Taking part in a magical heist isn't nearly as easy as it looks. Just ask Amita Suman, whose transformation into Inej for Netflix's Shadow and Bone didn't exactly come naturally. The actor went through rigorous training to play the iconic Grishaverse character, a process she admits was tough but ultimately helped her "be truthful to the character."
Warning: Light spoilers from Leigh Bardugo's Grishaverse novels follow. Based on Leigh Bardugo's novel of the same name, Shadow and Bone Season 1 — which hits Netflix on April 23 — takes place in the Kingdom of Ravka, where a girl named Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) discovers she is a Grisha, one with very rare powers at that. But the new series also ties in characters from other books in Bardugo's Grishaverse — namely, the Six of Crows duology, which focuses on Inej and her two associates, gang leader Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter) and sharpshooter Jesper Fahey (Kit Young).
Suman says she read Six of Crows in preparation for her audition for Inej and instantly fell in love. "I've never read anyone like the characters you see in Six of Crows," Suman tells Elite Daily. "Especially with Inej, I really enjoyed seeing an assassin who has a good heart, who's dangerous and lethal and has impeccable skills. And she's brown. I've never read anyone like that in a book."
As fans of the novels know, Inej has plenty of formidable abilities, from acrobatics to knife-throwing, which left Suman with plenty of new skills to learn once she booked the role. "After I finished the books, I instantly realized, 'Oh no, I don't have stamina. I don't have strength,'" she says. "It was incredibly important for me to put in the hard work [and] build my fitness."
Suman also learned acrobatic silks, which she says demand "quite a lot core strength." One area of Inej's expertise she didn't get trained in: knife-throwing. "I was just handed these 14 gorgeous knives ... I broke a lot [of them]," Suman admits. But despite her lack of experience with the knives, Suman understands the significance of them to her character: "To Inej, they're the root of her faith. Even though they're dangerous weapons, it's a reminder of who she is and to be that good person."
Shadow and Bone is a groundbreaking fantasy series in many ways, particularly for its diverse casting. The series features two Asian women in lead roles (Suman and Mei Li), which Suman sees as a much-needed step forward in Hollywood.
"I never thought I would have the opportunity to play such a well-rounded, complicated character that isn't based on a stereotype or the color of my skin," Suman says. "For me, it's a dream come true, really. [In drama school], I was told, 'You're only going to get to play [Asian] roles. So get really good at it. Don't practice anything else.' And I'm hoping now that I'm here, I won't take that step back. Hopefully, people will be open-minded enough to do that as well, because it's so important."
Viewers can see Suman in action as Inej when Shadow and Bone premieres globally on Netflix on Friday, April 23.