- Words Stephanie Bergvelt-Vassileiou
- Photographer Joseph Sinclair
- Styling Ella-Louise Gaskell
- Grooming Nadia Altinbas
Notion chats with up-and-coming- British actor, Freddy Carter, as he prepares to star in Netflix’s highly anticipated eight-part series, ‘Shadow and Bone’.
British actor Freddy Carter has worked constantly in the short time since graduating from drama school. With each carefully chosen role, he continues to establish himself as one of the industry’s most exciting young actors to watch.
Freddy’s latest role sees him starring as Kaz Brekker in Netflix’s highly anticipated ‘Shadow and Bone’, an eight-part adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s bestselling ‘Grishaverse’ fantasy book series: ‘Shadow and Bone’ and ‘Six of Crows’. Adapted by Eric Heisserer and directed by Lee Toland Krieger, ‘Shadow and Bone’ is set to be the biggest show to land on Netflix this spring. We’re set to see Freddy star alongside Jessie Mei Li, Ben Barnes, Amita Suman, Archie Renaux and Kit Young when the show lands on 23rd April.
‘Shadow and Bone’ finds us in a war-torn world where Alina Starkov, a lowly soldier and orphan, has just unleashed an extraordinary power that could be the key to setting her country free. With the monstrous threat of the Shadow Fold looming, Alina is torn from everything she knows to train as part of an elite army of magical soldiers known as Grisha. But as she struggles to hone her power, she finds that allies and enemies can be one and the same and that nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. There are dangerous forces at play, including a crew of charismatic criminals, and it will take more than magic to survive.
Prior to Freddy’s role in ‘Shadow and Bone’, his other notable screen credits include the lead role of ‘Pin’ in the Netflix Original series ‘Free Rein: The Twelve Neighs of Christmas’, Jason Ripper in Epix crime drama series ‘Pennyworth’. Elsewhere, he’s featured in Channel 5 series ‘15 Days’ taking the role of Tom, and Ellis in the British horror film, ‘The Convent’.
- Suit Oliver spencer
- Shirt 73 London
He’s not just graced our screens, but our stages too. Credits under his belt include playing Alexander Flint in Trevor Nunn’s revival of Harley Granville-Barker’s production ‘Agnes Colander’, and a role in ‘Circa’, a play by Tom Ratcliff, directed by Joe Allan. Following a world premiere at the Theatre de Meervaart in Amsterdam, the production travelled to The Vaults in London.
But that’s not all. Freddy Carter has also made his directorial debut with the short movie ‘No. 89’, a comedy about how many break ups it takes to move on. Impressively, it was shown at both Cordillera International Film Festival and the Oscar-qualifying Aesthetica Short Film Festival in York. Now, Freddy is currently in pre-production for his second short movie ‘Broken Gargoyles’.
Notion caught up with Freddy Carter to discuss the upcoming series ‘Shadow and Bone’, his favourite scenes, locations, what he hopes viewers can learn from the show, along with his go-to playlist for getting into character. Dive in!
Let’s kick things off with how the initial reactions have been since the official trailer dropped.
In one word… staggering! I find it quite hard to get my head around the number of people that have watched the trailer and engaged with it so far. The seemingly overwhelmingly positive response that there has been is just staggering. It’s really exciting, but also just a bit wild!
How does it feel for the series to shortly be out in the world, considering you started filming back in 2019?
Yeah, it now feels like a lifetime ago that we were filming! SO much has changed, the world is a totally different place now from when we finished filming. Everyone who has seen it so far has been very positive and people have really responded to it, which is always very rewarding. We put a lot of work into it. I’m really excited for people to finally see it!
Can you talk us through in your own words the overall premise of the series for new viewers?
