How 'Shadow and Bone' author Leigh Bardugo made sure she didn't get 'locked out' of the Netflix adaptation process - and what it was like to film her cameo

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Leigh Bardugo cameo Shadow and Bone Netflix TV show 1
Author Leigh Bardugo had a cameo as a Grisha in "Shadow and Bone." David Appelby/Netflix
  • Warning: Spoilers ahead for "Shadow and Bone" season one.

  • Insider spoke with author Leigh Bardugo, who wrote the "Shadow and Bone" trilogy and other books.

  • Her series is now a popular Netflix TV show which premiered last month.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Author Leigh Bardugo knows the perils of book-to-TV adaptations - particularly within the Young Adult (YA) genre of her Grishaverse book series.

Though she and "Shadow and Bone" showrunner Eric Heisserer didn't have a clear roadmap for the adaptation process from the start, Bardugo says one of their first conversations was about how involved she'd be in the TV show's development.

"I sat down with Eric very early on and I said, 'Look, there is a pattern where authors get locked out of their adaptations,'" Bardugo told Insider in an interview over Zoom last month. "It is particularly common with women authors, and it is doubly common with women authors of YA. I said, 'Please, please don't let this happen.'"

The author continued: "He made me a promise that day. He said, 'At the end of all of this, we are going to be friends.' And he was right. To his credit, he may be the only honest person in Hollywood, but he made me that vow and he stuck with it."

Insider spoke with Bardugo about how she worked with Heisserer and the writers' room in the early days of the show's production, what it was like filming her cameo in the show, and her favorite Easter-egg detail that book-fans might have missed.

Bardugo explains how the 'Shadow and Bone' team avoided the perils of adapting YA work for a TV show

Alina and Genya Shadow and Bone season one Netflix 3
Daisy Head and Jessie Mei Li as Genya and Alina in Netflix's "Shadow and Bone." David Appelby/Netflix

While Bardugo didn't want to name names and "bring a firestorm" down on her head, she was clear in her understanding of the way adaptations of YA works by women authors have often been treated with "disdain" by the TV and movie churn in Hollywood.

"I don't think there's any question that we've seen what happens when a work is adapted in the spirit of contempt," Bardugo said. "We see this discourse around YA - when the work is well received, people say that it was elevated from the source material. When the show or the film is badly received, it is discussed as something that was limited by the source material."

Bardugo says she gets a sense that some people in Hollywood think there's, by default, something "broken" in YA books that needs to be "fixed" for an on-screen adaptation.

"I was very grateful that from moment one, Eric and our partners at Netflix and 21 Laps [Productions] never approached the material that way," she said. "They did not have this disdain for me or the books, and they did not have that disdain for YA readers. And I think that that spirit of enthusiasm, of genuine warmth towards this material, comes through on the show."

KIT YOUNG as JESPER FAHEY and FREDDY CARTER as KAZ BREKKER in SHADOW AND BONE Cr. DAVID APPLEBY:NETFLIX
Kit Young as Jesper Fahey and Freddy Carter as Kaz Brekker in Netflix's "Shadow and Bone." David Appelby/Netflix

Early on in the production process, Bardugo would visit the writers' room "every week or every other week," where the show's writers would pitch her their stories for each episode and she'd give feedback.

"We would talk about problems - things I thought might create trouble down the road, things that concerned me," she said. "But also sometimes I would just gasp and clap in delight. It's a wonderful thing to be surprised by your own stories that are being told to you in a completely different way."

From there, Bardugo's direct involvement waned. She wasn't in the "first tier" of auditions, but did get included in the later stages of casting. Then she read scripts and revisions, and visited the set a couple of times.

"I started to step back because I was also trying to write books at the time," Bardugo said before laughing. "I'm still trying to write books."

The whole process of helping get a TV show off the ground was new territory for Bardugo, well outside her "comfort zone."

"The work of writing a book is very solitary, and the work of an adaptation of a TV show is so collaborative," Bardugo said. "There's a tremendous joy to that, but it is certainly not the method I'm used to."

Bardugo makes a cameo appearance in the scene where Alina is first presented to the King

Leigh Bardugo cameo Shadow and Bone Netflix TV show 2
Author Leigh Bardugo had a cameo as a Grisha in "Shadow and Bone." David Appelby/Netflix

Going to the set of "Shadow and Bone" was a particularly overwhelming experience for Bardugo, who first began writing the first Grishaverse book in 2010 when she was "digging [herself] out of a years-long battle with depression." She says she didn't understand what the scope of the production would be before visiting the sprawling Netflix set in Budapest.

"In my mind, a TV set was like, 'Oh, there's one room, there's some lights, there's some cameras,'" Bardugo said. "I didn't grasp that I was going to walk the streets of Ketterdam, to walk in the First Army camp, to go to [show costume designer] Wendy Partridge's costume warehouse and see row upon row of kefta, so carefully labeled each one embroidered."

She continued: "It was extraordinary and genuinely overwhelming and a little intimidating because you suddenly understand how many people and how much money is being poured into this thing that began really at my dining room table 10 years ago. That was quite shocking."

But Bardugo wasn't just there to hang around behind the scenes - she got her own costume fitting and appeared as an extra in episode three, in the scene where Alina is first brought before the King of Ravka.

"That was very profound, too," Bardugo said. "When I was writing 'Shadow and Bone,' I was in such a terrible place in my life, and my only goal was to finish a book. I was 35, I had never managed to write a novel, and I'd wanted to be a writer since I was a kid."

"And I remember writing that scene - describing the colors and figuring out the choreography of how the Grisha were going to enter the palace," she continued. "Then to be in that moment [in the show] was ... it was a very profound take on the 'how it started vs. how it's going' meme."

Bardugo couldn't contain her excitement during filming.

"I have such a goofy grin on my face the entire time," she said. "There's no acting happening. It's just me. Also, I have a disability and it's very hard for me to wear anything other than Crocs. So I had my Crocs on, and I was just basically levitating with joy through the entire scene."

Bardugo took home the prop-book copy of 'Shadow and Bone' that appears in her favorite Easter-egg moment of the show

Jesper Shadow and Bone book Ravkan hardcover Netflix Macmillan
In season one, episode six of "Shadow and Bone," there's a fun Easter egg for book fans. Netflix and Macmillan

Netflix's "Shadow and Bone" is peppered with smaller details and references that only close-readers of Bardugo's books likely picked up on. When asked what her favorite of these moments is, Bardugo had a quick answer - and it's not a scene that she wrote herself.

In the sixth episode, a character named Jesper spooks another character, David, out of his carriage. In a desperate move of self-defense, David chucks a book at Jesper's head.

"That book is actually a Ravkan copy of 'Shadow and Bone,'" Bardugo said. "I love it so much. And I have it! I requested it. I said, 'Can I pleeeease have it?' Then the last day I was on set, they came and brought it to me and it's on my bookshelf now. It's one of my most treasured possessions."

Ravkan is the fictional language invented by Bardugo in the books, and then brought to life by language creator David J. Peterson (who also created Dothraki in "Game of Thrones" and has done work with "The Mandalorian").

For this scene, a Ravkan translation of "Shadow and Bone" was designed for the book, making direct reference to one of the original covers of Bardugo's novel.

"Shadow and Bone" season one is now streaming on Netflix.

Read the original article on Insider