One of the best aspects of Shadow and Bone season 1 is the evolution of Nina and Matthias’ relationship. Breakout stars Danielle Galligan and Calahan Skogman bring the beloved book characters to life in the new Netflix series. HollywoodLife chatted EXCLUSIVELY with the Shadow and Bone stars about all things Nina and Matthias. The pair goes from hating one another to forming undeniable feelings for one another in just a few episodes.
Danielle admitted Nina’s initial description of Matthias in Leigh Bardugo’s book “stayed” with her as evidence that a connection happened “instantaneously” between them. Calahan noted that there was no way Matthias was going to let go of Nina when she fell through the ice because he was “full-on crazy” about her by that time. Danielle and Calahan break down “pivotal” moments between Nina and Matthias, and what that final episode twist means for their future.
Shadow and Bone is a massive universe. Before you two took on the roles of Nina and Matthias, were you aware of the magnitude of the Nina and Matthias fandom?
Danielle Galligan: No, I definitely wasn’t. I think that even still the magnitude and the love… I’m still surprised by it every day. Every time you go on Instagram, the fan art, and all that kind of stuff, I still get shocked by it. I know it is reality, but I think that I’m still so surprised every day by how much support I guess that we’re getting. It’s pretty amazing.
Calahan Skogman: I was really big into fantasy books growing up, but this one, Shadow and Bone, kind of hit right after I came out of high school. So I kind of missed the initial wave. I didn’t know about the books or necessarily how big the fandom was and how passionate they are. But once I looked it up, it’s pretty obvious how much people care about the show and the universe and characters. It’s been pretty special to see how excited everybody is for it.
Is there a specific moment, in your opinion, where you think things start to shift between Nina and Matthias into something more?
Danielle Galligan: I think that for Nina, what I was always surprised by was there’s not necessarily one moment where I think it shifts. I think it’s a very slow burn. I remember reading the books, and I don’t know if I necessarily believe in love at first sight or anything, but she does have a description of Matthias when she first meets him. She says [something like] his hair is burnished gold, and he has these incredible eyes. She describes him as a really beautiful boy. That’s something that stayed with me, that it happened instantaneously for her. And then the rest of it is her battling against that because she’s reminded, obviously, of all the training and the brainwashing that she’s endured growing up. But her heart is just constantly thinking back to that first moment when she saw him because she saw something in him anyway. I think that’s what carries her through as opposed to there being a moment later for me personally.
Calahan Skogman: I think there’s a lot of that, too, with Matthias. I think it’s pretty instantaneous when he sees Nina and experiences her for the first time and hears her talk for the first time. I think it’s immediately overwhelming, though I think he tries as hard as he can not to show that. But I think he even gives away a little bit of his cards straight away. I think there’s certainly the initial moment, but then I think there are the moments along the way. For example, when their ship wrecks and they have to rely on each other to survive. I think there’s a moment there where either of them could have been like, well, I guess we’re both just going to be dead. Whereas they’re like, no, let’s do this together. And then there are the moments in the hut where I think that’s where the intimacy starts to form. I think the big moment probably is when Matthias has her in his hands, and he could let her fall to certain death. He actively chooses not to. He wants her around. I think it’s over from that point on. She kind of knows where he stands.
Speaking of that moment, I wanted to ask because there’s a heavy pause between them before he pulls her up. Do you think there was a moment that he thought about letting her go? She does say “please.” What do you think was happening there?
Calahan Skogman: Oh, certainly. The thought definitely crosses his mind. I think it’s a real possibility. I think he thinks, well, I could just let go and be done with all this madness. But he’s not going to let go. At that point, he’s already full-on crazy about her. I think the course of his life, all these voices in his mind, all these things that he’s been taught really come to the forefront at that moment. But I think it’s a pivotal scene and moment for both of them where he chooses to see how life progresses if he does save her, and maybe they do stay together.
Before that moment, Nina and Matthias have their Titanic moment after the ship wrecks. What was filming that scene like? It looked like you two were in a waterpark.
Danielle Galligan: I would say it was definitely reminiscent of a waterpark. I think that was one of the incredible things about being in Budapest and working with the crews over there. They do so many really amazing TV series. They have such incredible infrastructure and resources there to really create the environment. I grew up in fringe theatre, and there’s no money, so you have to imagine a lot of things. You don’t often have money to buy a fork, put it in a drawer, and then take it out on stage. You have to imagine the fork. This was so completely different because we had everything, and the detail that they supplied us with was incredible. Our imaginations nearly became redundant. I remember picking up a handful of sand, and I was like, “Where did you get the sand?” And they were like, “The beach. It’s sand.” That was always really mind-blowing. So that day, there were real waves. It was raining. There was one time I think Cal kind of slipped and went under. I was like, Oh, that’s not acting.
