Freddy Carter on How ‘Shadow and Bone’ Author Leigh Bardugo Helped Him Play Kaz
Shadow and Bone‘s Kaz Brekker (played by Freddy Carter, Pennyworth) isn’t your typical bad boy. Sure, he’s a revenge-hungry criminal, and sure, his main goal in life is to amass a wealthy empire and knock out all of his underworld opponents in the fictional Ketterdam — but the damaged gangster has a lot of heart, too.
“He’s an antihero,” says Carter. “He’s a kind of film noir antihero in that he does question things, and at some points, you’ll be asking yourself, ‘Why am I supporting this guy?’ But what I loved about Kaz is his duality. There’s this softer side to him, which he’s always fighting to keep out of sight.”
The upcoming eight-episode Netflix fantasy drama adapts bestselling YA author Leigh Bardugo’s popular Grishaverse books. The show combines the characters from her trilogy Shadow and Bone with duology Six of Crows — the latter of which is where Kaz and his crew — sharpshooter Jesper (Kit Young) and the stealthy “Wraith” Inej (Amita Suman) — come in.
Below, Carter reveals how he got under Kaz’s skin.
What was your relationship with the books prior to getting this role?
Freddy Carter: I was aware of the books. I’d seen them in bookstores and I’d heard of them, but I wasn’t entirely sure what the Grishaverse meant and what that all entailed until the audition came through and I went down this massive rabbit hole of this incredible world that Leigh had built through the books. Then, I started the audition process, and I bought Six of Crows and was ready to read it. I think I got to the second chapter and was getting so attached to the character and the world and I had to stop until the audition process was done and I’d gotten the role, luckily. So yeah, and then of course I just binged them all.
Kaz is such a rich character. Did you get to speak with Leigh at all about what she was hoping for with him?
Leigh was wonderful. As soon as I got the part, she sent me an email and opened that conversation. She was very keen for all of us to go to her with questions and thoughts, and she was very hands-on throughout the whole process, which I think is amazing because she’s just wonderful and kind and very open and generous with these characters that are so dear to her. On the first day of filming, the first day that we met, she described Kaz as a “sociopath with a heart” to me, which I quite liked. It was scribbled all over my scripts because it seemed to just sum him up perfectly. We had loads of conversations about his backstory and where he might be at now because everything we see in the series is a prequel to Six of Crows. So, we did a lot of tracing back in the timeline and figuring that out. She was incredibly helpful.
What can you say about his relationship with his crew, Jesper and Inej?
Jesper, Inej, and Kaz make up the Crows, and they operate on a subterranean gambling den in Ketterdam. Kaz isn’t entirely aware of how important they are to him until later on in the series, and then it slowly starts to dawn on him. He thinks in the beginning that he’s just the leader of this gang, he employs them and they are kind of purely business transactions. Towards the end, [he’ll realize] that this is his found family.
Speaking of their gambling den HQ, the Crow Club, what surprised you the most about seeing that particular set come to life?
I remember before we even made it into the Crow Club, Eric Heisserer, our showrunner, very excitedly, ran up to my trailer and was eager to show me the playing cards from the Crow Club, where they’d invented a new set of suits and Ravkan numbers with this beautiful embossed gold foil on the cards. He was just so excited. Before I’d even got in the room, that’s what it felt like. The attention to detail and love that’d been poured into it was coming out of the room already. When you see those [Ketterdam] sets, the attention to detail is sort of breathtaking. I have [some of the playing cards] as bookmarks now.
In the books [which take place post-Shadow and Bone], there are some sparks between Inej and Kaz. What does their dynamic look like at this point onscreen?
I think what you see this season is two people who have these strange, intense feelings for each other, but they can’t articulate it, and they’re both so traumatized and hurt by their pasts that actually they’re scared to be vulnerable with each other and be open and talk about it.
And of course, Kaz has a job in the works. How much can you tease about what that entails and how it’ll bring them into the orbit of Alina’s journey?
The mission that Kaz accepts for him and the Crows to go on takes them on a pretty dangerous journey across the Grishaverse, and they pick up some new crew members along the way. It’s certainly their most dangerous job to date.
If you Google Kaz Brekker, it’s clear the character gets a lot of internet love, from fan art to fan fiction. How aware are you of the wild fandom that’s out there?
I’m aware of the wild fandom because I think I’m a part of it. I definitely think that I’m a big, big Kaz Brekker fan. So, I’m aware of the passion and fervor that people feel for him because I also feel it. In terms of the online stuff, I try to avoid it because it’s not hugely helpful for me to see it in regards to the show. I just hope people enjoy my interpretation of it, and understand that I love the books, love the character, and love Leigh’s writing, and have done my very best to bring it to life.
Shadow and Bone, Series Premiere, Friday, April 23, Netflix