Picking up where we left off, this article focuses on what cast members, the author, and the showrunner have to say working on the show itself, as well as answering project-related questions. To read the interview on characters, click here. Otherwise, check out what everyone has to say about Shadow and Bone, launching 23rd April 2021!
Based on Leigh Bardugo’s worldwide bestselling Grishaverse novels, Shadow and Bone finds us in a war-torn world where lowly soldier and orphan Alina Starkov has just unleashed an extraordinary power that could be the key to setting her country free. With the monstrous threat of the Shadow Fold looming, Alina is torn from everything she knows to train as part of an elite army of magical soldiers known as Grisha. But as she struggles to hone her power, she finds that allies and enemies can be one and the same and that nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. There are dangerous forces at play, including a crew of charismatic criminals, and it will take more than magic to survive.
Showrunner / Executive Producer / Writer: Eric Heisserer
Author and Executive Producer: Leigh Bardugo
Cast: Jessie Mei Li (Alina Starkov), Archie Renaux (Malyen Oretsev), Freddy Carter (Kaz Brekker), Amita Suman (Inej), Kit Young (Jesper Fahey), Ben Barnes (General Kirigan)
Interviews were conducted in pairs (Jessie and Archie; Leigh and Eric), as a trio (Freddy, Amita and Kit), and solo (Ben Barnes).
Q for Leigh & Eric: Originally the rights to the book were for a movie at Dreamworks. Can you tell us how that became a series on Netflix? How it became Shadow and Bone together with Six of Crows, and how do you feel that that’s an advantage for the show?
Leigh: Wow, that’s a lot of questions! The rights to Shadow and Bone, the trilogy, were originally with Dreamworks back in 2012. And then, something happened, which often happens in Hollywood: the executive who had been really excited about the project left. And so, the story languished there for a while, and then when the rights became available, we had a lot of interest in the Shadow and Bone trilogy and the Six of Crows duology. But I wasn’t anxious to make a deal with somebody that I didn’t feel really good about partnering with. By that point, I had written five novels in the series. It was a big part of my life’s work. I really wanted to make sure that whosever hands I put these stories into, I could trust. And it really wasn’t until we sat down with Netflix, and with Eric, that I felt like we had found the right partners for this work, and anytime you’re going into an adaptation situation, I think that there’s a lot of risk involved, and a lot of emotion involved. But you roll the dice, and you hope you make a good deal, and I think in this case, we really gambled on the right people. And as to why we brought together Six of Crows and Shadow and Bone, I’m going to turn that over to Eric, because that’s a decision we really wanted to make at that first lunch that we had, but then it was a question of convincing everybody else that they should go along on that ride with us.
Eric: That was a challenge on my part. I was very excited about bringing those characters in and bringing that side of the world in, because it showcased just how big the sculpt was of the world that Leigh had built. And it also gave us a promise of characters that—no, we could not tell the story of Six of Crows alongside the Shadow and Bone trilogy, because you can’t “make the magic rules, and then break them in the same breath.” You need to sort of level up to that. But that gave us some freedom to introduce what those characters were doing, because those characters were still around and living in the world and allowed us to talk about maybe some of their origins or their behaviours and beliefs that you get to see happen organically in Six of Crows. That was my thought, and the fun was just sort of the hi-jinks and trouble that they get into early on, and how that rubs up against some of the story points in Shadow and Bone.
Q for Jessie & Archie: Shadow and Bone is a very interesting show which relates to the real world nowadays; what do you expect the audience to get from this project? How could we live together with the differences between each other, and how to accept the odds like what we see in the series?
Jessie: I feel like you just said it! You said that perfectly! So much of this world and the story is about acceptance and about finding acceptance in yourself—certainly from my perspective in playing Alina. She starts off not knowing who she is or where she belongs, and doesn’t believe that she’s important, and discovers that she has this inherent power that we see from the start, but it’s almost like she doesn’t see it herself, and I think I’d love people to be able to takeaway the fact that we are all important, and we are all strong, and we have such a part to play in everything. Yeah, I really hope that people see that and can see inner strength.
Q for Ben Barnes: You’re no stranger to projects that are adapted from books, so what makes Shadow and Bone different from the past projects that you’ve done before?
Ben: Yeah, I’ve done quite a lot of characters that are based on books actually. Very, very rarely have I had the opportunity to have the author available on text message though, or even on set at some point. When I first got the role, I sent her a picture of me with the book, and she would text me lots of black heart emojis, which she uses when she’s excited about something. That became kind of our language. And then when she visited the set, I crept up behind her and whispered in her ear, “Fine. Make me your villain,” which is a quote from her own book, which terrified her, I think. But yeah, I think you feel that extra little bit of motivation to really please people who love these books and have imagined them in their minds, but actually we just wanted to make something that we enjoyed and that we were proud of and it’s necessarily a bit different from the books: we’ve mixed five books—characters from other stories in the same universe, so there’s treats in store for people who know the books very well. We also have to make a show for the people who have never heard of the books as well, and so I’m excited for people to see it! I’ve just binged the whole thing myself and I’m very excited for people to go on that journey.
Q for Jessie & Archie: The Grishaverse is basically a sprawling universe; it’s vast. What is it about Leigh Bardugo’s work that made you say “hey, I want to join in. I want to be in for this ride.”
Jessie: For me, it’s the characters.
