Ben Barnes on ‘Shadow and Bone’ Season 2: ‘He’s nastier’

He’s got a bone to pick.

Ben Barnes co-stars as General Kirigan, aka The Darkling, in the Netflix fantasy series “Shadow and Bone,” and in Season 2 (premiering Thursday, March 16), “He enters this much nastier era,” Barnes, 41, told The Post.

Based on a popular book series, the show is set in the fantasy land of Ravka.

It follows orphan girl Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) as she discovers that she has special powers.

In Season 1, she became swept up under the mentorship and romance of the mysterious General Kirigan (Barnes). 

By the end of Season 1, he revealed himself to be the villain, seeking to rule over Ravka by any means necessary.

Season 2 kicks off with him scheming with an army of magical shadowy creatures at his beck and call, as Alina and her friends try to stop him. 

“In the first season, he had slightly different tactics in terms of going about his agenda,” said Barnes.

“He was using manipulation, and charm, hoping to go about things by persuading people to help him. In the second season, he’s literally been overwhelmed by these poisonous toxic shadow creatures inside of him – in an interesting representation of this toxic masculinity of his, I think. In his mind, there’s still a purity to his plight, which is to protect his people. He just thinks they’ll be much better off under his leadership, and he doesn’t want to be questioned about it.

Ben Barnes looking serious with a hand on his chin.
Ben Barnes.

“The relationships he has are complicated – he’s got complicated feelings towards his mother; a love between them that just isn’t enough for them to get on the same page. That’s almost akin to what he has with Alina, as well. She’s sparking something in him, even if it’s not reciprocated. And that lack of real love in his life is costing him.”

When he prepares to play Kirigan / The Darkling, Barnes turns to the source material, he said. 

“I have my list of lines that he says in the books that I was trying to get into the show. I still had about 10 of them left by the time we got into the second season. I managed to squeeze most of them in there, even if they were slightly out of context, because I love the poetry of him.” 

Ben Barnes with a wig, standing in a ruined building with his hands up.
Ben Barnes in “Shadow and Bone” Season 1.

Barnes (“The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian”) is no stranger to playing baddies, having also played the troubled Logan Delos in “Westworld” and Marvel villain Billy Russo / Jigsaw in “The Punisher” series. 

“I try to see what the differences are in the humanities of the character,” he said. “I look at ‘Westworld,’ and he’s a desperate lost boy who’s acting out. And in ‘The Punisher,’ the character was abused and didn’t have any role models. And in [‘Shadow and Bone’], I think he’s doing something that he believes to be quite noble, but it takes a turn. For me, exploring and pushing those things and seeing where the edges are is what’s interesting.” 

Ben Barnes grimacing and yelling at the sky with his arms out, at night.
Ben Barnes in “Shadow and Bone.”

At present, it’s unclear whether “Shadow and Bone” will get more seasons, so Barnes’ future in this world is up in the air.

“I haven’t finished reading [the later books], but I’ve heard some things about what happens to him,” said Barnes. “The [show producers] always go, ‘Oh, well, you never know when we might need you!’”

Barnes also has a budding career as a singer/songwriter, having released his first EP “Songs for You” in 2021.

“Music and acting scratch different itches for me,” he said. “Music has been a passion of mine since I was a kid, and it allows me to have that blank slate creativity – that scary white page of ‘There is nothing, and now you have to say something about your life, find a poetry to say it with, share it, perform it, record it.’ With acting, it’s about collaboration and being part of a big storytelling effort, and capturing moments to share with people that they can then enjoy in their living rooms and talk about.”