Updated: May 25
Amita Suman is a tour de force. From her childhood home in Nepal to the red carpets, at this year’s pre-BAFTA's Chanel Party or Apple BAFTA's, the Nepalese–British actor is a living testament to the notion that dedication and hard work can bring dreams into reality. She currently stars in Netflix’s action-fantasy spectacular Shadow & Bone as Inej Ghafa, a member of a criminal gang on a mission to make her own way in the world.
Words by Madeline Anderson.
CHANEL Les Beiges Summer To-Go 2023 and Chanel Hydra Beauty Micro Créme Yeux.
Production Assistants, Boram Lee. Amita Suman appears courtesy of Public Eye
Outside of her work in television she collaborated with Chanel as an ambassador for the brand’s fine jewellery collection – a dream come true for Suman. Over Zoom she gushes, “It meant the absolute world to me, I’ve had a strong relationship with Chanel for almost two years now and I adore the team. They looked after me so well.” She singled out the Coco Crush line, a collection inspired by the house’s signature quilted motif. “It’s so unique to the brand… It’s beautiful and effortless – every time I wear it I always feel very put together.”
In conversation the morning after the BAFTAs, Suman admits to meeting one of her longtime idols, the award-winning actress Michelle Yeoh. “Meeting her was a highlight,” Suman recounts. “I’m pretty sure I verbally vomited. I told her she was a queen and that her creativity, dedication and originality are very inspiring.” But Suman is a queen in her own right. In Shadow & Bone – which premieres its second season on March 16th – she blends an intricate mix of elegance and strength to bring fan-favourite character Inej to life. The nuance in her performance is clear and the complexity of her character translates seamlessly from the pages of the source material to Netflix’s dazzling adaptation, which also stars Jessie Mei Li, Archie Renaux, and Ben Barnes.
The weight of bringing a fantasy series to the silver screen is not lost on Suman, who has previously worked on similar sets playing roles in Doctor Who and The Outpost. Fantasy fans tend to be some of the most loyal in the game, which makes for a unique experience in creating a visual interpretation of the characters, universe, and magic they have come to know and love.
A big part of that magic was not all make-believe. Alongside the incredible work of CGI and visual effects designers, much of the Grisha-verse was placed right in front of the actors, allowing them to truly dive into the events of the show’s ambitious second entry. “In season two, you get to see how grand and detailed the world really is,” Suman explains. “We visit so many different places and it feels exactly how I imagined it in my head. That’s down to the incredible set and prop designers – it shows you how little imagination we had to use as actors to be able to step into the world.”
The combination of physical and visual effects gives way to a true feast for the eyes not only for the actors on set but for the viewers at home too. “It’s one of the reasons I bloody love my job,” Suman proclaims with a smile. “It’s one thing seeing it on TV as a viewer, but it’s another thing as an actor being able to believe in what you’re seeing and that being translated on screen. It’s a testament to the strength of the ensemble and to the people who create the magic off screen.”
Shadow & Bone’s first season resonated with critics and audiences alike, with the show taking up spots on Netflix’s Top 10 lists worldwide after its release in April 2021 and receiving acclaim for its take on the genre. Now the show’s ambitious second entry finds Suman’s character beginning to break away from the path set out for her by others in order to take control of her own narrative.
Suman, who was first cast as Inej in 2019, describes the experience of stepping back on set to film the second season as at once both strange and natural. “There was quite some time between filming season one and season two,” she said. “I did a lot of prep for season two, but it was really strange coming back on set. I’ve been with this character for so long that things come a little bit more naturally, so I felt like I wasn’t doing enough work.” In the end, she took the challenge in her stride, approaching her second outing as Inej with a sophisticated work ethic and collaborative mindset that gave way to the final product both newcomers and fandom stalwarts will be able to enjoy.
In terms of future projects, she has her eyes on one character in particular: the ineffable Lara Croft. “If that film was ever to be remade, I would love to do that,” she reveals with zero hesitation. Thanks to her work on Shadow & Bone, Suman certainly has the stunt chops for revisiting Angelina Jolie’s iconic take on the video game heroine. “Inej is so agile and stealthy, so when I got cast I started training really hard,” she explains. “When I was in my early teens, I did a bit of gymnastics – I was really active. It was nice to get back in touch with all of those things I kind of dropped throughout the years. It was hard work but it was a lot of fun.”
When asked directly about the Shadow & Bone fandom, which has been around since the publication of Leigh Bardugo’s debut titular novel in 2012, she refers to the fans as “gorgeous, beautiful and [a] real reminder” of what the story and characters mean to people around the world. “When we meet fans, we love to to just geek out about the books together,” she grins. “To have a support system that makes you feel so loved… it’s an amazing community.”
You can find Amita Suman's piece inside the Spring Summer 2023 Issue 10
Purchase your copy here.