Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Why General Kirigan From Shadow & Bone Looks So Familiar

Netflix's Shadow and Bone should be the next fantasy series to get excited about and will premiere Apr. 23, 2021 (via Entertainment Weekly). If you're unfamiliar with Leigh Bardugo's novel trilogy on which the series is based, Shadow and Bone is set in the Kingdom of Ravka, which is threatened by an evil force called the Shadow Fold. The only ones who can stop it are the Grisha, Shadow and Bone's magic users, and especially Alina Starkov (Jesse Mei Li), an orphan with unusually strong powers.

The leader of the Grisha is a mysterious figure called General Kirigan. Kirigan's ancestor, the Black Heretic, is responsible for unleashing the Shadow Fold in the first place, and the general wants to atone for it. Or at least that's what he says. The reality is a bit more sinister. Readers of the books immediately recognized General Kirigan as the alter ego of "The Darkling," a powerful magic user who can wield dark magic.

But while Netflix is being cagey about General Kirigan's true identity, the actor who plays him is a bit more familiar. Ben Barnes is no stranger to sci-fi/fantasy, and fans of the genre should recognize him from his other big roles.

You probably know him as Prince Caspian

Ben Barnes was born in 1981 and spent his early years working in musical theater and singing in bands. His first big acting break came in 2007, when he landed the lead role in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Prince Caspian should be the heir to the throne of the Telmarine kingdom, but his wicked uncle Miraz killed Caspian's father and took the throne for himself. In Prince Caspian, the Pevensie siblings travel to Narnia and help the prince reclaim his kingdom. He also voiced Caspian in the accompanying video game.

Landing the role was the opportunity of a lifetime for Barnes, who had grown up reading C.S. Lewis' books. Barnes returned to the big screen as Caspian in the 2010 sequel The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Trader. This time, Caspian and the Pevensies were tracking down the seven Lords of Narnia, whom Miraz had banished. Now king, Caspian was much more self-assured. But he still wanted his dead father's approval.

Ben Barnes tore it up on Westworld

Six years after The Voyage of the Dawn Trader, Ben Barnes scored a lead role on the HBO mind-bending sci-fi series Westworld. Barnes played Logan Delos, the son of the park's founder and billionaire owner James Delos (Peter Mullan). Logan treated Westworld like his own personal playground, killing and maiming the robot hosts for any reason. Eventually, Logan's brother-in-law William replaces him as the company heir after coming up with an idea to grant customers digital immortality by uploading their consciousnesses into a Westworld robot. Logan spiraled into a depression and died by drug overdose during season 2. 

It's almost never good news when an actor's character is killed off a show, but Barnes told The Hollywood Reporter that he walked away happy. The character of Logan underwent a satisfying arc, transforming from a young hedonist into one of the few people who realizes the inherent dangers in Westworld's technology and its ability to corrupt people. Logan was an unlikable character, but his one redeeming quality was his honesty. 

Ben Barnes gave the Punisher a run for his money

While filming Westworld, Ben Barnes landed another role that explored the darker side of humanity when he played Billy Russo in Netflix's The Punisher TV series. Billy Russo started off as Frank Castle/the Punisher's best friend and the head of private military contractor Anvil. But eventually, Frank discovered that Billy allowed Frank's family to be massacred. Frank and Billy had an epic showdown at the end of season 1, but rather than kill him, Frank carved up his former friend's face with shards of a broken mirror.

Barnes returned to play the character for season 2, as Billy Russo transformed into the supervillain Jigsaw. Controversially, the series altered Jigsaw's appearance from The Punisher comics and movies. Instead of a heavily disfigured supervillain, Barnes' version wore a mask. Barnes defended the decision, describing it as Billy Russo's way of processing his trauma.

Ben Barnes' other big roles

Ben Barnes has been working steadily as an actor since 2005, and he's had many lead and major roles in movies and TV series. While the roles above are most notable, other recognizable parts include the lead role in Dorian Gray, the 2009 adaptation of Oscar Wilde's iconic novel; the co-lead in the 2014 romantic drama Jackie & Ryan, alongside Katherine Heigl; and as American revolutionary Sam Adams in the 2015 miniseries Sons of Liberty.

Barnes' role in Shadow and Bone comes two years after a starring turn in another Netflix series, Gold Digger. This time, Barnes played Benjamin Greene, the young lover of a wealthy older woman whose intentions are not so pure. It's another morally questionable character that Barnes excels at. Barnes' ability to portray complicated characters, as well as his familiarity with the fantasy genre, should make Shadow and Bone worth checking out.