Jessie Mei Lei as Alina Starkov in Shadow and Bone

When it comes to book-to-screen adaptations, the production process is rarely cut and dry behind the scenes. For Netflix’s upcoming fantasy series Shadow and Bone, bestselling author Leigh Bardugo, who thought up the expansive Grishaverse, stayed alongside the development every step of the way. There were multiple opportunities for the hero’s journey of Sun Summoner Alina Starkov over the years. How did the adaptation find its home on Netflix?

The Netflix series is a rare, close adaptation to its source material that even elevates its material through bringing in characters from her subsequent duology Six of Crows. Over the past decade, there has been some uneven luck with adaptations of Young Adult series in Hollywood. Here’s what Leigh Bardugo told CinemaBlend about her own experience over the years to see her characters come to life:

The rights for Shadow and Bone were originally acquired by Netflix in 2012 and as is common in Hollywood, the executive who brought that story in left and Shadow and Bone kind of languished there for a while. But, once the rights became available again, we were in a sort of a strange situation. What they do in Hollywood is they bring you to a lot of meetings and they kind of butter you up and tell you you’re great and give you a tiny bottle of water and then they talk about your books as if they haven’t read them.

How many times have you watched the movie or TV version of a beloved book and hardly recognized it? Leigh Bardugo went through years of trying to get her Shadow and Bone novels a chance at an adaptation, going back nearly a decade. Once an executive part of the project left the streaming service the first time around, the fantasy story was left collecting dust for a while until a number of prospects came back around to sell the author on taking on the franchise. Bardugo continued to tell the story with these words:

That really changed when we got to Netflix. One of the first things one of the executives said is ‘we take the stories of young people seriously’ and for me this has always been about finding the right partner and I was very lucky because from the first time Eric [Heisserer] and I sat down together at that lunch we were very much on the same page. Sometimes trusting your gut goes horribly, but in this case, I think it was the right gamble.

Leigh Bardugo serves as executive producer on Shadow and Bone and gave the showrunner keys to Arrival and Lights Out writer Eric Heisserer. He was a fan of her books, particularly with her 2015 followup to the Shadow and Bone trilogy, Six Of Crows. Once he became hooked on the unique fantasy world, he tweeted out his love for the series on Twitter to Leigh Bardugo and it stuck.

About a year after he confessed his love for the Grishaverse, Netflix got in touch with Eric Heisserer about pitching a Shadow and Bone series. When he and Leigh Bardugo met, they seemed to instantly connect on what a Shadow and Bone series could be and in 2019, pre-production began on Netflix’s upcoming series.

Fans of the books can certainly rest easy knowing Leigh Bardugo really took the time to find a team for her series who cared about the source material, instead of going for the first executive who looked its way.

Shadow and Bone will introduce audiences to Alina’s epic journey when the first season drops on Netflix this Friday, April 23. Check out the full lineup of new movies and TV shows coming to the streaming service this month.

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