I read the Grishaverse books in order, and I have no trouble admitting I only fell in love with the universe Netflix is bringing to life in Shadow and Bone when the Crows came into my life. We had a chance to talk to the main three members of The Dregs , Freddy Carter, who plays Kaz Brekker, Amita Suman who plays the Wraith, Inej Ghafa, and Kit Young, who plays our favorite sharpshooter Jesper Fahey, about what it was like stepping into those characters, and who, exactly, these three are, and if possible, we came out of it not just loving the characters more, but appreciating the versions of these characters Freddy, Amita and Kit had brought to life.
For now, let’s talk about our favorite Crows, shall we?
Freddy Carter is Kaz Brekker
Who is Kaz Brekker? Well, Kaz Brekker is the leader of the Dregs. Kaz Brekker is also a boy with a lot of baggage, a brilliant mind for plans and a not-so-hidden-as-he-might-believe shine for the Wraith known as Inej Ghafa.
Freddy Carter was keenly aware of that as he stepped into the role that, we believe, might just come to define him. And though, at times, talking to Freddy is like talking to a different person than Kaz, there are some instances where the intensity shines through and you see why he’s absolutely going to steal your heart in a little over a week, when Shadow and Bone finally releases.
And the thing about Kaz is …he’s not truly a hero. And he pretends he’s emotionless, and sometimes pretends so well we – and even he – might believe it. But it’s never true.
“It’s sort of a pull in him, two sides of him pulling in totally different directions,” Carter explained, “and that I sort of tried to lean in into both my confusion of it, as an actor, but also for him, because you know, it’s really hard to define this stuff for someone who is all right at talking about their emotions, but for someone like Kaz, who cannot bear to talk about his emotions or go near that side of himself? It’s really confusing what’s happening for him.”
*insert HELP ME, I’M FEELING gif*
Carter continued, “Because the trauma has been at the forefront of everything he’s done. Every decision he’s made has sort of been affected by that. That’s the cause and the effect to all these things that he’s doing. So it’s incredibly confusing, and I think quite interesting to lean into those gray areas, because in some scenes I think it comes across quite tender, and others it’s back to being brutal because I think he, himself, is not entirely sure.”
Of who he is. Or how he should act. But one thing Kaz Brekker is sure of? The mission.
“The Crows are always on a mission. It’s always onto the next thing. It’s always what are we going to steal next? How are we gonna do it?” Carter shared, punctuating that, in terms of the show, it was all about “plotting the emotional journey through that stuff,” and “making sure to find that time for the relationships and the dynamics to sort of breathe within that sort of constant commotion that the Crows find themselves in.”
But perhaps one of the biggest things about Kaz, one that the show doesn’t really explore too deeply in season 1, but that Carter – and we – hope they get to dive into in the future, is his aversion to touch. Watching the show there was a sense that Carter, as Kaz, was trying really hard to transmit this awareness of Kaz’s issues, while still remaining emotionally engaged as an actor, something which Carter very much agreed with, and elaborated on.
“I was eager to know before I signed on how much of that was going to be made clear. Is that something that we explore in the first season or do we wait and hope to tell it in maybe later seasons?” which means he’s basically us, because, yes, we were wondering too. “It’s something so important and so integral to who he is, and actually, you know, it’s a pretty excellent metaphor for how he feels about being near and trusting and sort of connecting to other people. It’s sort of…it’s a very physical representation of that distance. So for me it was actually incredibly useful as a sort of way in,” because, “I was finding that the more you stay away from people, the more you have that wariness, that kind of sick sense that Kaz has of always being aware of his surroundings, those around him and possible dangers,” and all of that “was actually helped by portraying that haphephobia.”
Kaz Brekker, ladies and gentlemen. Complicated, messy, tender, at times, ruthless and brutal at others. And trust us, Freddy Carter manages to capture all of that, and more.
Amita Suman is Inej Ghafa
Much like Alina Starkov, Inej Ghafa has been marked by tragedy. But unlike Alina, Inej had absolutely no one to hold her hand as she was taken from her family, no one to always be by her side. At least, not until she met Kaz, who, good intentions or not, offered her a chance to be more than what the circumstances had decided for her.
But Inej isn’t just the type to take advantage of circumstance, no. Inej is the type to shape them.
But she’s also the kind of character who, throughout it all, has retained a sliver of humanity that so many others in her position would have lost long ago. And Suman, who felt to us both like the perfect embodiment of Inej and also truly just Amita, was always very clear on what drove this character.
