Shadow And Bone’s Jessie Mei Li Explains How She Changed Alina From The ‘Wobbly Girl’ Fans Met In Season 1

When we met Alina Starkov she was a cartographer who had just found out she could summon the sun. That kind of power is intimidating, and hard to harness, so during Season 1 of Shadow and Bone Jessie Mei Li played this protagonist in a way that showed how unsure she was about her power. However, now, in Season 2 of Shadow and Bone the Sun Summoner is more comfortable with her power, and gaining more of it throughout the season, and Li explained how she changed her performance between seasons to show Alina’s newfound confidence. 

As the cast of Shadow and Bone returned to set for the second season, they all had to think about how the events of the first season impacted their characters, and how those moments in The Fold impacted them physically and mentally. For Alina specifically, Li worked on slightly altering her character’s voice to show her newfound power and confidence. The actress explained what she did to accomplish this to CinemaBlend: 

There are lots of things that I wanted to try and weave in with Alina. Because I wanted it to feel believable, you know, that she still had to feel like the same girl that we got to know at the start of Season 1. So things that were important were like, there's changes to her voice and certain facial expressions. At the end of Season 1, for example, when she gets her amplifier, you know, I slightly changed the places where her voice comes from.

For context, Li is talking about one of the most important moments from Season 1 when her powers are amplified after getting the power of a stag. During Season 2, she gets two more amplifiers by way of the Sea Whip and the Firebird, and with each one she gets more power and her emotions are heightened. The actress continued to talk about how Alina changes between the end of Season 1, and when she is amplified by the Sea Whip, saying:

And then again in Season 2, when she gets her second amplifier, you know, I just wanted to add like subtle little changes. It’s there in the script as well, Alina sort of, she becomes more rageful after the second amplifier, but also it was more about her gaze and her eye contact and her voice those things are important to make her feel more grounded rather than the sort of the wobbly, the wobbly girl we met in Season 1.

Alina really does change from the “wobbly,” confused girl in Season 1, into a powerful, rageful woman by the end of Season 2. Li spoke with Collider about how this transformation into a tenser, rage-filled, yet confident Alina physically affected her. She said the way she held Alina’s tension was totally different from her own, and she realized that this difference was what was causing her back pain. It’s fascinating to hear the actress’s process, especially when it comes to the physical evolution of the most powerful character in one of the best fantasy shows on TV right now.

Watching Season 2 I could feel the differences in Li’s performance, she carried herself differently as Alina post-amplifiers, and that helped emphasize the impact they were having on not only her body, but the entire story. To see how Jessie Mei Li evolved as Alina between Season 1 and Season 2 of Shadow and Bone, which just premiered on the 2023 TV schedule, you can stream the series with a Netflix subscription

Riley Utley
Weekend Editor

Riley Utley is the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. She has written for national publications as well as daily and alt-weekly newspapers in Spokane, Washington, Syracuse, New York and Charleston, South Carolina. She graduated with her master’s degree in arts journalism and communications from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. Since joining the CB team she has covered numerous TV shows and movies -- including her personal favorite shows Ted Lasso and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. She also has followed and consistently written about everything from Taylor Swift to Fire Country, and she's enjoyed every second of it.