NYCC 2020 Metaverse: Bringing the Grishaverse to Life

One of the most highly anticipated new upcoming shows on Netflix is the Shadow and Bone adaptation based on the Grishaverse novels by Leigh Bardugo. The series will heavily take from the Shadow and Bone trilogy and the Six of Crows duology with Bardugo serving as Executive Producer along with Eric Heisserer.

The duo had a virtual panel at New York Comic-Con this weekend and while they weren’t able to talk much yet about show specifics, they did speak about the challenges they faced getting the series made. In addition as a treat to fans the Grisha score for the series was revealed and it’s a beautifully haunting but intense piece of music. The two also chatted about casting, props, sets and much more. Read on for the most important nuggets in their conversation.

  • Leigh Bardugo had first come across Executive Producer Eric Heisserer when he Tweeted that he was reading her novel Six of Crows. Heisserer goes on to add that it all started for him with a New Year’s resolution to do more pleasure reading and he had a friend who recommended the book as an Ocean’s 11 in a Dickensian Game of Thrones world.
  • Leigh also mentions how she and Eric met at a delicious Italian restaurant to talk about how they were going to adapt Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows together and she tells fans that she thinks he did a really good job.
  • Eric asks how it’s been for Leigh with lots of people wanting to adapt her work. She responds not great honestly. Leigh comments that most writers dream about their works being adapted because it means they will reach a much wider audience and what they all want is their stories to be read. Her experience with Hollywood though has been that in a lot of meetings it seemed that most people hadn’t even read the books or had their assistant read one of them and then had it described. Then came a meeting with Netflix whom she had previously met with when the rights to Shadow and Bone belonged to a different company. The folks at Netflix understood that it was important to tell the stories of young people honestly.
  • She’s also very grateful that they (she and Eric) ended up being in the same page in terms of inclusion, how to staff the writing room, and in terms on what mattered to them regarding the story meant a lot to her.
  • They got really lucky in casting fantastic people who are genuinely caring to one another and that is apparently a rarity.
  • Eric said that there was a moment that the project became very real for him was when they were in the Crow Club and he was teaching one of the dealers how they would count money in Kerch and he got goosebumps.
  • For Leigh to come onto set to see everything fully realized she cried a lot, especially when she saw Jessie (Mei Li) and Archie (Renaux) in full costume. The two play Alina Starkov and Mal Oretsev. She also had two sides operating at the same time, one who felt the childlike wonder of a dream being realized and the other is the critic analyzing everything she sees. Leigh though loved the moments when her critic side got shut down and notes that this happened when Ben Barnes and Zoe Wanamaker did scenes together. Also it was pretty great for her to be able to wear a kefta.
  • Eric’s favorite Grisha quote is, “Fine, make me your villain.” He even has a mug of it somewhere! Leigh adds that the first day she was on set Ben (Barnes) wasn’t shooting that day but he came by and he scared the crap out of her by coming up from behind and saying the line.
  • Leigh reveals that her favorite moment on the show involves a book being thrown at someone. Mmmm now who could that be?
  • Eric answers a question that there’s a lot of challenges adapting a series that has a lot of fans. They are trying to carry a torch for the things that mean a lot to everyone but different people will have different favorite characters and relationships.
  • Getting fantasy made is really challenging because it costs so much money to make it look good. Even to make it look bad costs a lot. There’s a lot of decision makers involved to release anything.
  • Leigh’s favorite prop on set was the book she mentioned earlier but also seeing Kaz’s cane was a big deal for her. Personally it was meaningful because she wrote Six of Crows when she was coming to terms with having to use a cane for the rest of her life because of chronic pain. She had to come to terms with internalized ableism on what it meant to be a woman walking around with a cane The cane became a symbol for danger, strength, and power, meant a lot to her.
  • Eric talks about how with Jesper’s guns, they had so many people in the art department infatuated with Leigh’s books that they went the extra mile. There was a Hungarian gunsmith who came in to do custom etchings on the guns and they looked like they were gifts from an embassy and should be in a museum.
  • Leigh also says that to see the Grisha First Army camp come to life was pretty extraordinary since it is the first scene in the book.
  • Eric says that the other reason they can’t share anything is because they aren’t finished yet. Because of current conditions with the pandemic getting visual effects done takes so much longer. He’s holding on to his promise that he isn’t going to rush that and they want to get it right.
  • Leigh hopes that the series will feel like a gift or a treat, something that speaks to the same emotions as the books but also gives readers something completely new and different that doesn’t exist on those pages.
  • On casting, Leigh saw a selection of audition tapes but says that for finding the right actor for the role was instinctive. For casting Alina, she was sent five clips and she had seen three of them and the third was Jessie. She didn’t bother watching the other two and she texted Eric right away. Her text had been, “WE MUST GET JESSIE.”
  • The Darkling was a tough part to cast and initially they had seen younger actors but they had lacked the gravitas of portraying that they had lived very long lives. They got really lucky that Ben is believable as a military leader, you believe him as somebody who has endured a lot over the course of time. He brought a tremendous sympathy to the role that’s really important.

Shadow and Bone stars Freddy Carter (Kaz Brekker), Jessie Mei Li (Alina Starkov), Ben Barnes (General Kirigan/The Darkling), Amita Suman (Inej Ghafa), Danielle Galigan (Nina Zenik), Kit Young (Jespey Fehey), Sujaya Dasgupta (Zoya Nazyalensky), Archie Renaux (Mal Oretsev), Daisy Head (Genya Safin), and Calahan Skogman (Mattias Helvar).

There is currently no release date yet still for the series but certainly fans of the Grishaverse novels like myself will be eagerly awaiting it.

Watch the full NYCC 2020 panel now:

Nicole C
Nicole C
Nicole is the Features Editor for The Workprint. She may or may not be addicted to coffee, audiobooks, and sci-fi.

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