The Academy Awards are happening this weekend and if they tell us anything, it’s that there are so many talented women both in front of and behind the camera who are getting the recognition and clout they deserve. And yet, there are still so many incredible ladies who have yet to have their due. Our weekly Woman Crush Wednesday articles try to highlight women of all ages, projects, and backgrounds who are doing great things for the entertainment industry, and this week we’re thrilled to be shining a spotlight on a growing star who is only just at the beginning of what’s sure to be a long and prosperous career. She’s about to blow up, so make sure you remember her name as you give it up for this week’s WCW, the magnificent Jessie Mei Li!
WHO’S THAT GAL: Jessie Mei Li
WHY WE’RE CRUSHING: Li stars as Alina Starkov in the highly-anticipated new Netflix Original series Shadow and Bone, which premieres on the platform this Friday, April 23rd. The show, which is an adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s wildly successful fantasy book series Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows, takes place in a fictional war-torn world where low-ranking Ravkan soldier and orphan Alina Starkov (Li) has accidentally discovered an exceptional power within herself that just may make all the difference in ending the fighting and suffering in her nation.
This fantasy series features Grisha, magical soldiers who excel in the Small Sciences and use their powers to fight in an army led by the powerful Darkling (Ben Barnes), who sees in Alina a potential equal and answer to the questions and problems he’s been facing for years. Between it all is charismatic criminals, allies and enemies (with blurry lines in between who is who), an intense struggle for and reckoning with power, and dangerous forces that all culminate in an exceptional and thrilling story from beginning to end.
Thanks to the Grishaverse novels, Shadow and Bone already has a dedicated legion of fans who are more than ready to accept the Netflix series and its stars with open arms. From Forbes, to Collider to us here at Decider, publications across the board are also making it clear that this is an absolute must-watch for this month, and is already set to go down as one of the biggest Originals to come out of Netflix this year. Li has already been recognized as one of this year’s biggest rising stars in film and television, so make sure to catch her and the rest of the talented cast’s wonderful work in Shadow and Bone as soon as it hits Netflix this week.
WHERE YOU’VE SEEN HER BEFORE: Li began her professional on-screen career in 2018, when she played Rose in an episode of TV drama mini-series Shortflix, in short entitled “Together They Smoke.” From there, Li quickly began building up a successful acting career across various mediums, playing the role of Claudia Casswell in both a recorded and live West End stage play production of drama All About Eve in 2019, as well as appearing in music videos for Uri Sade’s “A Thousand Ringing Bells” in 2018, and for James Humphrys’s “Three Weeks” in 2021, in addition to her various recent roles on screens big and small.
Most recently, Li acted in a 2019 episode of TV docudrama series Locked Up Abroad, and in 2019 sci-fi short film Travelooper. Shadow and Bone is Li’s big break in the world of film and television, and we have no doubt that she will breathe life and her own unique energy and portrayal to the show’s heroine, Alina, to give a performance that will pave the way for many other big-name and exciting roles to come. Li is a young and vibrant talent, and we can’t wait to see all of the amazing work she’ll do in the future!
WHERE YOU’LL SEE HER AGAIN: Luckily, you won’t have to wait too much longer to see more from Li. Hot off the heels of Shadow and Bone, the actress will star as Lara in upcoming drama thriller film Last Night in Soho, which is set to be released in October this year. The movie, which also stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, and Thomasin McKenzie, is about a young girl passionate about fashion design, who is mysteriously able to enter the 1960s where she encounters her idol, a dazzling wannabe singer, and in the midst of it all runs into unforeseen trouble with shady consequences. Li is also set to star as Ericka in upcoming drama short film Pork Scratchings, which is currently in pre-production.
For even more from Li in the meantime, be sure to follow her on Instagram and support her burgeoning stardom by watching (and rewatching!) Shadow and Bone on Netflix!
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