At the core of every fantastical series is some element of reality. In Shadow and Bone season 2, Alina Starkov continues her journey as a young heroine trying to save her world from mass destruction. Played by Jessie Mei Li, Alina’s journey in the sophomore season is very much a continuation of a Grisha coming into her identity and power. “Season one was the beginning of Alina in terms of her origin story and seeing how she was almost in the ‘before’ time,” Jessie tells Teen Vogue. “In season two, we've settled into knowing her a little bit better and then watching as she grows throughout the season.”
Season 2 introduces a roster of beloved characters from the books, including fan favorite Nikolai Lantsov (Patrick Gibson), and arcs from the spin-off series, Six of Crows. Returning to the Grishaverse after nearly two years was a homecoming for Jessie. The second season arc for Alina, which centers on understanding trauma and how it rears its ugly head over time, also resonated with the 27-year-old deeply as they’ve been unpacking traumatic events in their own life.
“It's an amazing thing [to explore] at this point in my life,” they say. “I've experienced my fair share of traumatic events, so trying to imagine what it might be like to feel that way, but in a fantasy setting, has been quite challenging. But the writers did such a great job. They wrote it from a really real place.”
She’s especially thrilled that there’s no yassification of Alina Starkov. “Alina is never really sexualized at all,” Jessie says. “What I really like is that Alina is a woman, but her gender isn't actually that important. [The show] could have gone to lengths to make Alina look incredibly glamorous and powerful and all because there's definitely a world where that could have been a thing. But I love that Alina looks haggard. I love that she's in her army uniform and it's all falling apart.”