Shadow and Bone's Showrunner Was Chosen Thanks to a Tweet to the Author

Alina Starkov (Jessie Mai Li) contemplates the Shadow Fold.
Alina Starkov (Jessie Mai Li) contemplates the Shadow Fold.
Screenshot: Netflix

Eric Heisserer is the screenwriter of acclaimed movies like Arrival and Bird Box. After reading Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone novel (the first in the young adult Grisha trilogy), he sent the author a tweet to let her know how much he enjoyed it. One year later, he was invited by Netflix to pitch the novel’s live-action TV series. Because of a tweet.

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Seriously. According to an interview Heisserer did with Collider, Netflix saw a tweet the screenwriter sent Bardugo, praising the novel, and Netflix called him to pitch for Shadow and Bone. That’s a wild way for a massive media company to choose a showrunner, especially since it’ll be the first time Heisserer will have held the position. It’s even wilder to learn the company is monitoring tweets to and from creators of properties that they’re adapting for, I guess, just this sort of random, unlikely occasion?

Still, you can’t argue with Netflix’s result; now the adaptation of the beloved novels has an Oscar-nominated screenwriter, who’s already a big fan of the series, overseeing and writing it. In fact, he’s such a fan that when Netflix told him they didn’t have the rights to Six of Crows, the second novel in the series, he passed on the project. When Netflix picked up those rights? They called Heisserer back in and hired him.

“I got a call out of the blue from Netflix and they said hey, ‘We know you tweeted the author a year ago.’ You know, so I got past like, the Big Brother paranoia and Leigh just remembered that. It really stuck with her,” Heisserer said. “And she’s like, ‘Well, we can get the guy who wrote Arrival maybe, you know, ‘cause he likes it.’”

Turns out, Six of Crows was the first of Bardugo’s novels he read, on a recommendation from a friend. Heisserer said, “What I’ve done as a practice is when I consume something that I love, whether it’s music or movies or TV or books or whatever the comic books, I then go find the creators, the artists that are behind that and just on social media, engage them, and say, ‘Thank you, this was phenomenal, I had such a good time.’ Because I see the ratio of good to bad feedback that any artist gets is pretty depressing. So I’m trying my best to help even out a little bit.”

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The Grisha trilogy, which is made up of Shadow and Bone, Seige and Storm, and Ruin and Rising, is about a soldier named Alina who discovers she has magical powers that could destroy the monster-filled Shadow Fold that circles the planet. When she joins the Grisha, the magically elite soldiers of her divided country Rivka, she discovers there are a lot of more nefarious forces at play, including her enemies, her allies, and a certain criminal gang.

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You can check out a new clip Netflix released above featuring Zoë Wanamaker as Baghra. The eight-episode first season of Shadow and Bone—starring Jessie Mei Li as Alina Starkov and Ben Barnes as General Kirigan—will premiere on Netflix on April 23.


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Rob Bricken was the Editor of io9 from 2016-18, the creator of the poorly named but fan-favorite news site Topless Robot, and now writes nerd stuff for many places, because it's all he's good at.

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