Sure! So, ‘Shadow and Bone’ is an epic adventure fantasy series based on Leigh Bardugo’s best-selling Grishaverse novels. And the story mainly follows a young orphan and soldier called Alina. Alina is lower class and seen as slightly undesirable character by her superiors. She then discovers she has this incredible power – this sort of world-changing, world saving power. And when she discovers that, she quickly becomes the desire of lots of people’s attention, and it’s the various people who are trying to use her for their own means.
How does ‘Shadow and Bone’ combine with ‘Six of Crows’?
Think what’s exciting for people who know the books, and already love the worlds is that everything you’re seeing about The Crows at least is prequel to The Six Of Crows duology. It’s all new information, It’s all new world building around Ketterdam, The Crows and The Crow Club. All the stuff that you already know and love, you’re going to get to know more about it.
I think for fans coming to it from the books, they’ve got that to look forward to, and for fans coming to it fresh, It’s this whole incredibly rich, diverse world to really get stuck into and learn all about!
In terms of your character, Kaz Brekker, a cunning gangster and con man, the leader of the Dregs – you’re a rising star in the criminal underworld – what can you tease for long term fans and new viewers of the show about your part in the series?
There’s not a huge amount I can say about my character without revealing too many spoilers and a whole host of characters involved in the story line!
Kaz, like you said, is this sort of rising star of the criminal underworld who is ruthless, cutthroat and kind of hell-bent on revenge character. Somehow, we still follow him and like him and support him. It’s a very typical film noir antihero in that sense, he does loads of really questionable things, but you still sort of root for him. You want to know why he’s doing the things he’s doing. Which I think is always exciting in these types of characters.
- Boots Grenson
Your mannerisms as Kaz Brekker have already been praised by avid fans of the series along with your costume. With some quoting how you “truly embodied Kaz Brekker”. How important was it to you that your representation of such a well-known character was brought to life with your own spin on it whilst staying true to the original character?
As a fan of the books, I can totally appreciate people’s expectations, and, you know, sort of desire for me to get it right! And for all of us to, ‘get it right’, if there is such a thing. I totally understand it, because I desperately wanted to do it justice. I loved the books so much. They’re such richly drawn characters
And I felt a sort of big weight of responsibility to do that.
What was really amazing, was on the first day on set Leigh Bardugo was there, and she said to me “You’ve got to make it your own, you’ve got to take this and run with it because we’ve chosen you. We trust you to do that!” I think Leigh could sense that the entire cast absolutely loved the books and wanted to do their roles justice and that nobody was going to try to turn it into something different. We were all heading in the same direction which helped.
This then follows up nicely to my next question – can you talk us through your process of getting into character. How did you approach this role and what preparation did you have to go through to handle using Kaz’s cane?
The cane was really important to me and actually the key to the character overall. I’ve never played a character with a physical disability before, so it seemed like a really good place to start when portraying Kaz because of how he moves and goes about his business with the cane. It was Integral, and it became clear early on that it was something that made him stronger. Something that he was incredibly proud of the fact that he walks with a cane added to the myth and legend of who this guy is. Why does he walk with a cane and what could he do to you
with his cane at any given moment?
I got this sense from the books that he seemed to be constantly in motion even if it’s sort of mentally, he’s constantly moving then there’s this sense of locomotion. I actually looked at quite a few videos of trains and that kind of idea of constant movement. The cane is definitely a fifth limb for him. I walked around with it all the time in my flat, I’d limp around on days off to make sure that it felt fully embodied because I didn’t want it to be something that I just kind of dropped in and out of. I wanted it to feel fully his own without it being a hindrance. I wanted to figure out how sitting down and standing up can be done in the smoothest possible way. Because he’s all about efficiency. So, I think, yeah, efficiency was a big thing that I studied and sort of looked at.
What originally attracted you to the enticing role as Kaz Brekker vs previous roles you’ve played?
When the email came through with the audition along with the incredible team
attached, I was blown away with both the script and the pedigree of the team!
