press. You don’t want to reference scenes that have been cut and things like that. I’ve been able to process it because sometimes I find it hard to watch myself. I’m proud of the show, my family are watching it today. I dip my toe into social media. I like having a look at the first few reactions, but then I have to take myself off of it. Otherwise, my entire day is gone. I’ll post about the release and tell people to go watch it. After that, I need to check out.
I get that. I’m on episode seven. Netflix gave me the first six early so I woke up this morning to watch some more. I plan on finishing it today.
Yeah? Fun stuff.
It’s really good. I’m a big fan of the books, so I know where things are heading.
You can see it.
I can see it. With The Crows, it’s all somewhat new because they’re not really in the original trilogy. It’s been fun to get the extra content.
It’s fun for us too, honestly.
Since this is the second season of the show, you have seen the audience’s reaction to your portrayal of these intensely beloved characters. Did you have any expectations or warnings of what that was going to look like before the series premiered?
At the beginning of season one, we didn’t know what we were walking into. In a positive way, it was crazy. We love our fans, they are very lovely and very supportive. This time around, there are new people to bring in. We had to support them and let them know what they were getting into. I feel like I know what I’m aiming for now and how I fit into the show. I wanted to make it more interesting, go further, and make it deeper and more exciting. I feel like we did a lot of that. I’m really happy to be in the show as a whole. This season I was able to take the pressure off of myself a little bit. I definitely felt anxious coming in, but once we started shooting season two, I went, “oh, I know what this is. This is home. This is great.”
That’s awesome and good to hear. There are a couple of moments in the season I wanted to touch on specifically, the first being the introduction of Wylan. How does Wylan being part of The Crows change Jesper?
Wylan’s introduction massively changes Jesper. Firstly, the nature of that relationship is so different from his relationship with Kaz or Inej. Those relationships are friendships, but also work-driven. This is a different level of trust and companionship. There’s romance as well. Jack Wolfe came in with his A-game and was so brilliant. It meant I had to play Jesper differently and show a different side to him which was something I was waiting for. In season one, we didn’t really get that so I was looking forward to that chance. I think the relationship that we play across the whole season really goes somewhere. It moves quickly, it changes, and then it keeps changing. I think the fans are going to like what they see. I think we’ve tried our best to do justice to the characters, regardless of what those scenes are, and tried to portray them to the best of our ability. It’s been a real treat.
I absolutely loved it. In the books, it’s a very slow burn.
Yeah, it’s a very slow burn in the book.
I was pleasantly surprised. It happened so quickly [in the show] which is great because there are other slow burns in the series.
There are! Like Kaz and Inej, that will be a slow burn forever. There is the Nina and Matthias relationship which is a slow burn with distance because they’re separated. I think Jesper and Wylan is probably the healthiest one. I think it’s okay that it escalates quickly because it comes from a really lovely genuine place; it doesn’t come with added trauma. They have their trauma, but they don’t create more of it. At first I was surprised at how quickly it moved, but I think that’s the difference between a book and a screen adaptation. You need to weigh up the different options and make choices. I was really happy about the choices the crew made because it makes all of the love stories quite different.
Me too. I think the series does a great job of adapting the books in a way that makes them new for people that have loved these stories for a really long time. I’m the biggest fan. I started with the TV show and it made me seek out the books.
That’s brilliant! You must have that thing where when you’re reading the books and you’re picturing us.
Yeah, I was. There’s nobody else in my head for any of the original characters. It’s just been the loveliest journey. It was a big part of my 2021, so this has been a fun way for me to welcome it back. Not only does season two have more romance, but it ups the ante when it comes to action as well.
Yeah, it’s great.
What was it like filming and preparing for those scenes?
