Making a name for herself! Jessie Mei Li became Netflix’s breakout star when the highly anticipated series Shadow and Bone premiered on the streaming service in April 2021.

In the show — based off the book series of the same name by Leigh Bardugo — Jessie plays Alina Starkov. Throughout the book series, and in turn the show, the orphaned main character discovers that she’s part of a group of magical soldiers called the Grisha and possess an ancient power, called Sun Summoning.

The actress was drawn to the role because Alina “doesn’t start off as being really strong. She’s like a sort of a stray dog that you might find in an alley,” Jessie explained to Vanity Fair ahead of the show’s release.

Before nabbing her debut role in the 2019 movie All About Eve, the actress didn’t have plans to become an actress. According to The Hollywood Reporter, she was “a special-education teaching assistant” when she decided to try out the acting world. “I went to loads of open auditions [and] got rejected,” the actress told the publication.

“So much of this is out of your control,” the Netflix star said about trying out for different roles. “You can just go into that room and be yourself and show them what you can do with the words they’ve written. You might as well try and enjoy it.”

As the star of a TV show, which was adapted from a popular book series, Jessie knows that a level of notoriety will come, but they told THR: “I don’t want to be famous. I don’t want to be a celebrity.”

“Whatever people say about me on the internet, good or bad, you’ve got to take it with a pinch of salt and think, ‘This is their interpretation of who I am,'” she added.

When when it comes to her experience on her first major Hollywood set, Jessie said she did take a lot away from the experience.

“Filming the show taught me a lot about myself and I really did gain a lot of understanding in who I am,” she explained to Seventeen. “It’s rare that you sort of spend so much time with other people and I think other people are a reflection of who we are. The more diverse the people are around you, the more you see in yourself. We’ve all taught each other a lot and it was a pretty good experience.”

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