The Witcher’s Yennefer on the pressure to appease the fans: ‘I focus on the moment’

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In February Hobby Consolas was one of the publications that visited the Budapest set of Netflix’s The Witcher and interviewed its main trio. You can check out the translation of their interview with lead actor Henry Cavill here, and read on for their joint interview with female leads Anya Chalotra and Freya Allan who portray Yennefer and Ciri respectively.

Thanks again to Vale do Pontar for the translation.

Both actresses concurred that they didn’t know the books or the video games before The Witcher casting process. Allan said that she learned she had gotten the role just the day before her birthday, which was even more exciting: “It was a perfect birthday gift.”

How would you describe your characters?

Freya Allan: Ciri has gotten a very strict education, has been very protected, hidden from the world, and therefore is very innocent and naive, but at the same time she has a natural intelligence, is very tenacious, spirited and quite persistent. She is also a little tomboy, not afraid to fight stereotypes and is very protective of the people she loves.
Anya Chalotra: Yennefer is a sorceress in The Witcher, she has a lot of power, more than she thinks: she knows she is strong, she is tenacious, fearless, brave, intelligent, magnetic.

How was playing the role of Yennefer and what was your main source of inspiration?

Anya: To play a sorceress you have to have a great imagination (she winks). I use my imagination and that is taken from the books and is a challenge for any actress. I guess the book was my main source of inspiration and obviously I started playing the games and everything else, but I understood our script is like our Bible for this production.

And for Ciri?

Freya: It was not difficult for me to connect with Ciri because I seemed to have a natural connection with the role, I read one of the books and for me the main thing for building the character is the script.

What was your motivation for going through the casting auditions, since you didn’t know the story beforehand?

Anya: Everything, really, your agents summarize it and then you research about it, I searched a lot, but it’s also the people who are connected to the project. Lauren as a showrunner is able to give life to this woman and I think it is a very exciting and a great trip for Yennefer.
Freya: I love the character of Ciri, I always try hard at each audition but there is something special about this character, I really wanted to get it.

Do you feel any pressure since the story has a legion of fans?

Freya: There is a bit of pressure, yes, but I try to do my best with Ciri in The Witcher and I’m quite satisfied with the daily work, I think it’s good enough.
Anya: I don’t think about how many people will watch it, I focus on the moment and what I will do now and carry it out. Naturally you feel some pressure because it matters to you and it is a really big project and I had never been involved in something like that before, but it all helps on this journey, so…

Have you read the expectations about your characters that people comment on the Internet?

Anya: It’s hard to miss them at first, (laughs) but thanks to that you see if it helps you or not, and you decide if you take some distance, and that is what I have done.

Is it difficult to shoot certain scenes, since it is not done chronologically?

Freya: I have a routine on the set of The Witcher, so if we shoot a scene where the previous scenes have not been filmed yet, I make sure that there is something earlier (from that scene) and I give it a sense of how I would feel about it and that way It is much easier, because you can return to the feelings of that scene: it’s not ideal but it has to be done that way and in the end you get used to it as a pattern of your job.
Anya: I find those parts very difficult, but I continually refer to the script and try to get all the information possible so that when I get to a scene of that kind I try to understand the character, how she thinks, how she will respond and react to that. I stick to the script but sometimes there are discussions, that is, there are parts that may be open to discussion with Lauren or one of the directors.
Freya: If we believe it doesn’t fit the character then we simply say it and it can be altered, but since it is so well written we do not usually believe that it’s necessary, it’s perfect for the character.

And as for the preparation?

Freya: The physical part? I have not found anything particularly difficult, because there was no [physical] work out yet.

What can you tell us about your outfits?

Anya: I appreciate every detail of the work, sometimes you wear a specific wardrobe and it is very exciting because it is a whole new world and the whole team puts a lot of passion into it.
Freya: I think it is because it is a kind of huge world, that they have created, each department has to work super hard, so it is very inspiring when you see the shooting set with so many details everywhere, there is a lot of effort put on the project, it’s amazing to see it.

And how about living with green screens for the insertion of digital effects?

Anya: I’m not used to it but I’m getting used to it, I would lie if I said I was prepared but of course, you have to insert monsters, effects… you have your imagination and the creators also help you.
Freya: Yes, they show you photos and that way you can visualize it.

What can you tell us about your characters’ relationship with Geralt of Rivia and your contact with Henry Cavill?

Freya: I think Geralt could not be who he is without the female characters in The Witcher, they are very important, it is very important to have them for the story and for what has been created.
Anya: The first time I met him… he is super humble and pleasant, very understanding and gives his support to others and to production, he gives himself and is passionate, it’s a delight to work with him.
Freya: He is passionate about the project, he is adorable and committed, focused on doing his best, you will love it.

The Witcher is expected to premiere in December while a trailer is expected on October 31st.

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