'Shadow & Bone' Star Ben Barnes Says He Doesn't See General Kirigan as a 'Villain' (Exclusive)

Actor Ben Barnes sees the humanity in all of his characters, even "The Darkling," General Kirigan, the upcoming Netflix original series Shadow and Bone. Barnes plays Kirigan in Leigh Bardugo's novel's adaptation by the same name, which premieres in April of 2021. In an exclusive interview with PopCulture.com this past May, Barnes said he doesn't see Kirigan as a conventional "villain."

Barnes has a long list of iconic adaptation roles, including Marvel villain Jigsaw and Westworld's Logan Delos. However, for high fantasy fans, he may be best-known for playing the heroic Prince Caspian in The Chronicles of Narnia. Now he returns to the genre as an antagonist but told PopCulture.com: "I just don't like to think of any of [my roles] as heroes or villains."

"Like, I saw Caspian as somebody who was finding his way, and sort of trying to claw his way out of this spider's web and figure out where he belongs and what he has to offer the world," Barnes went on. "I think that he's sort of a reluctant hero — very, very reluctant to do anything about anything which, obviously, you can perceive as maybe a weakness."

"And with Shadow and Bone, again, I don't see [Kirigan] as a villain at all, really," Barnes went on. "I see him as someone who has an agenda — and I think like all the best antagonistic characters, he's just somebody with a very passionate agenda. And someone who really believes in something."

Barnes went on to compare Kirigan to Magneto from Marvel's X-Men — "somebody who really believes in a specific cause." He said that these kinds of antagonists are often the most true to life, which is what makes them some of the most "interesting" to examine when they are "contextualized" in stories.


Fans will spend plenty of time with exploring that role with Barnes when Shadow and Bone hits Netflix in the spring. On Thursday, the first teaser for the show was finally released — a snowy glimpse of the stag, accompanied by Barnes' voice-over saying: "you and I are going to change the world." This was also the first confirmation fans got of the show's release date — April of 2021.

Netflix ordered an adaptation of Shadow and Bone in January of 2019, and it filmed from October of 2019 to February of 2020, finishing up just before the coronavirus pandemic hit. It consists of eight episodes in the first season. Barnes co-stars with Jessie Mei Li as Alina Starkov and Archie Renaux as Mal Oretsev. Bardugo's novels are available now in print, digital and audio format wherever books are sold.