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Jessie Mei Li Used Fan Art As A Crutch To Nail Her Shadow And Bone Audition

The 1st season of "Shadow and Bone" aired on Netflix way back in April of 2021. Since then, fans have waited a long while for Season 2, but the wait is nearly over as Season 2 is finally set to premiere on the streaming network on March 16, 2023. The series adapts both the "Shadow and Bone" and the "Six of Crows" books, and it centers on Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li), an orphan who discovers that she's the Sun Summoner, a powerful and rare magic user who can manipulate and control light.

Obviously, this storyline draws heavily from the books that inspired the show, and fans and critics alike were largely impressed. Much of the praise went toward the cast, but also centered on its faithfulness to the source material while expanding on the story in interesting ways. But for Li, the initial inspiration for the character didn't come from the books at all, but from fan art centered around the character she was auditioning for.

Mei Li used fan art so she could focus more on the audition script

During an interview with Rose & Ivy in 2021, Jessie Mei Li spoke at length about the events leading to her getting the role of Alina Starkov in "Shadow and Bone," and the unusual way she prepared herself for the initial auditions. While she admits that she eventually became a big fan of the novels, at first her research consisted of looking at fan art for the character in order to prepare herself, as she wanted to focus most of her time on learning the lines written for her in the script.

"I had heard of ['Shadow and Bone' author Leigh Bardugo's books] and I knew they were very popular, but I'll admit that my research for the role before the first audition mainly consisted of looking at fan art," Li said. "I also just wanted to focus on what was written in the audition script, in case it was very different from the books! But I basically binged it—read the trilogy after my first round of auditions—I don't think I ever read anything so fast!"

Li also revealed that she felt connected to the character almost right away after reading a brief description of the character before auditioning. Still, using fan art is definitely a unique approach to character prep, or at least not something that actors usually admit to doing. Considering that fan art comes from big fans of the source material, it's definitely an inspired method. Regardless, it all seemingly worked out for her in the end.