The Witcher’s showrunner on sex, violence and Game of Thrones comparisons

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“This is not Game of Thrones,” said The Witcher showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich in a newly published article by Hobby Consolas (translated here from Spanish). “I think this series has much more magic. What we wanted to create for Netflix is ​​a global series that reaches people with different points of view, different perspectives, different political problems and lifestyles: [a show] that is accessible to many different people.”

This isn’t the first time The Witcher is compared to Game of Thrones. With Thrones coming to a long-awaited, surprisingly controversial conclusion, everyone is looking for the next fantasy king to fill the vacuum left behind, and almost every major network is looking to contend. Amazon is hard at work on two Thrones contenders in the form of Wheel of Time and Lord of the Rings, Disney is launching their own streaming service with The Mandalorian, and HBO (naturally) is cooking up not one but three prequels set in the Thrones universe (as well as an adaption of His Dark Materials). It is only fair, then, that The Witcher will fall prey to these comparisons, especially because the shows do share certain similarities.

Game of Thrones and The Witcher are both set in a dark fantasy land plagued with problems we recognise from our own world. Both tales are filled with politics, violence and sex. When asked about the show’s approach to the latter two, Hissrich was glad the point was raised: “It’s something that was very important to me. From the beginning, I said that The Witcher‘s sex scenes would always be shown for a reason, we would’nt show sex as a means of exploitation, power or shock. It’s something I’m very proud of.”

Indeed, many of the controversies which sprouted from the eight-year run of Game of Thrones followed explicit sexual scenes featuring rape or “sexposition” (a term coined early in the show’s run). The Witcher, Hissrich said, will be different. “These are real relationships. Not always loving relationships, but those of people who meet each other and connect on a human level. The brutality and violence are all over the show, [but that was not an issue]. I wanted the sex to have a purpose in our series and it is one of the things we have achieved that I am most proud of.”

Hissrich continued: “There will be nudity, yes, because when people are intimate, sometimes they’re naked. We talked a lot about this, from the very beginning, [and also with the actors]. We wanted them to be comfortable with not just sex but intimacy as well, to ensure that the actors feel safe and comfortable.”

On violence, Hissrich offered her assurances that the show will not differ from the books in this regard, but reminded us that there’s much more to the series than that alone. “The Witcher is very violent,” she said. “We haven’t [scaled back the violence]. But there is a bit of everything, as in real life: kindness, humanity, romance, comedy…

“In the series there is a lot of brutality and darkness, for me there can be as much of that as you want, as long as it’s balanced with friendship, romance, sex, magic and fun. The series is going to demonstrate a lot of things. There are people who might think, ‘Oh, I think it’ll be too violent for me,’ and I would say, well, there are moments of violence, yes, but there’s enough balance. There are moments where two people are sitting quietly, just talking and connecting with each other.” 

The violence in The Witcher is often directed at monsters, and unfortunately for Hissrich and her team (but fortunately for the rest of us), there are no monsters in the real world. This is where special effects play a role. Hissrich explained: “There are both [visual and technological effects] and although we can’t compete with the video game (that already exists and is great), we tried to include everything. As much as possible, as [manual] as possible. I want to see monsters, I don’t want it to always be fights between men dressed in gray robes. There will be computer effects, but we’ve tried to make them as natural as possible.”

Though Netflix may not share this opinion, The Witcher‘s showrunner is not looking to compete for the Iron Throne. “This is entertainment, nobody’s looking to replace Game of Thrones. It was the series that revolutionized epic fantasy on television. I’m a fan [of the show] and I’m not hoping to replace it because The Witcher is something completely different. It’s great entertainment that people are going to enjoy. I’m looking forward to showing the fans our Ciri, Geralt, and Yennefer – and how they interact with each other.”

Hissrich, it seems, is quite aware of the controversy surrounding Thrones‘ final season, where the writing was heavily criticized. “We have listened to the opinions of fans of other series,” she said.

With The Witcher releasing this coming December, the show is set to kick off its marketing campaign on the week of Halloween. Netflix will be hosting panels for the show in MCM London Comic Con and Lucca Comics and Games (where the trailer and release date are expected to premiere). Redanian Intelligence will be covering all Witcher news, of course, so stay tuned!

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