San Diego Comic Con was everything us Witcher fans could hope for. After an extensive panel that showed various clips from the show and gave each of The Witcher’s three stars their time in the spotlight, Netflix also released an exciting and action-packed trailer (which is still trending on YouTube). But once the dust settled, the cast were far from done. Henry Cavill (Geralt of Rivia), Anya Chalotra (Yennefer of Vengerberg), Freya Allan (Ciri), and showrunner Lauren S Hissrich did the rounds for a number of interviews, and delivered some juicy quotes about their characters, the show and the filming process of The Witcher’s first season. Below is a recap of our favorite moments, alongside links to the complete interviews. Enjoy!
UPDATE #1: Lauren’s had a new interview with TheWitcher.tv, with some of her best answers yet. Read our summary of it below the break!
Showrunner Lauren Hissrich on taking lines from the books, how Freya was originally cast in another role, and on the role humor will play in the show
During the press roundtable interviews, fansite TheWitcher.TV were able to sit down with showrunner Lauren Hissrich where they asked some of the fans’ most pressing questions.
Regarding the casting process for the show’s three leads, Lauren mentioned that Anya Chalotra‘s Yennefer was the first to be officially cast, and described her as “the first piece of the puzzle that came in”. As is now well known, Henry Cavill‘s casting process for Geralt started very early, as he reached out to the production long before they even had a script. As a player of the games and reader of the books, he was very passionate about the role. Four months after their first meeting, and after screening 207 other potential Geralts, Lauren and her team came back to Henry. That said, the casting of Ciri was the most difficult for the team.
“Casting Freya as Ciri was also really difficult. We started very young. In the first script, Ciri was 11. Very quickly we started looking at 11-year-olds, and we realized a couple things. One, the production constraints of this show. It’s a huge endeavor, we shot for a lot of days, and a lot of nights actually. And when you’re shooting with someone that young, it’s very restrictive. One of the first things that I was told is that someone that young [for Ciri] will not be able to be that big a part of the story. And I was like, well, that’s not going to work. So we did age up the character a little bit.”
Freya Allan was originally cast in another role for the Pilot episode, that of ‘Marilka’, and was then reconsidered as Ciri. “Freya, actually, we had cast her as another character in the first episode, and she was signed, sealed and done for that. I couldn’t find a Ciri that I loved. Sophie Holland, our casting director, actually called me and said, ‘I’d love [for] you to think about Freya Allan for this.’ So I flew over to London, and we cast Freya that day.”
Sapkowski’s saga of books is well known for its traditional, Slavic humor. In this interview, Lauren was finally asked to comment on humor’s role in the show, and why it was nowhere to be seen in the trailer. “It’s funny, we tried a couple of different versions of the teaser with some wit in it, because it’s all through the show. I mean, obviously, I think the show is super dark. It has some really tragic things in it- some really dark things. We always kept an eye to what real people do when faced with tragedy, and oftentimes they find the humor in it, because it’s the only way to walk through the world. So storytelling wise, we always try to keep that in mind.”
Apparently, there was no room for humor in the trailer- but that doesn’t mean it won’t be a big part of the show. “Teaser wise? The teaser was so big and so dramatic that anytime we would try to add something funny in [it] you’d be like, ‘Oh, no, no, no, no.’ We tried many versions, but yes. In the show itself, there’s a lot [of humor]- especially Geralt’s dry wit and Jaskier annoying him as much as humanly possible.” Phew.
Lauren was also asked about bringing the little details of the book to life: “You know, it follows the books pretty closely, what I like to say is that we find the things between the lines in the books, so there are events and moments in the books that you just kind of speed [through]. […] But if you had a chance to push, pause, and dig into that moment a little bit more… There’s lots of that in the first season. I think watching every episode, fans of the books themselves are going to understand every story we’re telling- they’re going to find the moments. We actually took the lines from the books as dialogue. So we did our best to honor them. But I also think there’s a spattering of some fun, new things that aren’t in there to really enhance the stories that we wanted to tell.”
Lauren also discussed Henry’s stunts: “Henry did not have a stunt double, he does all of his own work. Anytime you see him, it’s really him. Which means that he trained nonstop. Always had swords in his hand. He was always in the training room with his team.” As for Geralt’s iconic fighting style, it will be a bit different in the show: “It really was about finding the right balance between what we would read that Geralt does in the books and what Henry does, and sort of finding and marrying those things together.”
