Why Netflix’s ‘Shadow and Bone’ Changed Main Character’s Race

Showrunner Eric Heisserer tells TheWrap how that switch also shaped the look of his writers’ room

“Shadow and Bone,” Netflix’s long-awaited TV adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse books, premieres Friday with a leading lady that looks very different from the one the author described in her novels. This change takes main character Alina Starkov, a teenager working as a mapmaker in the First Army of the Russia-esque country of Ravka, from being the “pale” girl she’s described as in the book “Shadow and Bone” to a mixed-race character played by mixed-race actress Jessie Mei Li.

And the reason for this switch is because Bardugo and showrunner Eric Heisserer wanted to find a better way to tell the “outsider” story in Bardugo already has in her book in a visual way that will resonate with viewers more than any heavy-handed dialogue could.

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Jennifer Maas

Jennifer Maas

TV Reporter • jennifer.maas@thewrap.com • Twitter: @jmaasaronson