When I read the second chapter of Six Of Crows – Kaz Brekker’s character
introduction it says: “Kaz Brekker didn’t need a reason”. That’s the first sentence,
and I just sort of thought there’s so many different ways you can go with that. I think that is something that I’m always drawn with characters who have a duality, I like contradictions in characters. Open questions, questions to be answered is
something that is always really intriguing to me. So, for that to be the first sentence to be the sort of hook that got me in, I was sold from there, I didn’t really need to read anymore to be totally hooked on him.
Did you have any on set rituals you can share with us?
At first, I always start off with the best of intentions, playing a really sort of physically demanding character, I would always make sure that I stretched a lot in the mornings. Although that was only really days 1-3 of a 6 months shoot I
would get up and stretch and sort of do all of that.
I used music quite a lot, I would listen to music at the beginning at least when I was learning lines and stuff like that, again, just try and find that rhythm. We shot for six months in total, and after we’d been doing it for three months, it was kind of like second nature afterwards.
What music helped get you into character, did you have a particular playlist you were listening too?
I can tell you exactly what I was listening too, I actually have a Kaz Brekker playlist! Here we go…
So, there’s a lot of The Black Keys, Royal Deluxe, Cage The Elephant, Sadie Wolfe, Locksley. “Sinister Kid” by The Black Keys is my sort of go too. If there was ever a day when basically I was having too much fun on set and feeling too happy, I would plug into ‘Sinister Kid’ and it would sort of take things down a notch and I’d get back into it!
Moving forward, whenever you hear that it will probably take you right back to being on set!
It will take me right back to making deals with people, whilst reaching for my
cane and gloves!
What was your first impressions were when you read the book? And then your first impressions when you arrived on set?
I remember the first day that we walked onto the Ketterdam set because they had built a whole town. Essentially, they built the city of Ketterdam. It was so far above and beyond what I’d ever imagined in the books. It was so much more intricate and detailed. And that kind of the level of hustle and bustle and busyness that they’d kind of sort of magic’d up. kind of magic’d up. It felt like magic walking onto that set, the production design of the set took my breath away. The production design of the set took my breath away. And then seeing it on screen again elevated it for me even more.
What should viewers look forward to in the upcoming series vs what’s depicted in the books?
I’ve already alluded that I’m a big fan of the books, and the show feels like the best of the books, and then more. It takes things that you already love from the characters, locations, worlds, and elevates them and brings them to life in a way that couldn’t have imagined.
I think the scale of the show is something that really took my breath away. The epic nature of it. I hope that fans of the book are impressed with the scale of something that they really love. And I think people coming to it fresh will just be a whole new world to dive into.
You’re best known for your roles as Pin in the Netflix series ‘Free Rein’, you also had a recurring role on the television shows ‘Pennyworth’ and ’15 Days’. How does your role as Kaz Brekker differ from your previous roles?
I did three years on ‘Free Rein’, which had a younger audience demographic, and at the time, it seemed very strange, because it sorts of felt like, this is not maybe what I dreamed of doing when I was at drama school. However, it was an incredible learning experience. I wouldn’t have been able to play parts like ‘Kaz Brekker’ or ‘Jason Ripper’ in ‘Pennyworth’ or ‘Tom’ on ’15 days’ without having played Pin. I’m incredibly grateful for all of the parts that I’ve got to play.
Actors who play a multitude of types of characters are the ones whose careers I’m really impressed by and admire and who I would like to emulate. One minute they will pop up in a sort of light comedy movie, and then the next week, you see them playing an axe murderer, and you’re like, what?! That’s the kind of thing that I’d like to aspire to be, you know, getting to constantly try different things. I think that’s how you learn more as well and get better.
Being cast as Kaz has been the biggest challenge so far, because there are
so many complicated facets and so many aspects to him, I certainly hope that
I’ve managed to do the role justice.
There are some spectacular locations in the show. What was the dynamic like whilst filming onsite in Budapest?
