Netflix’s Shadow and Bone takes viewers on a winding, exhilarating journey. The adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse novels luxuriates in the sweeping moments of power imbalances, Grisha abilities, and relationships. And it indulges in some more lighthearted moments too—one in particular with a goat. Yes, a goat. Milo the goat appeared in two episodes of the eight-episode first season and stole the show, inspiring fan art and memes all over social media. Dub this four-legged legend a new type of a Grisha, a Heartmelter, and give Milo a kefta. Because Milo’s scenes have seared themselves upon viewers minds’ as peak adorableness, we went behind-the-scenes with cast member Kit Young (Jesper Fahey) via Zoom and series co-executive producer and writer Daegan Fryklind via email to learn about all the Milo details that have been keeping us awake at night.
Two identical female goats, named Ugri and Bugri, portrayed Milo, Young tells us, “I think it was a reference to a Hungarian nursery rhyme, which I think means running and jumping. They really should have been called ‘Screaming’ and ‘Pooping’. One was the screamer and one was the pooper, like that goat meme where it screams. It was like that. And the other one, whenever you’d pick it up, would just poo everywhere. And quite often.”
While that certainly made for some complications while filming, Milo did bring some additional humor into the series. Though that’s not the only reason for the goat’s presence. “Humor and tone were 100% part of the reason why Milo landed in this storyline. It was a combination of a few things,” Fryklind recalls.
She continues, “In earlier episodes, it’s mentioned that Jesper is fearless, and so knowing we were going to send the Crows into the Fold, it was like… is he? Maybe he isn’t. Maybe there are times when he jams. And part of it was wanting to make sure everyone had something to do on the train. Kaz is pulling information out of Arken. Arken is driving the train. Inej has her faith. But Jesper needed a thing. And we needed to build tension… so Jesper freezing in the moment when they needed a sharpshooter, that felt right. And then of course, what would force him to calm down? An emotional support goat!”
Milo provides Jesper comfort as the Crows cross the Fold and volcra start attacking the train. It’s precious. And it’s because Arken, a.k.a. the Conductor who smuggles clients across the Fold, knows his business.
Fryklind says, “It was baked into the earlier part of the episode, when Arken gives the list of items he needs so they can cross the Fold. Arken has sized up Jesper and knows he’s going to freak out. He knows early on that they need this goat. And we definitely wanted our audience to think the goat was bait. There was a line that was cut where Inej asks what his name is and Kaz says ‘Bait’. There was an early scene in script too where Kaz goes to buy the goat and there’s an old goat and the cute one. The goat herder won’t sell the old one so Kaz is stuck with this baby cutie, who is described in script as ‘WORLD’S CUTEST GOAT’. I think we succeeded there with casting.”
“The goat itself is also an homage to two things: before Eric [Heisserer] reached out about joining the show, I was thinking about, ‘Hey, let’s move to the Gulf Islands and raise goats.’ Instead I put one in the script (thank you for saving me, Eric!). And also it’s a nod to my emotional support g.o.a.t. Milo, my dog, who was our room mascot, immortalized in the show now (thanks to Christina Strain demanding that his name be Milo). RIP to a king who left us in July 2020,” Fryklind shares.
So Milo the emotional support goat was set to play a key role in the episode. Young received the script and remembers his initial reaction: “How on earth is this going to work?!” He continues, “It’s not even the fact that we’ve got a new member with this goat, but it was the sequence. We were on a moving train, and at first it was [me] holding the gun. And I was like, ‘That will be fine.’ But then shooting while holding the goat, and it’s described in such detail in the script, and it’s meant to look really, really badass… And I was like, ‘How are we going to do this?'”
Young says, “I had no idea how to do this because I didn’t even grow up with pets. I’m relatively nervous about working with animals anyway. But I was like, ‘How big is the goat? How heavy is the goat?’ They couldn’t quite tell me. And suddenly this goat arrived. We did a rehearsal. And I was like, ‘Oh, this is what it is. This is still going to be really tricky. I still don’t know how we’re going to do it.'”