The full team on where we meet their characters, and the journeys they go through
This was one of the better interviews of the cast all together, so make sure to watch it if you haven’t already. First, the cast were asked about their characters’ journeys.
“Ciri is obviously a princess,” said Allan. “She’s had an incredibly sheltered upbringing and so she’s very naive of what the real world truly is. Everyone around her has also been molded by this environment. So she’s never really seen a different perspective on life, and been able to see the brutality of the world. And that’s something that’s crucial in her journey: seeing other people’s perspective.”
Interestingly, Henry mentions that their arcs in this season are “kind of the opposite”: while princess Ciri is faced with the brutality of the real world, Geralt (who is well versed on that brutality) gets to know a different, more emotional side of himself, after meeting these two spectacular women. “He’s a monster hunter, so he’s seen nothing but the brutality of the world, and he’s been on the receiving end of all the slings and arrows of every race and species on the Continent,” Cavill explained.
The best quote in this interview came from the Superman actor, too. Beautifully describing Geralt’s nature, Cavill said: “The interesting thing about Geralt is that, despite being this tough, hardcore monster hunter […] he has this heart of gold. He has such potential to be an incredibly dark character, especially because of his belief on the outside world, and how it affects him, and how it directly relates to how he should feel, and yet deep down in his core… He still has this belief in something better, and something else.”
“Yennefer is a sorceress,” said Chalotra, who also served up an interesting insight into her character. “And what’s great about this series is that we look at the backstory of Yennefer. We look at when she actually discovers her powers, and what those powers mean to her and the purpose that they give her. And, yeah, we follow her on this self-discovering journey and delve more into her vulnerability. I mean, we know a lot about Yennefer’s power, which we’ve seen in the books, but what’s different about this series is that we look at [that] vulnerability, which gives her that power.
“What’s great is that vulnerable doesn’t mean weak. It’s a strength. And that’s what I love about what we’ve done.”
Chalotra (and Hissrich) on the fans’ concerns regarding her age
One of the fans’ biggest concerns regarding Chalotra’s casting was the 10-year difference between her and Cavill. In the books, Yennefer wears the pants in this relationship, and often bosses Geralt around. Fans were concerned that element would be lacking after the show cast the 23-year-old Chalotra in her role, but according to our showrunner, they have nothing to worry about. The show’s Yennefer, just like the one in the novels and games, will be much older than she appears.
Hissrich explained: “Yennefer is a sorceress who’s actually quite old but looks very young, but has the experience of someone who’s lived for a long time. But also we knew we were going to be telling a little bit of her backstory, so I wanted someone who could portray her at a younger age as well. And that’s a really really difficult thing to find: Someone who can look young and yet have that life experience.”
On the difficulties of playing a character who is literally older than her by a century, Chalotra said: “It all comes down to breath. I mean, that’s the most challenging thing, and that’s with any character I approach. Sometimes it’s not enough to just change an accent, or to just change your hair color or to change an outfit or costume. It’s the way someone breathes. And that is something that I find most challenging, but it’s why I accepted the role. Because I didn’t have someone to age me [with makeup or prosthetics], I just had to change.”
Chalotra on Geralt and Yennefer’s complex relationship, and her chemistry with Henry Cavill on the set
When interviewed by TheWitcherTV, Chalotra was asked about acting opposite to Henry, and about Geralt and Yennefer’s complex relationship. She had some high praise for him: “It was great working with him. Like, I was so excited to meet him because of such an iconic relationship. He’s very humble and dedicated, such a fan of the work. It’s so amazing to be working with someone so enthusiastic and and dedicated to bringing the Geralt that everyone knows and loves to the screen. And bonding on set? Yeah, you can’t not bond with him. He’s a wonderful human being.”
When asked specifically about Geralt and Yennefer’s tumultous relationship, Chalotra added: “I hope we stay true to the books. But yeah, we kind of figured it out as we went along and filming. I feel like their relationship is so complicated. And even in those moments where Yennefer is being completely irrational, and selfish, or harsh towards Geralt… it comes from a place of love. On screen, hopefully you’ll see that.”
And, yes, Chalotra met Kal (Henry’s loveable dog). Apparently, Kal would often not recognize Cavill in his Geralt attire, something that made him uncomfortable.
