How to Get Cast on Netflix’s ‘Shadow and Bone’

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Photo Source: Dávid Lukács/Netflix

Season 2 of “Shadow and Bone” is hitting Netflix on March 16—and if the streamer renews the series, there could be potential casting opportunities on the horizon. Want to land a role in the Grishaverse? In this in-depth guide, we share audition tips from the show’s stars, plus everything you need to know about the casting process.

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What is “Shadow and Bone” about?

Eric Heisserer (“Bird Box,” “Arrival”) developed the literary adaptation, which combines two series from Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse novels—“Shadow and Bone” and “Six of Crows.” The show takes place in a war-torn world where society is divided into those who wield magic (Grisha), and those who don’t. 

Season 1 centers on Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li), a mapmaker for the First Army of Ravka who discovers that she’s a rare type of Grisha called a Sun Summoner; she soon joins an elite troop of magicians led by the mysterious General Kirigan (Ben Barnes) who are on a mission to destroy the sinister Shadow Fold. The series also follows a trio of petty criminals called the Crows, led by Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter), who are hired to find and kidnap Alina.

By the end of the season (spoiler alert!), Kirigan reveals himself to be the Darkling, the powerful Grisha who created the Shadow Fold. Alina and her childhood friend Mal Oretsev (Archie Renaux) join forces with the Crows and leave Ravka so that Alina can hone her abilities. According to Netflix, Season 2 will see the group seeking out a pair of mythical beasts that can help Alina become strong enough to defeat Kirigan.

Who’s in the ensemble of “Shadow and Bone”?

The Season 1 cast includes:

  • Jessie Mei Li as Alina Starkov
  • Archie Renaux as Malyen “Mal” Oretsev
  • Freddy Carter as Kaz Brekker
  • Amita Suman as Inej Ghafa
  • Kit Young as Jesper Fahey
  • Ben Barnes as General Kirigan
  • Zoë Wanamaker as Baghra
  • Sujaya Dasgupta as Zoya
  • Julian Kostov as Fedyor
  • Danielle Galligan as Nina Zenik
  • Calahan Skogman as Matthias
  • Daisy Head as Genya Safin
  • Kevin Eldon as the Apparat
  • Jasmine Blackborow as Marie
  • Gabrielle Brooks as Nadia
  • Luke Pasqualino as David Kostyk

Four new cast members are joining the mix for Season 2:

  • Patrick Gibson as Nikolai Lantsov
  • Jack Wolfe as Wylan Hendricks
  • Anna Leong Brophy as Tamar Kir-Bataar
  • Lewis Tan as Tolya Yul-Bataar

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Who are the casting directors for “Shadow and Bone”?

The show’s casting has earned praise from critics and book fans alike. The principal CDs for “Shadow and Bone” are Emmy winner Suzanne Smith, whose lengthy résumé includes “Band of Brothers,” “The Pacific,” and “Outlander”; and Sophie Holland, whose credits include “The Witcher,” “The Peripheral,” and “Anna and the Apocalypse.”

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How does the casting process work for “Shadow and Bone”?

Speaking on the series’ inclusive casting, Heisserer said, “Part of that came from the diversity of my writing team. They all showed up because they had a favorite character. They were excited about seeing some version of themselves on the screen. It became my job to get out of their way so that they [could] tell those stories in a way that felt authentic to their experience, but then still [held] true to the characters in the book. It’s really just trying to make as much headway as possible into that diversity, because it represents the real world…. So hopefully everybody likes the faces and the characters we see now, and we get to just add more to that.” 

Bardugo told Express, “I don't think casting is hard, because there are so many actors of color who are hungry for roles to play something other than ‘sidekick.’ ” After launching a worldwide call for the role of Alina, the producers and CDs received countless audition tapes and submissions; they sent the best ones to Bardugo for final approval. “I started watching the videos like: OK, OK, OK,” the author said. “And then I got to Jessie. And I watched it, and I shut my laptop, and I didn’t bother with the rest of them—because I knew it was her.”

Li, who is Chinese British, was performing in a play in London when she auditioned for “Shadow and Bone.” “It was…one of the only scripts looking specifically for a mixed-race character, which always intrigues me but can also be a bit worrying sometimes because you’re never really sure why,” Li told Elle Canada. For her initial audition, she said she read scenes “about Alina’s eyes, about her being an outsider. I saw that they were clearly not shying away from race, and I appreciated it. 

