The “Shadow and Bone” universe is lush with magic, from bursts of light that shoot out of characters’ hands to ancient swords that can cut through seemingly indestructible shadows. In the world of “Shadow and Bone,” though, these powers aren’t actually called magic — they’re instead referred to as the “small science,” or the art of manipulating matter, and the characters who practice it are called Grisha.
There are three main categories of Grisha — the Corporalki, Etherealki, and Materialki — and each is broken down into subsets, such as Inferni, who can manipulate fire; Heartrenders, who can control people’s internal organs and can also detect when people are telling the truth; and Durasts, who can bend and move metals with their minds. But in the real world, the “Shadow and Bone” cast have differing opinions on which powers are most covetable.
For Patrick Gibson, who stars as Sturmhond in the show’s second season, being a Durast sounds most appealing. “You can make stuff,” he tells POPSUGAR. “It’s like being a 3D printer.” (“Nothing sexier than a 3D printer,” quips Anna Leong Brophy, who plays Tamar Kir-Bataar, a member of Sturmhond’s crew.)
Meanwhile, Lewis Tan — another season two newcomer who plays Tolya Yul-Bataar, Tamar’s brother and fellow crew member — would stick with the same enhanced abilities he has onscreen. “I quite like the Heartrendering,” he says. “I think that’s interesting. I think I like the idea of being able to suss people out, you know? I think I’d stick with the one that I have.”
Tan isn’t the only cast member who’d like to use an aspect of his character in real life. Jessie Mei Li, who stars as the ultra-powerful, ultra-rare sun summoner Alina, would love it if she could absorb some of her character’s spunk. “I think I’d like to be a bit feistier,” she says when asked if there’s any part of her character she wishes she had offscreen. “I’m quite gentle-natured, and I feel like Alina can be a bit spiky,” she laughs. “I’d quite like to bit spicier. Maybe people wouldn’t mess with me.”
It’s a bit trickier for Ben Barnes, who plays the shadow-summoning General Kirigan — a “psychotic villain,” he readily admits. Still, he says, he wouldn’t mind having some of Kirigan’s “calm authority when public speaking.”
While unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on who you play) it’s difficult for actors to absorb their characters’ qualities into their real lives, some aspects of the “Shadow and Bone” universe seem to have found their way into the cast’s lives. In particular, some of the cast members say that they’ve found a little bit of the show’s magic slipping into their realities — if it wasn’t already there before.
“Just before the show started shooting, I was trying to get in touch with Tamar’s magical ability. She has absolute faith in her ability,” Leong Brophy explains. “I remember pulling a tarot card and being like, this is gonna tell me something about this ability. And it was the magician. And as I pulled it, like this little ray of sunlight just came through the window and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m magic.’ That felt pretty magical. It felt like a good omen, definitely.”
Meanwhile, Danielle Galligan, who plays Heartrender Nina, also says she feels connected to the unseen world. “I do have a little thing with my granddad who’s passed away,” she says. “He used to give me little coins, like pocket money. Every time I see a little coin, I think that it’s like my granddad giving me a little, ‘You got this kid.’ It always happens [during] very interesting or difficult times. If I’m nervous about something, there’s a little penny always lying around, and I’m like, ‘Oh, perfect.’ I was having a really bad day in the gym a while ago, and there were two pennies under the leg press machine that he left me. So that’s my witchy thing, with my granddad. That’s my magic.”
Calahan Skogman, who plays Nina’s lover Matthias, can also attest to magic being all around — though only if you’re willing to see it. “I think there’s plenty of magic all around if you’re looking for it,” he says. “There’s so many signs, if you’re open to them . . . Relating to the show, the whole experience of me landing the part, and me and Danielle, and the whole crazy journey of that and how fast it moved was straight out of a storybook, and certainly was quite magical.”
And the magic — or the synchronicity, or whatever you want to label those moments that seem to hint at some sort of greater plan or structure to the universe — has continued on, long past the filming process. “Even yesterday when I was walking to meet up with Danielle, I was trying to give her some directions and everything,” he says. “I was like, take a left, but she should have taken a right . . . Anyways, I finally see her across this walkway, and I just look up and above her head and there’s this giant ‘Shadow and Bone’ billboard,” he laughs. “I just point up to it, and she looks up and sees it. To me those are little moments of magic, because what are the chances of that?”
Like many of the characters on “Shadow and Bone,” Galligan and Skogman’s characters share a powerful bond they both fight for, no matter the cost. Romance and connection is at the heart of the show, from Mal (Archie Renaux) and Alina’s powerful bond to Kaz (Freddy Carter) and Inej (Amita Suman)’s fragile trust for one another. Love arguably happens to be one of the most magical, transcendent experiences accessible to inhabitants of our world — and the characters of “Shadow and Bone” certainly share deep, globe-spanning connections to one another, though they’re not without their complications. The cast also seems to have a lot of affection for one another, which is perhaps one source of the magic that shimmers throughout the show and sometimes finds its way into their offscreen lives.
“I’m trying to think of the things we did to amuse ourselves when we were sitting in a tent freezing cold,” Brophy laughs when asked about her favorite on-set memories. “There’s quite a bit of memories of us freezing cold on that boat, just trying to huddle together,” Tan adds. “There’s a lot of stories.”
“Shadow and Bone” season two is now streaming on Netflix.