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Shadow and Bone’s Leigh Bardugo and Eric Heisserer talk necessary diversity in the series

If you look at the first Shadow and Bone novel, you’ll notice very little diversity. That’s changing in the show. Author and executive producer Leigh Bardugo and showruner Eric Heisserer revealed why.

As much as we love the Grishaverse, there is something that stands out in the earlier books. That is the lack of diversity, which Leigh Bardugo admits was a flaw in her writing. The series is changing that, as you can see just from the casting of the characters.

This change isn’t just for the sake of it or to be “woke” as so many people would say. Instead, it’s about being inclusive and reflecting the world around us. It’s something that both Bardugo and showrunner Eric Heisserer decided was important.

Leigh Bardugo shares what it’s like to see Shadow and Bone adapted

Seeing your work as an author adapted into a TV series or movie can be exciting, but it is also scary. For Bardugo, this wasn’t just about handing the keys to her first novel over to a writing team. She’s handed the keys to what is the bulk of her life’s work so far.

Shadow and Bone on Netflix isn’t just going to adapt the first book. There are storylines from Six of Crows and other novels mixed into the first season.

However, this wasn’t just a quick jump into the world to get the adaptation out there as fast as possible.

“We waited to find the right partners,” Bardugo explained, “And when I sat down with Eric for the first time before he’d taken the job and we’d met with Netflix, I had such a good feeling. We were so much on the same page in terms of what we wanted to change, what we felt the heart of the stories were that we wanted to keep, and as it turned out, my gut was right. It turned out to be a very good gamble.”

Bringing up the topic of changes led to questions about diversity and inspiration.

The flaw in the first Shadow and Bone novel

When asked about why the changes were necessary, Bardugo admitted that she was echoing the fantasy that she grew up with. It’s something that many authors do, especially when it comes to their first novels.

Write what you know is commonly stated. While there is a lot of fantasy, the “what you know” part for Bardugo was white characters. It led to Shadow and Bone being a “very straight, very white story,” as she puts it.

“I think you can see as my books progress that I really reflect on what our world looks like, and what my world looks like in a more realistic way. And so that was something I wanted to make sure we not only carried over, but the show could do better than I had done.”

Heisserer discussed this a little more, saying how the show represents the Grishaverse world. The DNA of diversity was already there, and it was about embracing it all. Part of that was possible due to the diversity of the writing team, which really is where writing well for different races, sexual orientation, etc. is necessary.

For Heisserer, it was his job to get out of the way of his writers. They all had a favorite character and were excited to see a version of themselves on the screen. They got the chance to tell the stories important to them within the world.

“There is a lot more to do,” Heisserer admitted. “But this is a case of progress is not made in giant leaps sometimes, but in steps.”

There is hope for more to come if Shadow and Bone season 2 definitely happens.

Inspiration for adapting the books into the show

Bardugo mentioned that she has playlists for each character while she’s writing to get into the mood for them. What about when it came to adapting to the screen? This is something Heisserer was able to talk about.

“I hired everyone that was a lot more talented than I was,” Heisserer immediately admitted. This included the costume designer, Wendy Partridge.

Heisserer gave her the blueprints of the costumes that came from the books and she would be the one to go into the details and do the research to bring out particular looks and feelings. One of those was particular materials for military uniforms to bring out that initial look of people being officers.

“Those choices that were made by the experts in their fields really helped to inform and sometimes improve on ideas that had previously just existed in our imaginations.”

What about the development of the Shadow Fold? There were many ideas for that, and Heisserer worked with his VFX supervisor Ted Rae.

“He and I had been going through a number of iterations about what the Shadow Fold looked like. We had some very passionate opinions about it at the start and most of those passionate opinions got quashed because we realized they didn’t work. So we had a mourning period and then we went back at it. He finally got two close-ups of solar photography that just shows the raging surface of the sun…He gave me a photo negative of that and said ‘what if this is the skin and the fold, essentially the opposite of what Alina is, and I leaned into that.”

Kaz is not inspired by Peaky Blinders

One thing you may picture when reading Six of Crows is Kaz as Tommy Shelby on Peaky Blinders. Even if you didn’t at first, when someone mentions it, that’s what you start picturing.

The show brings some of the swagger that Shelby has on the Birmingham-set series, but was this show inspiration for the character of Kaz? It turns out that it definitely wasn’t, but Bardugo does see the similarities.

“When I started writing Six of Crows, there was no Peaky Blinders, at least not here in the U.S. Or if there was, I wasn’t aware of it. I started writing that book back in 2014. Sure enough, as soon as the book came out, people started saying ‘have you seen this show?’”

It turns out Bardugo didn’t watch Peaky Blinders until the pandemic because she didn’t want to be influenced by it. The similarities really are just coincidental. However, there are elements in Kaz and the Crows that she does see some similarities.

The series is certainly a beautiful adaptation of the books. Sure, there will be some disappointment in combining books together, but there’s no doubt you’re going to enjoy the Crows showing up on screen!

Shadow and Bone is out on Netflix on Friday, April 23.

Next: 50 best TV shows on Netflix right now

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