Budapest is kind of baffling because you’d be walking through what looks like an ordinary-looking street. And you’re like, why are we filming here? And then you take one left, and there’s suddenly there’s this incredible palace, which looks like it’s out of a fairy tale. The castle in Budapest we filmed a lot in, we also filmed in various old government buildings, which are incredibly beautiful, ornate buildings.
It’s a very cool city to spend six months in with a really lovely bunch of people. We all got on very well, from the get-go. We all wanted the show to be as good as it possibly could. I think it became pretty clear early on that we were all going to work incredibly hard at our own stuff, but also for each other, and to sort of help each other. It was quite special.
The global pandemic COVID-19 obviously slowed down post-production, how has the ‘new norm’ of shooting impacted you personally as an actor?
Like you said, the postproduction for ‘Shadow and Bone’ was slowed down massively. So, I think, you know, if the world had gone on, as per usual, the show would have been out by now! And that would be very exciting. So that’s a slowdown.
Having spent six months filming, I was really looking forward to getting back and maybe trying to do some theatre, but that obviously, all stopped. I think the abrupt nature of everything stopping was a bit wake-up call coming out of six intense months because we finished filming a week before lockdown.
We were very, very lucky to finish but it really went from 60 to zero, you know, in a matter of seconds. So, it was a bit of an adjustment. I think I’m still adjusting to moving at this pace. But there are lots of positive signs that things are opening up again, which is very nice.
What was it like filming with your co-stars Jessie Mei Li, Ben Barnes, Amita Suman, Archie Renaux and Kit Young? Did you know any of the cast before shooting and had you worked on any projects with the cast prior to filming?
I didn’t know anyone prior to filming. I’d met Kit and Amita at chemistry tests
during the audition process. I’d seen Kit on stage before and thought that he
was brilliant. So was really chuffed when he walked into the audition room.
And I’ve obviously seen Ben’s work, but no, I didn’t know of anyone else.
It was really during the scene that we did for our chemistry test between Kit and I we had a sort of strange pinch me moment where we’d been in some sort of slightly shabby room in north London, doing a chemistry test under flickering lights. I think it was the middle of summer so we’re both sweating profusely! And it must have been six months later, when we were all stood on the Ketterdam set in Budapest with actual rain falling, steam blowing up and 60 extras hustling and bustling around me. We were stood there, doing that, and now we’re here
together and it felt, you know, those things are incredible bonding moments
for people to go through something like that together. A real pinch me
Two questions in one – do you have a particular favourite day from shooting that really stood out on set and a favourite scene?
There was a day pretty early on in shooting when we were filming in Kaz’s office. I was in every scene of the day, I was the first person to turn up in terms of cast, and the last person to leave and I couldn’t sleep that night when I got home! I was so excited by, you know, having been, just been there all day and got to be this person all day. It happened a couple of more times throughout the shoot, but this was my first taste of it, where I was just allowed to try things out and be this character for the longest period of time that I ever had been. That was so energising and exciting. So, I think that was probably my favourite day.
And my favourite scene… I’m just gonna say episode eight, and nothing more. Episode eight was my favourite to shoot. You will have to wait and see why. 😃
Do you have a favourite book from the two trilogies?
Definitely Six of Crows, purely for that opening chapter about Kaz Brekker. When we’d have a couple of days off from filming and whenever I needed to get back into it. I would just dip in and out of the books or sort of pick a random chapter. it was never really a random chapter, it was always that chapter that I would read to get a sense of his character, it’s just such a quick key into who he is. So, I must have read that chapter hundreds of times by now!
Lastly what’s next for you?
I’m in pre-production for my next short film, which is called ‘Broken Gargoyles’. It’s the story of a former gaiety girl in World War One, and she meets a soldier who she recruited four years later.
The First World War is over. Britain claims a victory, but for the casualties of war the fight for a normal life is far from over. An unhappy reunion will force two lost souls to come to terms with the damage they’ve done to each other.
I’m very excited about shooting that!