There has always been the challenge of creating something entertaining while pleasing the fans when it comes to adapting a beloved book series to screen, but the cast and creators of Netflix’s new fantasy series “Shadow and Bone” are incredibly proud of what they’ve made.
Based on the worldwide bestselling Grishaverse books by Leigh Bardugo, “Shadow and Bone” follows a war-torn country where a young soldier named Alina Starkov has just unleashed an extraordinary power that could be the key to saving her country. The show stars Jessie Mei Li as Alina, whose background was changed from the original books to match Li’s mixed-race heritage—a change that Li is grateful for.
“Growing up, I didn’t see many characters that looked like me on screen, and certainly not in the leading role,” Li passionately expressed, noting the importance of Asian and mixed-race representation. “I felt so incredibly privileged to be able to do that.” She also pointed out how well-written the character was, citing that Alina shows “a lot of strength but also a lot of vulnerability” over the course of the series.
Another welcome change from the original books was the addition of characters from Bardugo’s sophomore series, “Six of Crows.” Fan favorites Inej Ghafa, Kaz Brekker and Jesper Fahey, played by Amita Suman, Freddy Carter and Kit Young respectively, were brought into the first season well before the plot of their own books take place. “Because the ‘Six of Crows’ in [this show] is a prequel, I think there’s the really special surprise of how you see the group come together and also the individualism of each character and the dynamic that creates,” Suman said, touching on the differences between the relationship of “the Crows” in the books and the live-action.
But modifying what is in the books can add on a layer of pressure that the cast is aware of due to the very passionate fanbase. “You do want to try to please everyone but that’s not always possible,” Archie Renaux, who plays Mal Oretsev in the series, recognized. “There’s always going to be someone that’s not happy with something but a lot of people are going to be very pleased.”
Ben Barnes, who is no stranger to being in live adaptations of beloved fantasy book series (our one-and-only Prince Caspian), reassured fans, “The most important thing is that you could not hope for a more passionate and loving group of people in terms of how they see these stories and how keen they are to bring them to life.”
“For me, the deep concern was always to make sure that the heart of the books—the arcs of the characters, the journey that the characters go on—remains the same,” Bardugo, who also serves as one of the show’s executive producers alongside showrunner Eric Heisserer, said. “But I also wanted Eric and the writers to feel free to play in that world and to innovate because I think a page by page adaptation would be boring.” It was also revealed that Bardugo gave her blessing to the cast and crew early on in production and is excited for audiences to experience the fantastical world they’ve created.
Watch the full interview above to see more of what the cast and creators had to say and be sure to catch “Shadow and Bone” on Netflix on April 23.