Glass speaks to Freddy Carter on the magical world of Netflix’s Shadow and Bone

Glass Man talks to British actor FREDDY CARTER on immersing himself again in the fantasy world of Netflix’s Shadow and Bone, his love of photography and what he hopes to achieve next

From Spring Issue 53 of Glass Man

Freddy Carter tilts his head slightly, pauses and then shakes his head. “I think I have a few more than that,” he says when I try and guess how many cameras he owns. Nine was my answer, but the estimation was off.

By how much, neither of us knows, but what I can confirm is my initial assumption. Carter is a shutterbug. Possessing countless cameras and hundreds of photographs, what started off as an innocent hobby has evolved into a stalwart companion for capturing treasured moments.

“It started on sets because there is quite a lot of waiting around,” recalls the 30-year-old upon discovering a foolproof concoction of perfect lighting and people who don’t mind being in front of a camera: “Everything is sort of there lined up to take nice photos.”

Photographer: Edward Cooke

The British actor’s hobby has allowed for glimpses of his personal life to be shown on his Instagram, juggling between photos of his wife and fellow-actor, Caroline Ford, pictures of himself and behind-the-scenes moments with the rest of the cast of Netflix’s Shadow and Bone.

The fantasy series, currently airing its highly anticipated second season, has become not only his biggest constant but also his most notable role to date.

To anyone unfamiliar with the show, it is an adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy that follows protagonist Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) as she discovers her rare calling as a Sun Summoner navigating a world divided into conflict-fuelled nations, all split by a ghostly, impenetrable dark cloud called The Fold.

Carter plays Kaz Brekker, the disarmingly strategic leader of the gang, The Crows. Before landing the
role in 2019, his trajectory was slow and considered. Growing up in Devon, but spending time in Cyprus and Virginia because his father was in the military, Carter and his older brother amused themselves by entertaining their family at home.

Photographer: Edward Cooke

“We would put on little shows and force our parents to sit down and watch – even make little home movies,” he recalls. “But the first time that I did it and felt like this is something that I really want to do was when I played Jack in Jack and the Beanstalk. I was ten, I think, and I absolutely loved it”.

His time at school was spent watching his brother, fellow actor Tom Austen, play the leads, paving the way for him to follow in his footsteps – though not always in the way he had hoped.

“I was painted in green wearing a fat suit singing the songs horribly out of key,” he says with a smile about his role as Mr Toad in Wind in the Willows. “But just having the absolute time of my life. For that week it felt like the most important thing in the world to do.”

After leaving school, Carter enrolled in the Oxford School of Drama where it was instilled in him that this was far from being an easy industry to enter. But the actor gradually picked up screen roles following a stint on stage in Trevor Nunn’s The Wars of the Roses, finding himself in a minor part in DC’s Wonder Woman (2017), the lead in British family- friendly drama, Free Rein (2017-2019), and finally as Jason the Ripper in Epix’s Pennyworth (2019). In short, his casting as Kaz Brekker was no awkward transition but an accumulation of a wealth of experience.

While Carter did an impressive amount of preparation for the role, from reading the books and then deep-diving the fan-made Wikipedia, the reassurance of imbuing every detail of this loved character came from its author.

Photographer: Edward Cooke

Filmed in and around Budapest and Keszthely in Hungary, Carter and his fellow cast members were guided by Bardugo to ensure their adaptation stayed true to its roots – a unique safety net few shows neither get nor even want.

“It’s so dear to her. It’s so important, you know, these characters mean the world to her,” Carter says, acknowledging the intense precision they had when approaching the show. “I got to take time along with the other creatives, like show runners, producers and writers, who were all so collaborative as they wanted you to speak and figure it out together. We did a lot in the lead-up so we could really
hit the ground running with season one.”

I mention the inevitable pressure surrounding the first season’s release, but Carter affirms, “If you get the people right, if you cast well and they care
about the books and the source material, they’re never going to take it too far away from that.”

Boosted by fans seeing their beloved fantasy come to life, the reaction was positive. Actually, more than positive. It debuted in the Top 10 list of the streaming platform and remained there for nearly two weeks, ultimately making the decision to renew it for a second season a no-brainer.

“ If you get the people right, if you cast well and they care about the books and the source material, they’re never going to take it too far away from that.”

Permeating our screens once again, the series has returned in a bombastic manner, offering a diverse range of binge-inducing plot twists, heart- warming romance and of course, intensified special-effects. But for Carter, the magic was very real.

Photographer: Edward Cooke

“I worked with a magic consultant which was not something I ever thought I’d be receiving an email about, but it was actually amazing,” he recalls with a grin. “I worked with this magician called DMC [Drummond Money-Coutts], who is just mind-boggling because he does all sorts of close up magic, so I had to throw myself at it and try and get as good as possible.” Spoiler alert, Carter pulls every trick off.

Beyond the deceptive tricks his character plays, there is a noticeable evolution in Kaz that allows for a deeper study of his history to be uncovered by the viewer. “We certainly get a lot more of an idea of where he’s come from,” he begins. “It’s interesting and really a bit of a gift for me because I get to explore all of this different stuff while also building on what we started with.”

Continuing to explain how the writers played into the strengths of the actors and their portrayal of the characters this season, I ask whether there were any similarities between him and Kaz. “I don’t see too much of myself in him but

I think you do have to find the common ground and that’s the challenge,” says Carter. “He’s completely and utterly emotionally unavailable, which is a huge weakness and something that is a leap from me. But also, whenever I notice it now in myself, I go ‘oh, please don’t go down that road. Talk to someone, talk to anyone’.”

Although the actor may feel at arm’s length from his role and even the make- believe world he spent months wrapped in, the true beauty of being a part of a franchise like this are the additional elements such as the Comic Con conventions.

“I absolutely love them,” pauses Carter to take a moment to reflect as I admit to my small knowledge of this major US conference. “I think what’s really beautiful about them is that it’s a place where people go to celebrate things which aren’t necessarily celebrated in mainstream media, like obscure anime or comic books or even different smaller sub-genre superhero films, and are celebrated for it.”

Photographer: Edward Cooke

What comes next strays away from previous projects and arguably into blockbuster territory. Starring in Apple TV’s colossal budget US war drama, Masters of the Air, alongside the likes of Austin Butler, Anthony Boyle and Barry Keoghan, I asked how he had digested the experience.

“Until we get to watch it back and see it through, I don’t think you realise just how special that is to be part of a cast where you turn up on the first day and just really admire everyone,” he reflects. “I think it’s something that looking back on years to come, hopefully it’ll be one of those where the guy in the Jeep who pops up with one line is winning an Oscar.”

“Until we get to watch it back and see it through, I don’t think you realise just how special that is to be part of a cast where you turn up on the first day and just really admire everyone”

Beyond his rapid ascent to the upper tiers of British acting, Carter has had his hand – or should I say eye – at directing with one short film already out, another on the way and with a clear determination to put out a feature film soon. Unlike many in his position, he is very much in control, hoping to one day play a real-life person, specifically a spy from one of Ben Macintyre’s famed espionage books. I leave with a single word – “Bond?”.

“It’s not something I’ve ever considered, but a Bond villain would be fun”.

by Imogen Clark

Photographer: Edward Cooke

Stylist: Way Perry

Grooming: Charlie Cullen

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