“I think for Inej it’s just, everything that she does stems from this place, this faith and how she is so 100% committed to her faith (and to being) the voice of good, the voice of reason,” she shared, and this insight into her character is also an insight into the group dynamics, because if Inej is Inej, Kaz is Kaz and Jesper is Jesper, then Inej’s faith seems wildly out of place, not just in Ketterdam, but within this little family they’ve created together.
For Suman, it all comes from her character’s “gorgeous ability to see the beauty in the world and see the goodness in people despite all the terrible experiences that she’s been through,” something that makes it so much easier to understand not just why Inej is the one who humanizes Kaz, but why she’s the character you most relate to within the Crows. You might love Kaz, and laugh with Jesper, but it’s Inej you’re drawn to.
This all ties, once again, for Amita, to Inej’s religion, to the kind of person Inej is – the kind of person she was raised to be, and that, unlike her companions, she never lost, no matter what life threw at her. “Her religion has just made her into this beautiful and better person, and it has really strengthened her, and for me I truly and wholeheartedly respected that.”
Of course, there was no other way to play Inej, but with that level of conviction in what the character represented. Especially considering that – as a sort of secondary, if not lesser storyline – the Crows are not required to play to stereotypes the way the main characters sort of have to. They can be heroes and villains, love and hate, be sure and unsure, and make mistakes. Ultimately all that the story requires of them is that they never stray too far from the possibility of becoming the people we will one day meet in Six of Crows, which is exactly what Amita was going for.
“From a characters POV,” she told us, “I tried to find my reasoning from that (Inej’s faith) and tried to think: Okay, this is what Inej would do, so I’m going to try to do that too.”
We can honestly say that living life the way Inej Ghafa lives it sounds like a really good decision. We can also share that Amita Suman has already become our Inej, that kind, loving, extraordinary woman of faith who could, nonetheless, take you down without making a sound.
Kit Young is Jesper Fahey
Jesper Fahey is many things to many people, and that’s the way Jesper would like it. The character, a fan favorite, is one of those that would probably love it if you could never truly pin him down, and Kit Young seems to have really gotten into the spirit of who Jesper is.
In season one Jesper is presented as many things – a loyal second to Kaz, a friend to Inej, a guy with a gambling problem his friends are keenly aware of, and that more often than not, ends up hurting everyone else, and also, a very good man to have on your corner if things go wrong.
Young tried to really get into all that Jesper was or could be. Despite that, he shares, “I didn’t go full wack and go commit some crimes and get a gambling addiction,” to prepare for the role. Instead he tried to really understand where Jesper was coming from and “talked to Leigh Bardugo” about, specifically, the gambling issue, and how, “the gambling problem isn’t so much that he has a problem with gambling, it’s that he’s an adrenaline junkie and he’s a thrill seeker at heart.”
Been there, never taken it to the extremes Jesper does. But even those extremes, his reasons, make him quite a different character from Kaz and Inej, and in a way, the perfect balance for what those two bring to the group dynamics. Kaz, after all, chose this life. Inej had it chosen for her. Jesper, meanwhile is just “a kid that got in too deep, like he should have stayed at uni, but the rest of Ketterdam was far too appealing and then he got himself involved in all the shenanigans.”
And then he discovered he was good at the shenanigans and that was it. That was the end of that, as they say.
“There’s a brilliant kind of quote in the book,” Young pointed out, because yes, all three of these actors are our kind of people, you know, the kind who have no problem referencing the book and a specific passage they love or that marked them, “that basically (says) he’s most alive when he’s in a fight, and I think it’s that life or death instinct that drives him, and fuels him and that’s when he kind of see his true colors, and how he’s ready to fight to the last man and defend his friends.”
Jesper in a nutshell.
“That was the easy thing to play as an actor,” he explained, “Playing having a specific problem with something like gambling is slightly tricker, but that need to get the thrill, that can go much broader than one activity. So hopefully that comes across.”
If you ask us, it absolutely does. Just as Jesper’s other good (and bad) qualities are absolutely reflected on screen. Because Kit is our Jesper, and these are our Crows. We wouldn’t change them for the world.
Remember to check part two of our interview with Freddy Carter, Amita Suman and Kit Young, coming out in a bit!
Shadow and Bone premieres April 23rd on Netflix.