Shadow and Bone Is the Diverse, Queer Fantasy Series We Need Right Now
'Shadow & Bone' Is the Diverse, Queer Fantasy Series We Need Right Now
PRIDE chats with the cast & crew of Netflix's Shadow and Bone about all the representation featured in the new YA fantasy series!
Netflix's highly-anticipated, young adult fantasy series Shadow and Bone (a live-action adaptation of author Leigh Bardugo's best-selling Grishaverse book series), is packed with a ton of adventure, heists, romance, comedy, and magic to keep you glued to your screens, but another thing the series excels in is creating a world that is as diverse as the one we are living in IRL and being inclusive of all the sorts of differences people have.
But instead of glossing over those differences, like other fantasy properties would do, Shadow and Bone explores and even showcases them. Like in the way that the show's main hero Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) faces adversities for being a multiracial, Asian woman. And in the way that Dregs member Jesper Fahey's (Kit Young) sexuality is just a normal part of his life, and nothing to be ashamed or secretive of.
PRIDE got to chat with the cast and crew of the series — including actors Jessie Mei Li, Archie Renaux, Ben Barnes, Kit Young, Amita Suman, Freddy Carter, Grishaverse author Leigh Bardugo, and showrunner Eric Heisserer — about Asian representation, queer inclusion, and the importance of fantasy worlds being as inclusive as real ones.
"When I was growing up I rarely saw anyone who looked like me on the screen," Jessie Mei Li, who plays lead half-Shu heroine Alina in Shadow and Bone, told PRIDE about playing a character who often gets discriminated against for her racial identity. "I'm so proud to be able to, you know, for the 13-year-old me who's out there somewhere, who can watch Alina growing and being the center of the story and having so much power. I'm really excited for young people generally, but, specifically young, Asian people at the moment, given everything that's going on"
"I felt like it added so much to the character, having her face so much discrimination growing up and it really shaped her personality for me and for the writers. She's told every day of her life that she looks like the enemy and that changes who she is. We know that she can stand up for herself and she is really strong and she obviously has this innate power, but she's also gentle and she's scared and she's vulnerable because of it. Everyday she's told that she's the enemy so she's saying, 'No, I'm not.' So much of her motivation to save Ravka is because she needs to prove that she is a good person and she's not the enemy. So it was really lovely to be able to have such a reason and motivation that was rooted so much in reality and things that I'd experienced."
"What I really love about the show, whether it's queer representation or race or gender dynamics, is that none of these things are all kind of outside the norm. They are given. No one who has a queer relationship is looked down on for it. It's not a secret thing that has to be kept hidden away. It's just people are who they are and they do what they do and people take note of it. It's as simple as that," Kit Young, who plays the show's cheeky, queer sharpshooter Jesper, said about the inclusion of LGBTQ+ people and relationships in Shadow and Bone. "I think it's really beautiful to just have a show where people are who they are and it doesn't have to be a big statement. That itself is a really positive statement, I feel. All the intimacy that we had in the show and the conversations we had, they had tremendous care and the best intentions."
Season 1 of Shadow and Bonepremieres Friday, April 23 on Netflix!