29th March 2023
Interview & Digital Editor: Pankhuri Bhutani
Editor-in-chief: Owen James Vincent
Photographer: Phil Sharp
Cover Design: Emily Curtis
Kindly Note: This interview contains slight spoilers from Netflix’s “Shadow and Bone Season 2”.
Currently gracing our screens as ‘Jordie Rietveld’ in the brand new season of Netflix’s “Shadow and Bone”, Tommy Rodger is presently under the spotlight for showcasing his innate knack for a performance filled with raw emotions and immense versatility.
Rodger’s character ‘Jordie’ is termed as one of the most significant aspects of criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker’s life. Rodgers intricately etched out the role of Jordie as he plays both a loving brother and a potentially fictitious element created by Kaz haunting Brekker’s current adult life.
Rodger encapsulated a well-crafted performance in the trending fantasy series, all thanks to his impeccable acting range, that further emphasized the prominence of the love-hate sequences with his co-stars Fflyn Edwards and Freddy Carter respectively. We see Tommy portraying a sibling protecting his little brother in the initial scenes that gradually transforms into a figment of Brekker’s imagination throughout the duration of the show, Rodger now portraying an element haunting the ruthless gang leader to seek out revenge for his brother’s demise.
I recently had a chat with ReVamp’s latest cover star- the wonderful Tommy Rodger to discuss insights into his creative process behind this role, what his experience was like filming for the project, and all things “Shadow and Bone”.
Hello there Tommy. Thank you for joining us on ReVamp! How are you doing? How has the start of 2023 been for you so far?
I’m very well thank you! My start to 2023 has been pretty busy with directing a play for the first time alongside a great deal of auditions and I feel lucky to be able to spend the majority of my time doing things that I truly love to do, not everyone has that luxury. Hopefully this year I will continue to progress in my career and just life in general.
I believe I obviously have to start this interview by mentioning your surreal performance in the upcoming installment of “Shadow and Bone”. First of all, huge congratulations on the project! I wonder what it really was that attracted you closer to this role?
Thank you! I appreciate the kind words. The main thing that drew me to this particular character, Jordie Rietveld, was his relationship with his younger brother Kaz. Although Jordie has his flaws, the brotherly bond between these two boys struck me as incredibly genuine and filled with love, which is expressed through a mix of both sincerity and playfulness that I have not yet been able to explore in my work on screen.
Jordie is one of the limited characters whose perspective isn’t mentioned in any of the books. As the actor who plays Jordie himself, I’d love to know how you went on about your research pertaining to his mindset.
Did you have any conversation with Miss Bardugo or any of the writers before immersing yourself within his world or was your performance based solely on the script as well as the books?
Although material outside of the script is useful to develop specific detail within a character that perhaps wouldn’t have been clear otherwise, I don’t find that it is vital because the script-writer spends endless hours considering the story and the way it will be structured, so I usually find that what is most significant will be found in the text you are working with.
The only piece of wider information that really helped me was the fact that Kaz and Jordie had lost their father, which was actually mentioned in the character breakdown I received for the audition and also it was mentioned within an audition scene that ended up being removed from the series. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much opportunity to discuss my ideas with Leigh, but I did meet her on set. The books assisted me with finding Jordie’s personality when I may have been unsure.
Just like the books, within the series as well, Jordie’s character is showcased as someone from Kaz’s past who isn’t present alongside Kaz Brekker yet his prominence is backed throughout the story of his journey. I wonder what was your initial impression of Jordie when you were first offered the script? Were you aware of Miss Bardugo’s work and the Grishaverse world prior to filming?
I was not aware of the original books when I was first offered the role, but my approach always begins by trying to discern the internal conflict that the character represents. Obviously, for this, I was looking at Jordie and I came to the conclusion that his character arc was defined by ‘Ambition vs Fear’.
Jordie’s most notable flaw is a dangerous blend of ambition and arrogance. He feels a responsibility to create success for himself and Kaz while convincing himself that he has all the tools to achieve that goal. However, deep within that surface, we witness a scared little boy who needs his father.
Then, the final element to add is Love. His ambition is routed in his desire to make his father proud and protect his brother, and his Fear is routed in the absence of his father’s love and the potential that he may fail his brother. Perhaps, when everything is said and done, all that matters is the love that Jordie and Kaz share.
Watching the show, I perceived your performance to be having a sense of contrast in it throughout the season. (The scene with Jordie’s introduction as well as with his illusion on Kaz) I’m extremely curious to know how you prepared for that particular sequence since it was so distinct in nature from the other scenes where you portrayed Jordie.
The illusion sequence was an element that I dealt with separately from the other scenes as, in my opinion, I was no longer the real Jordie Rietveld, but a figure of Kaz’s imagination. However, the connection between the scenes came from the discovery that this illusion of Jordie was the physicalization of Kaz’s underlying insecurity and fear. Perhaps the idea being suggested is that Jordie and Kaz are suffering from the same conflict. Maybe we all are in some small way.
When preparing for scenes of emotional intensity, the key is having an understanding of why I am the same as these characters. Who do I love? Why am I afraid? The more specific the better. I can portray this character because my love is his love. My fear is his fear. Finally, I find that representing an emotion through a change in breath minutes before the word ‘action’ is a useful tool to align yourself with the state that your character is in.
Since we never really get access to Jordie’s perspective on things, I’m sure you must have a lot of intrigue towards his character when playing him. If you were ever given an opportunity to have a conversation with Jordie himself (had he been a real-life figure), what elements of him would you personally like to get a deeper insight on?
I think I would have wanted some insight into the relationship Jordie had with his father and what life was like for Jordie and Kaz where they originally grew up.
I’d love to know what your relationship was like with the wonderful Fflyn Edwards offset. Did you share a sibling-like relationship off cameras as well or was it a bit more professional in nature?
Fflyn was a dream to work with! I made a conscious effort to have fun when getting to know him, so he would feel more comfortable doing the same in front of the camera. What stood out to me was his maturity and professionalism on set, considering he was only 12 at the time, and he always seemed very relaxed and prepared before scenes. I had a blast with him!
What’s next for you, Tommy? Any upcoming projects your fans would love to know more about?
The only future project I can mention at the moment is ‘Mafia Mamma’, directed by Catherine Hardwicke and starring Toni Collette. This is the first comedic film I have been a part of and it tells the story of a suburban mother who unexpectedly inherits her grandfather’s Mafia empire. The new genre of filmmaking I experienced created an atmosphere of fun and laughter that I found incredibly refreshing.
Lastly, for the ones who are yet to be introduced to this brilliant show, is there anything that you can tell us in terms of what the fans can expect from your character and the show?
I’ve already said quite a bit, but regarding what you should all expect, all I can really say is, in the terms of my part to play in Season 2, be prepared for an exploration of ambition, responsibility, love, loss, deceit, truth, and fear.