Shadow and Bone actor Inej Amita Suman on the Netflix series
In creating Netflix’s new fantasy series Shadow and Bone, it’s fair to say that Amita Suman has taken her bumps.
“I had a scar,” the 23-year-old actor tells me. “I had my first Inej scar which I am very proud of. And I had a little swollen foot for about three weeks.
In a role that requires her to fight heartbreaking warriors, dodge knives, scale tall buildings, and spin from swirling silks, it’s no wonder Suman ended up in wars – but for her, playing the role of master thief Inej on the show was worth a few cuts and bruises.
“It was a challenge, but it was a challenge that I loved so, so much, because I just wasn’t in good shape before I started,” she says on Zoom, with a new injury to her. eye keeping it carefully out of focus. “And by the time I was done, the things I could do with my body, it was absolutely amazing.”
Despite his injuries, it’s clear Suman still can’t believe his chance to land his final role, a pivotal figure in Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse novels now transplanted to screen for the streaming adaptation Shadow and Bone. And while some of that excitement is easy to understand – who wouldn’t want to play a ninja with thousands of adoring fans around the world? – other aspects of her casting were more personally meaningful to Suman.
“You don’t see people of my color – and every other color – in a leading role, doing such a unique part,” she says simply. It’s a lesson she learned early on.
Born in Nepal before moving to the UK at the age of seven, Suman then attended the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts, where she received mildly cynical advice that determined her to find her own way in industry.
“When I was in drama school, when I was growing up as an actress, people would always say, ‘You have to lower your Indian accent. You are going to have the stereotypical roles. “” She says.
“Much of what actors do and the roles we are given are beyond our control. It’s really up to the writers and producers, and the people who have this vision to expand their closed circle. “
However, in the worlds of sci-fi and fantasy, Suman has found the freedom to play more varied roles. After small parts in Casualty and Ackley Bridge, his first major acting job after dropping out of drama school was in Jodie Whittaker’s first series of Doctor Who, playing the character Umbreen (a younger version of the character Yaz’s grandmother’s main) in the critically acclaimed Demons of the Punjab.
“Even though it was in Doctor Who and it was in science fiction, I think it was a really nice episode,” she says now.
“And that was my first experience as a die-hard fan. It was great. It was really scary and a new experience, but it was really wonderful to see that the story spoke to a lot of people.
Other parts followed, including a recurring part in the American fantasy drama The Outpost. But soon an even bigger opportunity presented itself when Suman learned that a role in a new Netflix series was based on a beloved book series. And despite Doctor Who’s great notoriety, nothing could prepare her for the level of interest in Shadow and Bone, and especially the part she was reading for.
“I just couldn’t believe what a beloved character Inej was,” she told me. “I hadn’t really read the books, but when I had the audition, I finished a book in one sitting. I just couldn’t believe the richness and uniqueness of all the characters.
“He’s an assassin with a conscience. She tries to make choices out of kindness and strength, but she is very dangerous. And at the same time, she gives people the change to make the right decision. “
While the Netflix series is ostensibly directed by the story of mighty “ Grisha ” Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li), many fans are much more interested in Inej’s side of the plot, which involves a gang. of thieves carrying out a series of elaborate heists. . In fact, when a first trailer for the series debuted, the vast majority of comments were about Inej and his crime partners Kaz and Jesper (Freddy Carter and Kit Young in the series), despite these characters barely appear in the pictures.
Given this popularity, nailing Inej’s cast was a particular challenge for producers – until she entered the fully formed audition room.
“When I saw Amita, I was kind of taken aback because she looks like Kevin Wada’s illustration of Inej,” series author Leigh Bardugo later told me. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, please be good.’ Because some actors look exactly as you imagine the character to be, but then they start talking and it all comes out the window.
“We were very lucky because Amita is also an incredible actress. It’s embarrassing to admit it, but I burst out crying seeing her read this scene. She read with such power and such vulnerability.
“It was really a moment when I suddenly thought, ‘I’m actually looking at Inej. How is it possible? Because I’m pretty sure I wrote the character. ”
From Suman’s perspective, it was a match made in heaven.
“I’m very lucky to say that at such a young age I got the dream role I wanted without being a sex icon or selling all the bad stuff,” she says now. “It’s really about the character and telling the story from an emotional point of view.”
But of course, satisfying the author is only half the battle – and Suman says she feels the pressure to live up to fans’ expectations, especially her complicated semi-romantic relationship with her boss Kaz Brekker. (Freddy Carter).
“It’s really scary sometimes, but, at the same time, it gives me so much motivation to really put my heart and soul into it, because I know it means a lot to other people,” she says.
“When I finished reading Six of Crows, I loved their relationship – just the connection they have. They have one of those relationships where their actions speak louder than their words, and they are two related spirits.
And here, Suman and Carter had the chance to sow the first signs of this closeness. You see, slightly confusing Shadow and Bone combines two separate book series written by Bardugo – the Grisha Trilogy and the Six of Crows duology – which on the page are separated by thousands of miles and years of time, although they are both in the same “universe”.
“Everything that happens in Shadow and Bone is a prequel to Six of Crows, the book where Inej first appears,” says Suman.
“And because it was a prequel, I wanted to find Inej at a starting point. I didn’t want her to be the exact Inej you see in the books. What I wanted to show was the journey of her transformation into this, and having the end goal.
If there is a season two (currently, more episodes have yet to be confirmed), Suman hopes to explore “more [Inej’s] backstory ”and“ her dynamic with Kaz and Jesper ”- and of course, she can’t wait to get back on the horse with all the stunts and fight scenes they can give her, no matter what the physical toll.
“I would love to have more fight scenes in there too, because she’s an assassin,” she says. “She’s a ninja. She’s a spy.
But for now, she’s just glad the world meets Inej – her Inej – and finally see exactly what she can do.
“My lockdown has been such a bloody roller coaster,” she says. “And I’m so glad that is the case. I was really very lucky. I am in good health and I am able to do things. Right now I’m in such a grateful position to promote a fantastic show that’s coming out.
“Inej is my dream role,” she concludes. “And I never grew up thinking that I would have the opportunity to be her, or to play someone like her.”
In total, it’s probably worth a scar or two.
Main image taken by Joseph Sinclair. Hair and makeup by Amanda Grossman and hairstyle by Molly Haylor. Blue dress – Nanushka SS21.
Shadow and Bone is streaming on Netflix now. Want something else to watch? Check out our dedicated Fantasy page or our full TV guide.