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Ben Barnes on His Love Language, Lost Roles, and Being Cast as Prince Caspian Over Andrew Garfield

Glamour: Tell me something I don’t know about working on Shadow and Bone.

Ben Barnes: The thing that nobody knows is that I’m the professor. I’m like the headmaster of this school because it frustrates me so much when the names of places and character names and things that are using made-up languages or new languages or borrowed elements from Slavic languages, like ours does—it has all of those things in it—and I can’t bear it when I watch TV shows and it’s inconsistent how people are saying things. It drives me absolutely insane when I see that, so I have this text thread with Eric Heisserer, who’s our showrunner and writer, and Leigh Bardugo, who’s the author of the novels. Before each season we go through each word that is a weird word or a strange kind of pronunciation or something, and Leigh tells us how it’s said in her world. Then I do this obnoxiously long 15-minute voice note, which has me repeating the word like a Calm app, which then gets sent to every cast member. 

[Ben does an impression of his very calming professor voice.] “Nichevo’ya [nee-sheh-voya]. Nichevo’ya.” I do it almost funny like that, and we had some messages going round in our cast group chat that were commenting on—I’m like the dad on set, so they send me messages like, “I was having trouble sleeping, but then I was listening to Ben’s voice note and I nodded right off.” That’s the kind of stuff that Freddy Carter will say.

Do you ever correct people while on set? 

Once you’re on set there’s a script supervisor and all that stuff. But if somebody comes in who’s like a day player or somebody who comes in for one scene, they’ll say something—instead of Inferni [in-fer-nee], they’ll say [in-fer-nai]—and I’ll kind of be behind them just twitching silently to myself and hoping somebody else comes in to direct it. [Laughs.]

Ben Barnes in Shadow and Bone season two


Tell me about a role you wanted but didn’t get.

The one that still sticks with me is an old one, but it was my first, like, it was the old-school system where they used to just audition, audition, audition, audition you and just test you and test you and test you. I auditioned, I think, 8 or 10 times for this movie. I hadn’t really done anything, but I just wanted it so badly. And they flew me to New York for the final chemistry reads and stuff. It was for Across the Universe, the Beatles movie by director Julie Taymor. 

But it kind of came full circle because then I got to meet Evan Rachel Wood when we did Westworld and then she starred in my music video. We talked a few times about how badly I wanted to do that movie because it was this trippy, wonderful magical realism thing, and I was such a big Beatles fan growing up. I know I wasn’t cool and band-y enough and grungy enough. I think Jim Sturgess, who played that part, was actually in a band. He was just cool, and I was not, really. I was so thirsty for it, and he was just like, “Whatever.” Obviously, that’s what they were after, but I still would have loved to have done that movie. 

I remember my first LA trip was when that movie was coming out and the posters were everywhere, and it was like little stabs every time.

If it makes you feel any better, Andrew Garfield said he lost the role of Prince Caspian in The Chronicles of Narnia to you and was eventually told he wasn’t “handsome enough.”

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