It was a lot of work. There was a crazy week where I was doing an action sequence as Jesper and also doing an action sequence on The School For Good and Evil in the same week. I’d turn up on set and be like as if it was a sword day or a gun day? There was a lot of preparation and the stunt team was absolutely fantastic, they created so many amazing sequences. There’s a gun sequence that I have in episode two where Wylan and I save each other. Filming for that was three night shoots back to back in Budapest in minus 10 degree weather. It was very chilly and I was always getting wet because they’d make puddles for me to lay down in and stuff like that. It was a lot of work because we had a lot of shots that we wanted to cover. I was so glad that it worked the way it did because it’s very precise work. After season one, I kind of know what I’m doing but there were still more challenges to overcome. Luckily, I had fantastic guidance from everybody involved, especially the stunt team and the director. They made it seamless. Plus, it’s always nice to have Jack cheering you on.
Yeah, he does get to chill in the back of that scene while you do all that work.
Yeah, bless him.
The second moment I wanted to chat about is the scene with Jesper and his mom. Everyone else had quite a traumatic experience, why do you think your character was different?
I think it goes to show that he is different. His general outlook on the world is different. I think Kaz is inherently a pessimist in every way. I don’t want to speak for Amita Suman too much, but Inej seems like someone who hopes for the best yet prepares for the worst. I think Jesper is a bit more of an optimist. If he’s not an optimist, he still thinks it will go okay. He still believes that they’ll find a way out. On the other side, he’s been struggling with his whole identity and his level of self-acceptance.
What I love about that scene is that the writers came up with this way of doing it where I could play Jesper. If you are going to do the flashbacks from the book, you can have that scene with his mother but it wouldn’t be me. It would be a younger actor, like seven-year-old Jesper. I felt really lucky that I got to do it. It’s almost like his version of the Spider-Man “with great power comes great responsibility” moment. That sequence was really empowering for Jesper. It gave him another layer that I don’t think people will be expecting. People are used to the jokes and the quips and the charm, but they’re not used to the vulnerability and the kid. If you lost your mom when you were a child and if you were to see her again, you would go back to that same age. It was a very, very important scene to me. Rhoda [Ofori-Attah], who plays my mother, is tremendous. She had one day to come in and do it and she smashed it. I was blown away.
What advice would you give Jesper when it comes to his arc this season?
Oh gosh, I’d tell him it’s okay to trust people. The Crows are people who struggle with trust for good reason. There’s lots of betrayal and danger and all of these dark things in their world. But once you find someone to really care about, it’s okay to trust them. Jesper struggles his way through that and eventually finds he wants to trust people and that he wants to trust Wylan in particular. This would be my advice: If you care for people and you want them to trust you, you need to trust them as well.
You also have The Beautiful Game coming out in the future. Tell me a little bit about it and your character, Cal.
The Beautiful Game is a really lovely uplifting story about how football is a language that unites a lot of people globally. It’s based on this real charity, The Homeless World Cup. People who are homeless from all over the globe play a World Cup tournament every year. The film is based on truth, but it’s a fictional account of the England team. It centers on the English Homeless World Cup team going to Rome to try and win and all the young lads in it who have different reasons for being there. My character, Cal, is a striker and a recovering alcoholic. He’s not allowed to see his little boy. He believes this is his ticket to sorting his life out. Through his banter with the other lads, looking after the other lads and clashing with some of the other lads, we get to see how all these guys grow up together and possibly achieve some really great things.
I’m looking forward to it. It looks good. I’m a big Bill Nighy fan.
Oh my gosh, Bill Nighy is a national treasure.
He’s in so many films that are personal classics. In a past interview you said you wanted to do a biopic. Did The Beautiful Game satisfy that craving or is there a specific role you’re wanting to play?
On some level that did fulfill that because it’s based on truth and we were working with some of the people that have lived that experience. With that said, I still would like more. I don’t know if I have a whole list of people that I necessarily want to play, but I really want to do something that actually happened. The kind of movie where it says, “this place, this year, this is what happened.” I’m a huge fan of biopics. There’s a really good film called American Animals which mixes documentary and acting together. It says, “this isn’t based on a true story, this is a true story” because it has all the accounts. I want to do something with that real storytelling and grit. It would be something nice to complement the fantasy because I’d love the fantasy. It’s so much fun; there’s so much you can do with it. You can broach a lot of really important issues through that lens. I do think I need to put the guns and the swords down for a bit before I pick up a new weapon or jump back on a horse, fly in the air, swish my cape, or the like. I’d love to be a guy who has a t-shirt.