Hissrich on the show’s Easter Eggs
When asked about the game-Geralt bathtub meme by IO9, Hissrich said: “We’re fans of the series too. We’re fans of the franchise. So one of the things that I asked the writers when they showed up on the first day was, having read the books, what did you love the most? It could be the tiniest thing. It could be, you know, something Jaskier says over and over again, or it could be something huge. For me, it was A Question of Price. I was like I have to do A Question of Price. And so I think people who are big fans of the franchise will find a lot of fun stuff.”
When pressed further about the bathtub, she added: “There is a bathtub this season. There is a bathtub. I won’t tell you who’s in the bathtub, but there is a bathtub.” … Borch?
Allan on what makes Ciri so special
During the press roundtable, TheWitcherTV were able to ask Freya some key questions.
Asked about her favourite aspect of Ciri’s character, she replied: “First of all, I love the way she’s been written. She’s definitely a brave character, but it’s shown realistically. At this stage in her life, you know, often people think of a character who is brave, that definitely there has to be a lack of emotion. But, actually, [her emotion is] what shows she’s so courageous, and emphasizes that. The fact that she is grieving and going through horrific situations. And yet, she’s still continuing, and she doesn’t collapse under it all.
“I think she’s a really brilliant character for girls to see. Because she values her opinion, and the utilization of voice. And I think she has a lot of people who are telling her what she [should or] shouldn’t do with her future, which would be confusing at that age. But ultimately, she takes her future in her own hands, and she decides what she’s going to do with it. That’s something that a lot of young people can learn, that the future is yours.”
Allan went on to say that embodying Ciri’s trauma wasn’t easy: “The most challenging part of filming was the beginning, for me. I mean, it was obviously all a challenge, because you want to make it perfect.
“There were some really challenging scenes at the beginning, an emotional requirement. I had to just kind of completely put myself in her shoes, and feel how she would feel.”
Thankfully, Freya had some very talented cast and crew to guide her through these scenes. “The director, Alik [Sakharov], guiding me through episode one and two was just fantastic. Also the incredible actors I got to work with, and absorb and learn from, enabled me and helped me give the best performance I could, because I have such brilliant people to act off of.”
This also means we have confirmation of Ciri appearing in the first two episodes!
Another great video interview, in which Hissrich discusses the show’s approach to its fantasy elements
This time, it’s showrunner Hissrich who serves up the interview’s highlight, when asked about their approach to the show’s fantasy elements: “I think the best way to deal with fantasy is to drop them right in and expect them to pick it up and learn it, you know? We expect our audience to be smart and wanna be there. In the writers’ room we keep laughing because these [fantasy] phrases start to roll off your tongue, and you’ll be like, ‘Well, the Trial of the Grasses’… and that’s not a thing! But we just know our audience is gonna fall in love with it and really jump in with us, feet first.”
And a bonus from IGN, just to see ‘Frenya’ goofing off
Allan still seems a bit shy here, but Chalotra seemed much more at ease than in some other interviews at Comic Con. We’re sure these two will be much more open and comfortable in the future, now that they’ve had their first big event under the spotlight!
On whether they’ve read the books
Different actors have different methods. Some prefer to stick to the scripts, some look for all the source material they can get their hands. So, what about The Witcher’s stars?
Cavill, via TV Insider, said: “I knew about [the books and games]. I’m a big gamer, I played the games and I read all the books, and I’ve loved both of them. I loved the adaptation in the games of the books and it’s a wondrful opportunity for me, and for all of us, to be adapting the books our own way. It’s been an amazing journey, and one I’m looking forward to continuing.”
Chalotra took a different approach, as TheWitcher.TV reported: “I hadn’t [read the books]. I hadn’t read anything for my audition. And then I read the audition, completely immersed myself in the first two short stories. I couldn’t read on. The script was my bible, and I got totally confused when I was reading them side by side. So I stopped and focused on the script. But I haven’t read them all. And I will. It’s kind of nice, I’m discovering it as we go at the moment, but I’m still finding my process.”
And what about Allan? Asked if she’d known about the books beforehand, she told Entertainment Tonight: “It was totally brand new. But I remember before my last audition, I went into the bookshop and picked up one of the books and just started reading a little bit about Ciri, and then when I got the part I read Blood of Elves [the first novel after the short stories] in two days. I was so excited.”