Shadow & Bone Used A White Stunt Double For Inej. But The Problems Run Much Deeper.

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Critics and fans of Netflix's Shadow & Bone have praised the show's diverse cast, something author Leigh Bardugo made a point to prioritise when her book series was adapted into a major television show. However, the internet has recently uncovered a surprising and offensive casting choice.
A Twitter user noticed that Nepal-born, British actress Amita Suman (who plays the Bond-like Wraith, Inej Ghafa)'s stunt double is white. And not only is she white, but it also seems the show put her in brownface and a brown body suit during her stunt scenes.
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"not them hiring a white stunt double for amita and painting her brown ................," the user wrote alongside a handful of photos.
The first photo shows Suman and her Hungarian stunt double, Vellai Krisztina, posing and smiling together, the latter of the two with tan-looking skin. In another picture from set, the two are getting ready for an aerial acrobatics scene, and you can see Krisztina's white neck standing out in direct contrast to her much tanner body suit and face. Then, the Twitter poster added an additional professional headshot Krisztina shared on her Instagram, in which it is clear that she is, indeed, a white person with light blonde hair.
Fans of the show expressed their shock and outrage at the photos, admonishing Netflix and the Shadow & Bone creators for not casting a person of colour as Suman's stunt double.
"hey @netflix @HIGHzurrer whats this about you hiring a white stunt double for amita, a BROWN woman?? & not a single person working on the show thought that was weird or fucked up?? shame on u, amita & inej both deserve better & i feel so sad for amita that she had to see that :/" wrote one Twitter user.
"all im saying is that the second people found out that the stunt double for inej was a white woman they realized it was wrong. you can’t really argue that no one on that set realized it would be wrong (sic)," wrote another.
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Even more puzzling however, is the fact that Krisztina does not seem to think that this is problematic — the original photos, as well as a few more of her in brownface, were casually posted to her public Instagram (as of May 6, however, she went private). In fact, neither does Dan Liu, who directed two episodes of the series. Before Krisztina went private, Liu posted supportive comments on two of her Instagram photos where she is clearly in brownface. "You were amazing!" wrote Liu. 
Suman hasn't been shy about praising Krisztina, even shouting her out in a few interviews. "All the cool and intricate stuff that you see, that was my incredible stunt double. She definitely elevated Inej for me," Suman told Harper's Bazaar.
Jessie Mei Li, who plays Alina Starkov and is also mixed race (her mother is English and her father is Chinese) also seems to have a white stunt double, Hungarian performer Eva Harangozó. Are there really no stunt actors of colour out there they could have used? As one fan wrote on Reddit, "Considering the fact that the Suli are based off the Roma, and that there are plenty of Roma in Hungary, this is just awful."
Unfortunately, Hollywood has a history of whitewashing in stunts, and it's so commonplace that it even has a name: “Painting down." One Twitter user even pointed out that “wigging” is also commonplace — when male stunt performers stand in for women in shows or movies. And the continued use of brown- and blackface isn't just a problem in the stunt world — just last February, an extra who landed a minor role on HBO's Lovecraft Country posted a TikTok where she explained that she was covered in makeup significantly darker than her actual skin tone to play a part. HBO later apologised.
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There's a reason why the photos are getting so much attention and blowback on Twitter — fans love and worship this show, as well as the world the book series created. For a show that touts its representation and felt like a step forward in the fantasy genre, this reveal is a giant let down.
It's all the more baffling and disappointing given that Suman worked so hard for this opportunity to play Inej. In fact, she's said that she was even told that playing this kind of non-stereotypical or sexualised badass female lead character would never happen for her because of the colour of her skin. "You have a woman who physically scarred herself from how hard she trained for Inej — a woman of colour who simply HAD to be perfect to even be considered for this role — and they put her in basically the same box as a white actor with brownface," tweeted a fan. It's hard to get lost in a beautiful fantasy when reality keeps rearing its ugly head.
Netflix hasn't responded to Refinery29's request for comment.

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