As The Witcher’s panel at San Diego Comic Con is drawing closer by the minute, fans around the world are hungrier than ever for any bit of news trickling through behind the tents, halls and hotels of the city. Now, an early present comes in the form of a surprising but highly appreciated in-depth interview with showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich by Entertainment Weekly’s star reporter James Hibberd.
Hissrich, whose previous work includes show like Marvel’s Daredevil and The Umbrella Academy, makes it clear from the start that The Witcher‘s first season will adapt the popular fantasy books written by Andrzej Sapkowski: “We’re not adapting the videogames, it’s a straight adaptation of the books. Which is great as the videogames are also an adaptation of the books. They went one direction, we actually get to go another. We’re kind of holding close to our chest what we’re doing in the first season. There’s a lot of obviously epic excitement that starts in the saga of the books. But the short stories provided a lot of world building and lay the foundation of this Continent and the politics of it and the understanding of the people of it and those really came into focus in the first season.”
Does this mean there will be no moments of surprise for longstanding fans of the books? Well, perhaps not quite… When asked about what excites her most about this project, Hissrich said: “I really love the idea of taking this series of novels that fans already love with and bringing them to a new audience. There’s also fun in exploring what happens between the pages of the books. The books explore events over a long period of time but there’s also story they skip through — Yennefer. for instance, some of the more defining moments of her life, we hear about them in flashback. We got to explore them in real time. It’s exciting to take Andrzej’s work and bring it to life.”
Fear not — while the show will be delving deep into certain storylines that were only ever alluded to in the books, the gritty, eccentric and often morally ambiguous tone of the novels will be uphold. Hissrich indicates that The Witcher’s first season will not necessarily include an outright villain but rather focus on complex, relatable and emotional characters. This is certainly a bold move, deviating from what we often get see on the small screen, but it is also something that is totally in-line with Sapkowski’s writing.
Contrary to productions like Game of Thrones that follow large ensemble casts, The Witcher is first and foremost a story about three people: The eponymous Witcher Geralt played by Henry Cavill; his love interest the sorceress Yennefer, played by Anya Chalotra; and their shared prodigy Ciri, played by Freya Allan. Hissrich said, that concentrating on these three characters was one of the most appealing aspects of adapting the series for her: “If you take all the other fantasy elements away, you take the magic and story and violence and sex away, you still have three characters who are this broken disjointed family who really need each other even though they don’t want to admit it.”
She met lead actor Henry Cavill — a huge fan of The Witcher, having read the books and played the games — long before the casting process for The Witcher began. After seeing more than 200 candidates, she went back to him: “The first time I met him I hadn’t even started writing the scripts yet. And once I started writing I couldn’t get Henry’s voice out of my head for the character. Looking at the final product, it’s really exciting. He embodies Geralt in a way that I don’t think anybody else could.”
When probed for more information on Cavill‘s portrayal of Geralt, she elaborated: “Henry brings subtitles to this character, finding emotional resonance in small moments, and playing it in such a subtle way that you understand what the character is going through without necessarily having huge chunks of dialogue.”
As for Ciri, whose casting calls provoked an online uproar, Hissrich had this to say: “We knew we weren’t going to make everyone happy. As you know, per the controversy, we looked at everyone possible for this role. And when we found Freya we made her an offer that day. She’s incredibly special. She’s young, yet has the soul and maturity of somebody much older. She was able to bring a depth to this character. When Freya is in a scene with Henry they really rival each other.”
Monsters are coming…
Finally, in a whiff of generosity and rare willingness to open up about one of the production’s most notoriously close-guarded secrets, Hissrich said that the monster and horror aspect really makes The Witcher stand out from other fantasy adaptations: “It’s been done occasionally on fantasy shows but it takes a backseat to magic a lot of the time. Geralt’s a monster hunter so from the very beginning we talked about how to show these monsters and the humans they interact with. I think people are going to be surprised by how many monsters we were able to do and how integral they are to story. It really feels like the monster stories become analogs for bigger things happening in the world right now in different political phenomenons.”
With these reassuring words, we release you into the night as we count down the hours until the big moment at Comic Con! Stay tuned here at Redanian Intelligence for more, and don’t forget to check out Entertainment Weekly for the full interview.