Jessie Mei Li

Last updated on the 27 March 2024 by Evandrus

Jessie Mei Li headshot

Mini Biography

Born: 27 August 1995, Brighton, East Sussex, England. 

With a Chinese father and an English mother, Jessie Mei Li’s biracial heritage played a significant role in her upbringing in Redhill, Surrey, alongside her older brother.

Jessie Mei Li’s educational journey began at Reigate College, where she studied from 2010 to 2012. She initially pursued French and Spanish at the University of Sussex but ultimately left to follow her passion for acting.

In 2015, Li joined the National Youth Theatre, and continued at the Identity School of Acting from 2016 to 2017. Her professional stage debut came in 2019 with the role of Claudia Casswell in “All About Eve” at the Noël Coward Theatre, where she performed alongside renowned actresses Gillian Anderson and Lily James.

Jessie Mei Li’s career took a significant turn when she was cast as the lead in “Shadow and Bone,” an adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse novels. Initially hesitant about auditioning due to concerns over diversity casting, Li found depth in the role that transcended mere tokenism. Her performance as Alina Starkov was not just a career-defining moment but also a step forward in representing mixed-race characters on screen.

Her filmography extends beyond the Grishaverse, with notable appearances such as Lara Chung in Edgar Wright’s film “Last Night in Soho” (2021). Li’s versatility as an actress is evident in her ability to navigate between the fantastical realms of “Shadow and Bone” and the psychological thriller genre of “Last Night in Soho” with ease.

Off-screen, Li is known for her advocacy for better representation of East Asian and biracial individuals in media. Diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, Li has been open about her experiences and the challenges she faced growing up with a lack of positive representation. She identifies as gender non-conforming and uses she/they pronouns, further highlighting the importance of nuanced portrayals in the industry.


Suggested viewing


Shadow and Bone (2021)

Shadow and Bone poster

Bftv 8.5 / IMDb 7.6

“Shadow and Bone” is based on a fantasy novel written by Leigh Bardugo, set in a war-torn world where a young mapmaker named Alina Starkov discovers a power that could save her country from darkness, while also navigating political intrigue, dangerous alliances, and a mysterious group of magical soldiers known as Grisha.

Top cast: Jessie Mei Li, Ben Barnes, Archie Renaux, Freddy Carter, Amita Suman, Kit Young, Danielle Galligan, Calahan Skogman.


Full filmography (@Wikipedia)


Jessie Mei Li Gallery



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