This weekend, fans will see the bestselling Shadow and Bone novels come to live in a new Netflix original series, and many already have strong feelings on the series' various romantic threads. Based on the books and the trailers so far, the "shipping" of different pairings together is a central feature of this new fantasy series. In an exclusive interview with PopCulture.com, star Archie Renaux weighed in on his character's central ship.
Warning, spoilers for Shadow and Bone lie ahead! Renaux plays Malyen "Mal" Oretsev in Shadow and Bone, and it's not hard to tell from the beginning that he is set up as a romantic interest for the main protagonist, Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li.) As fans of the book already know, Alina strays from her childhood crush on Mal and develops some pretty strong feelings for "The Darkling" General Kirigan (Ben Barnes) during the story. While this is a dangerous match for Alina, Renaux had to admit, he could see the appeal.
"I get it," he said. "There is that excitement of the unknown and not being in your comfort zone, and that's kind of what it is with the Darkling. It's like, 'I don't know anything about this guy, but there's still this connection that needs to be explored.' So I get why people are so passionate about it, but then also, in reality, the Darkling is a murdering psychopath! So, in reality, he's probably not the right option to go for — Mal's the right option. But as an audience member? Yeah, it's always fun to watch that."
While Renaux might be "team Malina," many fans are not, fixating on the parts of the story where Alina gravitates more towards the Darkling than towards Mal. This is not even the first time a female character has been caught between Renaux and Barnes on screen — in the BBC's Gold Digger in 2019, Barnes played a mysterious suitor courting a woman noticeably older than him, played by Julia Ormond. Renaux played that woman's 25-year-old son, who was living with her and was perturbed by the relationship.
Renaux laughed as he admitted that his dynamic with Barnes was "a little bit" similar on the two shows, "in terms of — we're still fighting over a lady. The dynamics are a little bit different; the circumstances are a little bit different." He also said that in real life, Barnes has become an unofficial career mentor for him, and he is extremely grateful.
"It was so nice to have someone that I already knew going onto this project. I guess it was, like, my first really big part in a huge series, a huge project. So, it was so great to have Ben there, who kind of became my mentor after Gold Digger anyway, before Shadow and Bone," he said.
Of course, Alina's love life might not even be fans' central concern, depending on which books they've read and which characters they identify with. There will be a lot for all the shippers out there to love when Shadow and Bone hits Netflix on Friday, April 23.