Archie: It’s an interesting dynamic in that technology is just starting to get better with things like guns, and in terms of weapons. We get into that point in this era, and in this world, where powers might be becoming a little bit more redundant, because of how fast technology has evolved, so that creates a really interesting dynamic. And it’s in a time, and it feels like it’s in a place which the fiction fantasy genre hasn’t explored yet?
Jessie: Yeah, agreed. Like what Archie was saying, this added thing of almost like an Industrial Revolution happening, and suddenly everything is changing and changing really quickly, and I think all the characters—I loved all the characters in Leigh’s books. I think they’re so well-put together, and they’re so loveable. And they all very much exist in this world, and they help us believe the world. So yeah, I think she’s created some real beautiful, beautiful characters and places.
Archie: For sure.
Q for Freddy, Amita & Kit: There are so many things going on in the series and we get to see a whole new world, so what do you like the most in the world of Shadow and Bone? It could be anything like your character, the setup, the culture; it could be anything.
Freddy: That’s a very hard question.
Kit: Yeah, there’s so much to choose from! I feel like we’re going to say the same thing, so I’m going to wait till you say yours, so you say the things I’m thinking, and then I can copy you after that.
Freddy: I’m going to go really small and really detailed and say my gloves are actually one of my favourite things from filming, because I just know how much effort went into—you know, the concept, and the different ideas, and the actual skill and craftsmanship that went into making gloves—that I would be able to sort of do all the things I had to do. That was seriously impressive, and I still have them.
Amita: I think, for me, it was walking onto the set of Ketterdam, and The Crow Club, because I read the books and I was imagining how it was going to be in my head, and the way Leigh Bardugo has written the world of Six of Crows and Ketterdam and the Grishaverse, and all the different places like Ravka and Shu Han, and just creating an actual detailed world and seeing that come alive on screen, because it’s something you’ve never seen before. So Ketterdam is basically our version of Gotham, it’s the New Amsterdam, and it’s Russian-inspired, and I think the world is just so intricate and exciting to watch, and it’s completely new. In fantasy, everything is already being done, so it’s really hard to kind of bring in a new world, but this show really, really has done that.
Kit: Yeah, I second that. I’m going to completely cheat on this question and just talk about everything I love: the world of it has been realised on screen, like the costumes, play set is so beautifully detailed, and you know immediately when you see a certain character where you are in the story, and I think that’s really, really powerful. But also, everyone’s just got such good faces and they’re doing good stuff! And I think the relationships between all the characters are really, really brilliant. And also, yeah, Kaz’s gloves. They’re alright too.
Q for Jessie & Archie: There’s talk on social media that Shadow and Bone will be the next big fantasy obsession, kind of like “Game of Thrones” and “The Witcher”, especially among fans of such genres. So what is your take on that?
Archie: Well, I would really love that! If it were the next “Game of Thrones”, that would be amazing! That’s some pretty big shouts; they’re really great shows. But yeah, I think I’m—personally, for me—quietly confident. I’ve got a lot of faith in it, and Leigh’s world that she created—it is fantastic—and the way that Eric and his team of writers have transcribed that onto the screen, I think, is something truly special, and I’m really excited to be able to see it.
Jessie: Yeah, I agree. And it’s nice as well, because where things like “Game of Thrones” and “The Witcher”, they’re brilliant, but they are more adult than our show? But our show isn’t for kids, so it’s in that nice, sweet spot where it’s really enjoyable to watch; for a bigger age group, I think.
Archie: Yeah, I think everyone!
Jessie: Yeah, so it feels really universal, and I hope that people will respond really well to that.
Q for Ben Barnes: What do you expect audience to get from this series, since I found the series Shadow and Bone made a very interesting point reflecting the real world nowadays?
Ben: Well I love fantasy shows because they can explore the world through allegory, and I think that our show and these stories are anything about identity and finding your place in the world, no matter where you’re from, no matter who your people are, and no matter what your skill set is, to find out where you feel like you belong, or where you don’t feel like you belong, and what your cause is; where do you hang your allegiance, and where do you hang your hat at the end of the day, and I think that all good stories are really about that in the end. They’re about “what are we doing here?” And “where do we fit in?” And “how could we be happy and support the people that we love?” And the causes we believe in. And I think that even though we can’t imagine these lands that are worlds away and these kind of powers and adventures, we can still see ourselves in these characters, and we can still identify with them and I think that is what all great stories are really about.
(POSSIBLE MINOR SPOILER) Q for Jessie & Archie: Season 1 ends in a way that opens up the show to a lot of possibilities, and we know there’s still so much material that fans are excited to see, like Nikolai (OMG Nikolai!) So what is the storyline—whether your own or for any other storyline in the series—that you’re most excited to see play out on screen?
Jessie: *lets out huge breath* I don’t know! All of them, to be honest! Where the show finishes, there are so many questions like you just said. I’m really excited to see what happens with the Crows, especially. They’re such an exciting group of characters, and actors as well. What about you, Archie?
Archie: I’m excited for our story, actually, a little bit, because we might—if we follow second book—we get to explore some new lands and new countries, which I’m very excited about if it happens.
Jessie: Yeah, that’ll be really cool!
Launch Date: 23rd April 2021!
Remember, Shadow and Bone launches 23rd April 2021, but if you can’t wait already, here’s the trailer for you to check out first:
You can also visit these sites for more information:
We’ll see you in the Fold!