Calahan Skogman: Dani, I’m sure you remember this as well, but the first take everything was set up, we were in the water tank, there were these huge fans, and there were these guys on the sides pushing these huge barrels making these waves and the rain’s coming down. It’s really intense, right, but it was just the take to kind of see how it’s going to play out very roughly. But Danielle and I were so invested in the experience that we went 100,000 percent on this first day. It’s like this five-minute scene, and we look at each other. We were just kind of overwhelmed with what happened, and then we realized that we probably have to film it another 80 times. It was interesting.
For most of the season, you two only have scenes together. What was it like getting to know each other and establishing such a bond onscreen?
Calahan Skogman: I think we certainly had a lot of time together. The first time that I personally met Danielle, we spent the rest of the time together before I flew back to Los Angeles. It was very easy from the beginning, and the chemistry was there from the beginning. I think that’s the reason I got cast is that I showed up and had chemistry with Danielle. That’s kind of the whole point of the final screen test and chemistry test. I think that there was a lot of trust there just inherently, and I think I felt that immediately. All the rest of the time that we got to spend together and all the conversations we had, whether it be over the phone call, texting, or in person, I think that it was very easy for me to begin to trust Danielle a lot and to really spend all that time with her.
Danielle Galligan: He trusts me on set, but not in real life. I echo Cal’s sentiments. There’s that thing that chemistry is science, and from the moment he walked in, I felt like, oh, that’s it. That worked. But I think that it’s something that’s so important as a performer because if you can’t trust the other person to have your back in the scene, then you can’t really take risks. I think you have to have a serious foundation to be able to play and experiment. I personally think that you’re only as good as the other actor in the scene. I firmly believe that if my performance is good, fingers crossed, it will be down to Cal. Not all of it, but definitely some of it. It is an incredible feeling to know that you can explore and experiment and throw something out there. If you get lost in any way, you have someone there to anchor you. I would say that is definitely what is special about our relationship as well, I think.
At the end of the season, Nina chooses to save Matthias and not go back with her people. But he’s now he’s imprisoned because of her. When they come face to face after all that, he’s angry at her. He thinks that she broke his trust, even though she tells him that she’s going to get him out. Do you think there’s a part of Matthias that knows Nina is telling the truth?
Calahan Skogman: No. I think he doesn’t have all the details. As far as he’s concerned, he showed up at this inn, is falling in love with this woman, and finally trusts this Grisha woman. It’s a big deal for him. He’s battling with a whole lot of stuff. He goes downstairs, she gets him to eat some waffles, and the next thing he knows he wakes up in prison on a ship going to Hellgate. There’s a lot of information that’s just not available to him. I think he’s there the whole time afterward just thinking that she betrayed him the whole time, the whole thing was fake, that nothing that she said was true, that the emotions that she made him feel she just made him feel as a Heartrender. Nothing was real. I think when she shows up on the ship, and you can tell she means what she says, but I think Matthias is so blocked off and so heartbroken in a way. He’s feeling a lot of rage and anger. He thinks she broke his trust, so for him, it’s an immediate severance. He sees her and really feels like he wants to kill her and to make her feel what he’s feeling because he feels like his life is over completely and that she’s to blame. I think it takes a while. It would be in future journeys where he would come to understand that wasn’t what happened and not what she did.
Before that, Nina offers to run away with Matthias. He’s in a complicated position because he has a strong sense of duty, but she means a lot to him. Where do you think they would have gone if they had decided to go off together?
Danielle Galligan: I think the Wandering Isle. I think they would have put a sea between them and where they’ve come from. I’m not just saying that because I’m Irish, but I think genuinely they would have gone somewhere over there. I know that Nina when she’s trying to hunt out Grisha who are undercover she’s listened to stories and folklore and fairy tale stories. She knows where Grisha hide and how Grecia hide, so I think she’d have a good idea about how to conceal them in the Wandering Isle. She’d probably tailor them a little bit, and they’d just be a little farm folk and happy for the rest of their lives, if only.
Calahan Skogman: I think honestly wherever Nina would want to go. There would have been some resistance, but I think he would have probably followed her anywhere. It’s interesting to think about the possibilities, right? I like to imagine Matthias and Nina escaping in that moment, and they could do whatever. I think that the feelings they have for each other are so powerful and raw and immediate, that it’s really interesting and crazy that it’s kind of severed at this moment. Because of what happens afterwards, there’s a lot of mending that has to take place.