You also have The Origin premiering soon at the Glasgow Film Festival. On Instagram, you called it a “stone age survival thriller.” How was the filming?
Exactly how I said it was! [Laughter] This was the first film that I did during 2020, so early COVID days. It was the end of 2020 and there was a lot that was in question. We were all quarantined in this castle together in the northwest of Scotland.
Oh, no. How awful.
It was lovely, but it was also a bit like The Shining. There were only six people in the cast and the crew was quite small. We quarantined together and then went out into the worst weather conditions I’ve ever seen, let alone worked in, like hail, wind, and rain. We’d be on the side of mountains, in the woods, covered in mud and blood. We’d go out every day and try to make a film and come back and just go, “well-done everybody! We survived!” What we came out with is actually an interesting film that I’m really excited about. It’s all in a made-up language that was written for the movie. We all had to learn a language! It’s very intense, there’s a lot of emotion in it. I think once everybody gets the chance to see that they’ll probably see me in quite a different light.
That’s exciting. Are you a horror fan yourself?
It took me a while. I was definitely scared watching my first five to 10 horror films, but now I understand what it is. Without spoiling the magic, I think I can enjoy it. At first, it wasn’t my go-to choice because I was too scared.
I imagine filming one is different than watching one, too.
Oh, yeah, completely. The thing that surprised me about making a horror film is you have to fully commit. You’re at your peak all the time because often the characters are in panic, they’re losing their minds or they’re exhausted. In turn, it’s exhausting. You really have to support each other because you’re going through that. Imagine having panic and being scared for 12 hours a day. You don’t get to naturally hit your peak and come back down. I have a lot of appreciation for people who make those films regularly. I definitely needed a couple of weeks of doing nothing after we wrapped. It’s pretty intense, but it is a lot of fun.
I can understand that. You did quite a bit of theatre prior to Shadow & Bone, is that something you want to do more of in the future?
100%. I’m very much looking forward to getting back on stage whenever that may be. Often screen and theatre schedules don’t quite line up in the same way. It can often be a bit of a jigsaw to make those things work. I was doing two to three plays a year for a while, but I haven’t done one since we started season one of Shadow & Bone. I really do miss it, It’s a great routine to have. You get up every day, you go to the theatre, and you do the job. There is a bunch of new people to see. I haven’t done something where I get to do the beginning, the middle and the end of the story for a while, so I’m really looking forward to doing that. There are so many plays that I haven’t touched and there’s a lot to choose from. When the opportunity comes along, I will leap at it.
Does it scratch a different itch than screen acting?
I think it does. The lovely thing is that its present tense. If you come and see a play that I’m in and you say hello, we can be like, “oh yes. You were there on the same day I was there” or “oh you were there on Monday when I forgot my lines.” We share something. Whereas with the screen it’s a different thing — you can watch the show, but I did it two years ago. My relationship with the audience is quite different. They’re both great, but they are very different things. I think it’s good to have a bit of both.
Finally, to bring everything back to Ravka and The Crows: if you were part of a heist, which role would you play?
In any heist?
Yep. Just your run-of-the-mill, generic heist.
I don’t think I would be as dour or as neat but I think I would be the man with the plan.
Me too. It’s a good role because once you’re done you get to step away from it.
Exactly, and then you get away with it!
Season 2 of Shadow & Bone is out now on Netflix.
photography. Robert Harper
fashion. Koulla Sergi
talent. Kit Young
grooming. Christopher Gatt @ Frank using Oribe
assistant. Jacques De Jager
interview. Sydney Bolen
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