Young, Freddy Carter (Kaz Brekker), and Amita Suman (Inej Ghafa) all feature in the scene with Milo. Though Young’s Jesper has the more intimate interaction with the goat, the whole trio met Ugri and Bugri ahead of time to make sure everyone was comfortable. Carter had to carry the goat through a crowd, and Fryklind notes the goat was not lightweight. Plus the goat screamed a lot that day. Their wranglers took care of them to make sure they weren’t stressed or overwhelmed, but goats like to scream. “If you’ve ever heard a baby goat scream, it sounds like a child being murdered in a back field,” Fryklind says. “This goat, on that day, was not having it and was pretty vocal about how she felt. She basically yelled at Freddy all day.”
And then, the train scene. They used the twin goat this time. Young remembers plotting out the scene’s geography because they realized the goat would make the scene or break it. To add to the challenge, the train scene took place in a small, tight space and had to hold four actors and the goat. Plus the set sat atop a moving platform, and they used real fire for the coal. Walls slid in and out of place, which mean resetting between takes took time. It was intense.
The train sequence broke down into three parts, with the action sequence featuring Young’s Jesper, a wildly skilled sharpshooter, fending off the volcra taking two days to capture. It had many moving pieces and as Young says, “The goat was imperative for all of it.”
Particularly the part where Jesper stands calmly with Milo tucked under his arm, closes his eyes, and takes out the swarming volcra. Young jokes, “I think maybe the goat’s a pacifist. The goat didn’t want to be part of all of this violence. Whenever I would pick the goat up in one arm, it would be placid. But, as soon as I stood up and started moving, and especially once I started spinning guns, the goat would often freak out and start kicking me. Or he would be kicking the gun in the opposite holster just directly below his feet. And these guns are quite expensive because they’ve been custom made. We had to protect the props and the goat, and also everyone else. There were a couple of times where I thought it was going to kick Freddy in the face.”
He continues, “There were so many things. It was like, ‘You need to calm down, Mr. Goat. I know it’s scary, but we’re all scared. We’ve got to find a way to get it to work.’ The one thing that was good is after the goats had eaten, they were very calm, but it did mean that that meant they were even heavier.”
And while Jesper taking out targets with his support goat is memorable, it’s not the moment that spawned a thousand memes. That came when Jesper hugged the goat. Young improvised some of his actions there. “I kept the goat under one arm because I knew that I needed the other arm free for later in the scene,” Young says. “And we wanted to get this moment where Jesper is really needing this goat as an emotional support goat. And then the director was like, ‘What if you hug it?’ And I did.”
“I think we got that shot in one take because we were running out of time on the day. And it’s just a moment that has become this meme, but actually lasted for three seconds. As I was hugging the goat, if the camera had not cut away within the next half a second, you would see the goat headbutt me with its horns and send me into a wall. It was this really tender moment, and then suddenly that goat’s like, ‘I’m done,'” he says.
“But it was a really lovely thing that we managed to capture that moment of comfort in a very chaotic shooting schedule and a very chaotic scene because it meant that when we did the goodbye the goat was actually used to me. And we were able to get that stuff quite simply. And it was quite sad to say goodbye to the goat,” Young relays.
Fryklind says all the goat antics were worth it. “Kit was also so lovely with that adorable demon, I mean, the results are incredible. My heart explodes every time I see them together.”
Fast forward to the penultimate episode. The dear Milo returns in a key moment to provide a method of escape for Archie Renaux’s Mal Oretsev. And this time, the goat on set behaved. She hit her mark every time. Young jokes, “It was actually quite infuriating that we’d had so many bumps in the road with the goats because when Archie worked with the goat, it worked seamlessly. One take and it was done. And I was like, ‘Hang on. Are you saying you like Archie more than you like the Crows? Because that ain’t fair.'”
Shadow and Bone is available to stream now on Netflix.
Amy Ratcliffe is the Managing Editor for Nerdist and the author of A Kid’s Guide to Fandom, available for pre-order now. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.