“It was one of those auditions where I came out of it feeling very good, which almost made me feel bad,” she added. “Most of the time, I’ve got quite a laid-back attitude to everything—and specifically with auditions, because there’s only so much you can do. You go in and do your best, and that’s it, really. You can’t worry about it too much. But [after this audition], I was like, Oh, I really liked that. Oh, I really hope I get it. And I think I had three or four rounds of auditions before I finally got the part and was cast in May of 2019. We started filming that October, so it was a long time between getting cast and actually working. It was, like, the longest summer of my life.”

Renaux, on the other hand, went through a much shorter casting process. “I found out about it quite a bit before I actually auditioned, but I was doing some tapes for another film,” he told PopCulture.com. After he wrapped filming on “Voyagers,” the actor recalled, his manager reached out to him and said, “They still haven’t found their guy for this. Do you want to give that a go?” The audition went so well that Renaux went to costuming and camera testing shortly afterward.

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Will there be a third season of “Shadow and Bone”? If so, when will it begin filming?

There’s no word on whether or not the fantasy drama will return for Season 3. However, Eric Heisserer told Collider that “it was a three-year plan that I laid out—or a three-season plan.”

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Where can you find “Shadow and Bone” casting calls?

Since the show hasn’t been greenlit for an additional season yet, the show isn’t currently looking for actors. In the meantime, keep an eye on our casting call page for the latest Netflix film and TV opportunities, and check out our comprehensive guide to how to audition for the streamer.

We also recommend following the series’ Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts to stay on top of any casting updates, as the team has issued calls for primary players on these social platforms in the past.

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What are the best audition tips for landing a role on “Shadow and Bone”?

Embrace your mistakes: 

Carter advised against beating yourself up over the little things. “I spent a large part of my teenage years and early 20s living with a fear of getting things ‘wrong,’ ” he told us. “I was so concerned with what others might think of me if I forgot my lines or interpreted a scene incorrectly that I was forcing myself to play it safe and avoid mistakes. You have to embrace your mistakes! Not only are they the best opportunity to learn about your chosen art form, but in my experience, they are also when the most interesting and revealing creative choices happen.

“It’s also important to say that some scripts, casting directors, directors, and cast members make it easier to embrace the unknown and try things out,” he added. “I think this fear of getting things wrong or right is in all creative people to a greater or lesser extent. But when you harness it for your own good, it can be an incredibly powerful and useful tool.”

Connect with the material:

“I’ve been to auditions for a part where I maybe don’t feel like it’s very me, or for a show that I don’t feel like I would even watch,” Lei told Elle Canada. “You can feel that, and they can feel that. But sometimes, you go along into an audition where you are passionate about the content or the character or the world. It does come through, and the people who are watching your tape will see that.

“And this role was so perfect…so I went into the room knowing this was something I was really enthusiastic about, and I wasn’t going to pretend that I wasn’t and try to be all cool,” she added. “And so often in life, the things we really care about are actually the things we end up doing, because people can give you the opportunity when they feel it’s in safe hands.”

Read the room:

According to Smith, “People who are viewing [you] will make up their mind pretty quickly if they like you or not. When you get a scene, think not just about your role in it, but [about] what they want to see. That scene is being given for a purpose, so just bear that in mind. Sometimes you don’t know the context [of the scene]…. We try to give as much information as possible, but sometimes you get a page or a couple pages of dialogue, and it’s not even from the actual script…. Sometimes, it doesn’t [even] make sense.”

Your individuality is your superpower:

Amita Suman’s audition for the role of Inej Ghafa was the third one Heisserer saw, but he was immediately impressed. “This is Inej. We found Inej,” he recalled thinking. 

The Nepali British actor has advice for her fellow performers of color: “It takes time to nurture your confidence, especially when your differences and experiences decorate your rendition of the roles you play. Every character is what you make it, and that is the reason why you get the part. Celebrate your uniqueness because there is no one like you—and that is your power. So ask yourself what kind of an actor you want to be, but do not limit yourself.”