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How ‘Shadow and Bone’ Season 2’s Costumes Embraced Real History for Fantastical Cultures (Exclusive Video)

This behind-the-scenes featurette offers a look inside the making of the Grishaverse

“Shadow and Bone” Season 2 expands an already complex universe by taking on more source material from Leigh Bardugo’s books, unfurling the fictional fantasy map to explore countries in the Grishaverse and four completely new characters. And in an exclusive new behind-the-scenes featurette, costume designer Wendy Partridge explains how the season’s costumes helped tell the story.

Ben Barnes, Jessie Mei Li, Archie Renaux and the original Crows Freddy Carter, Kit Young and Amita Suman return alongside brand new characters. Both new and returning characters continue to shed layers of identity as the story develops, and these characters’ costumes reflected subtle shifts in their roles as well for Season 2.

As for where the show is headed, some of the characters’ costumes hint at that as well. Costume Designer Wendy Partridge kicked off the season by coordinating colors between Alina and Mal as they became more open about their affection for each other. But as Mal sets off to search for new purpose and Alina forms a political alliance and marriage with Prince Nikolai (Patrick Gibson), that relationship shifts. Nikolai also has a nichevo’ya wound to reckon with after realizing it might be infected.

“There was a very conscious design of Nikolai’s ceremonial military coronation frock coat as the double eagle embroidery emblazoned down the front of the jacket was a very clear mixing of the royal emblem and Kirigan’s kefta foreshadowing the darkness encroaching within him,” Partridge told TheWrap in an email. “There was also a specific color pairing with Nikolai and Alina in this final scene to mirror the color pairing in the open scenes of E1 so show the shift from the love for Mal to the commitment to Nikolai.”

Genya (Daisy Head) undergoes her own accessory transformation when she has to wear an eye patch after the nichevo’ya scar her as well. She attends Nikolai’s coronation as one of Alina’s escorts.

“As Genya had been brutalized by Kirgan’s shadow creatures and made to feel so ugly after her main role of beautifying the queen for so long, it was very important to follow through with the sentiment of David (Luke Pasqualino) which speaks to the beauty inside not the exterior image,” Partridge said. “Therefore it was important to have Genya embrace the scars she bore and not hide within them allowing her to shine in her place as one of Alina’s escorts to the coronation despite the attempts of Kirigan to punish her so cruelly.”

Showrunner Eric Heisserer credits Leigh Bardugo’s books and world-building with the foundation for diversifying the story on screen in the Netflix YA television adaptation.

Showrunners Eric Heisserer and Daegan Fryklind hired consultants for the fantasy countries of Novyi Zem and Shu Han, both of which become part of the show’s background fabric both in specific scenes as well as identity aspects of certain characters. History lessons played a large role in the continued world-building as did guest speakers to flesh out certain characters. Twin brother and sister Tamar Kir-Bataar (Anna Leong Brophy) and Tolya Yul-Bataar(Lewis Tan) hail from Shu Han, which also happens to be part of Sun Summoner Alina’s (Jessie Mei Li) ethnic background. 

“Historical and cultural consultant Kimberly Harui, with her education on the history and culture of East Asia in particular, got very familiar with the books and then she got very familiar with the show and then talked about the influences there and how we can build something based on those influences that is also still historically authentic to the mid 1800s hat was already sort of established in season one,” Heisserer said. 

Leong-Brophy and Lewis Tan told TheWrap that they relate to their characters since they both are of mixed race. In the story, Shu Han people face racial discrimination because of tensions with Ravka. 

“[Harui] taught us about how some of the clothing mentioned is Mongolian inspired which makes sense because there’s a lot of mountain regions there, and how some of the architecture is this way and then how some of the names are coded in different parts, not necessarily China, but this is all stuff that we got to learn,” Heisserer added. “Then she approved the scripts and then we had a larger Chinese and one Japanese American creative review team to help navigate that space for us and talk to us about things and make changes as needed.”

“Antoinette Messam was our costume designer guest for Novyi Zem, who came and worked with Wendy Partridge, she came from the ‘Harder They Fall’ and she brought a team and we flew in a head wrap expert to do really cool Zemini designs.”

Novyi Zem also doesn’t restrict its Grisha to one talent, instead calling them “zowa,” or blessed, regardless of their specific powers. The Zemeni don’t label Grisha in the order that Ravka does. 

“Zemeni, interestingly enough, don’t have any subgenre of Grisha. There are no orders to them. There’s a prophetic element to that, you get into the later books, you discover that a Grisha who trains enough can discover that just about every power exists within them,” Heisserer said. “I think it’s a testament to the characters when you realize people are good at more than one thing. If you’re Grisha guess what, you don’t have to be pigeonholed into one power set or the other. We liked that with the Zemini. We made it sure that was brought in in the first episode and then later on, touched a little bit on with the Jesper.”

“Shadow and Bone” Seasons 1 and 2 are now streaming on Netflix.