Tall, dark and handsome Ben Barnes is no stranger to roles that push him to tap into the deeper parts of his psyche. Since breaking out in The Chronicles of Narnia, the British actor has played many villains – from Billy Russo to The punisher to log in West world. As the nefarious shadow manipulator General Kirigan in Netflix’s Shadow and bone, Barnes is thousands of fan castings come to life. Somehow, he became the go-to choice for any role that demands a certain level of darkness and gloom.
But while he keeps getting typecast as the smoldering villain, Barnes isn’t entirely sure Why.
“I keep asking my agents, I just want to do a rom-com”, Barnes laments. “And then they’re like, I don’t have a rom-com, but found a psychopath who kills a lot of young people!”
Despite being handsome, charming and having great on-screen chemistry with his fellow cast members (esp Shadow and bone co-star Jessie Mei Li, with whom he fleshed out a wonderfully complex romance in Season 1), Barnes’ career has been pretty devoid of any truly romantic roles. Sure, he starred opposite Katherine Heigl in limited release romantic drama Jacky & Ryanand played a supporting role in Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton’s raunchy comedy The big wedding (which has a 7% on Rotten Tomatoes, so maybe not the best display for Barnes’ acting smashes). But one lot of Barnes’ big roles were, in his words, “this kind of manipulative, raging, poisonous … or just kind of dorky characters.”
But even when handing these bad guys over, Barnes can’t help but dig in and try to complicate their perspectives and give them a little more depth. Part of that stems from something he’s accomplished in more than 20 years in the industry.
“Who you are as a person will always seep through in the smallest ways,” Barnes explains. “They are all very broken in their own way. None of the characters I’ve played have a very good relationship with their parents. Even though it’s a fantastic universe of magic and nonsense, you can really dig deep and try to believe in the broken truth of each character, even if they’re the adversary. Even if they’re not the one you’re looking for.
“But,” he adds, “it would be nice to play someone you’re looking for, to be honest.”
And why wouldn’t he? It’s clear that Barnes knows his way around a romantic role, and judging by the success of Shadow and bone, the fans will show up for him. Give Ben Barnes his romantic comedy moment! He deserves to be a character we look for and to have a fat kiss moment in the rain, rather than a venomous villain conspiring to kill entire villages to get what he wants. Barnes has made it clear what he wants, which is, as Li puts it, to sit next to him and pat his hand: “A nice rom-com in a nice cardigan.”
“A nice rom-com in a nice cardigan!” Barnes explains.
The second season of Shadow and bone arrives on Netflix on March 16.