Shadow and Bone: Author ‘didn’t watch’ Alina Starkov audition tapes after Jessie Mei Li’s

Shadow and Bone: Netflix release trailer for new series

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Newcomer Jessie Mei Li steps into the role of Alina Starkov for an exciting new fantasy series on Netflix, Shadow and Bone. Based on Leigh Bardugo’s epic Grishaverse novels, the author spoke exclusively to Express.co.uk about casting the series’ most iconic character.

Leigh Bardugo has revealed she didn’t watch another audition tape after seeing Jessie Mei Li in the role of Alina Starkov for the first time.

Producers for the brand new Netflix series, Shadow and Bone, sent her a number of audition tapes ahead of filming the first live action adaptation of the Grishaverse.

However, Bardugo admitted she quickly found her favourite among the casting videos, and English actor Jessie Mei Li landed the leading role.

Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, the fantasy writer recalled being sent the top five hopefuls for Alina.

She explained: “The producer who sent them to me said ‘okay, we’re sending you our top five.

“We have a favourite, but we don’t want to tell you what the favourite is because we don’t want to bias you’.”

The author revealed that the producers sent out a worldwide casting call for Alina Starkov, one of fans’ most beloved characters from the original Grishaverse books.

In the first season of the new fantasy series, Alina discovers the fate of the world rests on her shoulders when she unleashes her previously untapped magical abilities.

Producers were eager for the original creator of the character to give her final approval and, thankfully, this wasn’t an issue after viewing Jessie Mei Li’s tape.

Bardugo continued: “So I started watching the videos, like ‘okay, okay, okay’.

“And then I got to Jessie. And I watched it, and I shut my laptop and I didn’t bother with the rest of them, because I knew it was her.”

Fans will get a chance to watch Li’s stunning lead performance when the whole series drops on Netflix on Friday.

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Additionally, she has also been cast in a major role in Edgar Wright’s upcoming film, Last Night In Soho, and recently starred in a stage production of All About Eve with Gillian Anderson and Lily James.

Li takes centre stage in Shadow and Bone, however, and Bardugo revealed she even refused to watch the rest of the tapes if she wasn’t the frontrunner.

She recalled: “I called up the producer and said ‘it better be Jessie because I’m not watching any of the rest’.

“And thankfully it was because it would have been a very awkward conversation. But I think we knew.”

The author’s support for Jessie Mei Li for the role should certainly assure fans who may be anxious about the Grishaverse being adapted for the small screen.

The up-and-comer will also be joining Ben Barnes and Zoë Wanamaker, along with Freddy Carter and Kit Young as fan favourites Kaz Brekker and Jesper Fahey, respectively.

Netflix have yet to confirm whether the series will be renewed for a second season, but Bardugo is optimistic the Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows series will continue.

Shadow and Bone premieres on Friday, April 23 on Netflix.


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