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INTERVIEW: Ben Barnes Loves the Dark Characters but Would Love a Rom-Com Too

Ben Barnes using his magic as the Darkling in Shadow and Bone

Dark characters are sort of what we’ve come to expect from Ben Barnes’ career. From playing Dorian Gray himself to characters like Logan Delos on Westworld or Billy Russo in The Punisher, Barnes knows exactly what makes these twisted characters so appealing to audiences. It’s why we end up liking a character like The Darkling in Shadow and Bone. And getting to talk to Barnes about his work at the round table discussions for season 2 of Shadow and Bone, I couldn’t help but unpack these characters.

But when I asked Barnes about what draws him to these darker characters, he pointed out that he’d love to do something a bit lighter too. “That’s a good question because I keep asking my agents, I just want to do a romcom, please,” he said with a laugh. “And then they’re like, haven’t got a romcom, but found this psychopath who’s killing a lot of young people.”

He went on to unpack his draw to darker characters. “I’m so interested in those kind of light and dark shades of people,” he said. “I think when I was starting out, I thought there were things that I could do as an actor and things I couldn’t, things I wouldn’t feel comfortable with. I’m comfortable saying I love you in a scene, but I find it very difficult to scream and shout and throw a chair. It doesn’t come naturally. But actually, I think I found as I’ve gone through these last 20 years, that there is a way for you as a person, to everything and express everything and then sort of who you are as a person will sort of always seep through in the tiniest ways.”

We love dark Ben Barnes

Logan Delos drinking in Westworld
(HBO)

One of the things that you can count on with a Ben Barnes performance is that you’ll find something to like in these characters despite the fact that they tend to lean towards darker deeds. Some murder on a massive scale, others murder robots in the fictional theme park known as Westworld. But still, they all have this twist to them that really draws you in despite the horrors they inflict on people.

“And so I think my instinct when I read about these sort of manipulative, rageful, venomous kind of characters in others, I’m thinking of my character in Westworld, or whatever like those kind of characters, they’re all very broken in their own ways,” Barnes said. “None of the characters I’ve played have very good relationships with their parents. And I think you can chart those things and really try to, even though it’s a fantastical universe with magic and nonsense, you can really kind of dig down and try to believe in the broken truth of any character. Even if they’re the antagonist. Even if they’re not the one you’re rooting for. But it would be nice to play someone you’re rooting for next, to be honest.”

But a rom-com would be nice

As Barnes said, “it would be nice to play someone you’re rooting for next” but he also brought up a romantic comedy. Which is something that would be nice to see. Because Barnes is charming, that’s kind of the point. We love these characters who do horrible things because we are drawn in by Barnes and his take on the characters.

The Darkling could have been easily done in a way that made him so horrible right out the gate and left us not wanting to see him and what he chose to do next. Instead, Barnes made us interested in what he was going to do next and you can see what Barnes brings to the Darkling in season 2 of Shadow and Bone, on Netflix now.

(Featured image: Dávid Lukács/Netflix)

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Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. A writer her whole life but professionally starting back in 2016 who loves all things movies, TV, and classic rock. Resident Spider-Man expert, official Leslie Knope, actually Yelena Belova. Wanda Maximoff has never done anything wrong in her life. Star Wars makes her very happy. New York writer with a passion for all things nerdy. Yes, she has a Pedro Pascal podcast. And also a Harrison Ford one.