Shadow and Bone Author Leigh Bardugo on Creating Netflix Grishaverse

It was a long journey for author Leigh Bardugo from releasing her original novel "Shadow and Bone" in 2012, optioned by Dreamworks the same year before Netflix finally adapted the works to television. The current series combines elements from her original novel and "Six of Crows" in the first season, focusing on Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li), and follows a chosen one narrative as she's revealed to be a saintly sun summoner who can potentially heal a divided nation in the world. Bardugo spoke to Collider about how her franchise was left in limbo in Dreamworks before landing at Netflix and how the characters from both novels shape the Grishaverse in the first season of Shadow and Bone. There are spoilers from here on out.

shadow and bone
Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021

"Well, we did first sell the option to the original trilogy to DreamWorks in 2012," Bardugo said. "And then as so often happens in Hollywood, the executive who had brought it in and shepherded it left to work for another studio. So, the project was essentially orphaned. And by that time, when the option came up again, I had then written 'Six of Crows,' and we were taking meetings for both series. And it's a very weird process when you're an outsider in Hollywood, these meetings are very confusing. It sometimes feels like people haven't read the books, but want to talk about things like franchises, and even amusement parks. And it wasn't until we sat down with Netflix, and they really started talking about story and how much they valued the stories of young people, that I felt like, okay, maybe we're in the right place."

Shadow and Bone E1 Review: A Full Hour Of Worldbuilding and Setup
Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021

Bardugo talked about her first meeting with showrunner Eric Heisserer. "(Laughs) Well, it was a love at first sight situation, because Eric had Tweeted about 'Six of Crows' long ago when he was reading it for the first time," he said. "It was just, 'Oh, I was reaching out to a creator to let them know that I liked their work.' But meanwhile, my friends and I were all agog that the screenwriter of Arrival was reading it, of course, and was then spinning fantasies of him someday adapting one of my books. And then when we made this deal with Netflix, I said, 'Eric Heisserer is a fan, and he's pretty great at what he does, so maybe we should see if he's at all interested in working in television.' And they did approach him, and I don't know if the rest is history, but it's history in progress."

Shadow and Bone Author Leigh Bardugo on Creating Netflix Grishaverse
Cr. ATTILA SZVACSEK/NETFLIX © 2021

As things started coming together, Bardugo opened up on how the stories of "Shadow and Bone" and "Six of Crows" organically fit within each other's worlds. "I thought it was a pretty great idea," she said. "I am keenly aware of how many people the 'Six of Crows' stories brought into the Grishaverse, and to me, the story of the Crows, of Kaz and his crew, provides a very different kind of story and point of view, then 'Shadow and Bone' and Alina's story. Alina's story is very much a chosen one story. And 'Six of Crows', I think I wrote, in part, in response to finishing that trilogy and thinking, "Okay, well that's all well and good, but what happens to the people who don't have royal blood, or great magic, or grand destinies? How do the people who are caught in the crossfire, how did those people carry on and exist in this world where all these epic things are happening?" So, it felt very organic to bring these two stories together, to provide those different perspectives. And eventually, in the sequel to 'Six of Crows,' 'Crooked Kingdom,' some of these characters do end up on a collision course. So, it wasn't as if it was completely unheard of idea."

shadow and bone
Cr. DAVID APPLEBY/NETFLIX © 2021

Shadow and Bone also stars Archie Renaux, Freddy Carter, Anita Suman, Kit Young, Ben Barnes, and Zoë Wanamaker. For more on the first season's character arcs, chemistry, and what to look for in season two, you can go to Collider. The series is available to stream on Netflix.

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About Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangoria. As a writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.
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