Breaking down The Witcher’s newest stills and set report

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Netflix’s The Witcher has big plans for the week of Halloween, where it will host several panels across two large conventions in London, England and Lucca, Italy. As we count down the days until the show’s upcoming trailer (slated for release on October 31), Netflix isn’t wasting any time. With the set visit embargo seemingly lifted, interviews held during the show’s production are being released. Italian news site Corriere has published an article featuring new stills. Read on for a translation of the article’s highlights.

In January, the publication visited the set and conducted a series of interviews with the cast and crew. Corriere was also given access to exclusive stills from the first few episodes of the season. These stills feature Geralt of Rivia and Yennefer of Vengerberg. Three of the stills are from episode one while the still depicting Yennefer (a familiar sight from last summer’s teaser trailer) is from episode three. Before we take a look at each of these images, here’s a quick reminder of what we can expect from the show’s pilot episode.

Based on Andrzej Sapkowski‘s short story, The Lesser Evil, the episode will show the events that granted Geralt (played by Superman’s Henry Cavill in the Netflix adaption) the moniker “The Butcher of Blaviken”. The short story begins with the Witcher entering the town of Blaviken, riding on his mare Roach and towing behind him a donkey carrying terrifying cargo. That cargo happens to be a kikimore, a monster that’s basically a cross between a spider and a crab – if the spider and the crab were the size of a horse, that is.

Geralt faces the kikimore. This may be the show’s cold open

The kikimore has already appeared in The Witcher‘s first teaser trailer (hint: it’s the giant arachnid at the end), and we’re betting Geralt’s tousle with this monster will serve as the show’s cold open. For those unfamiliar with the term, “cold open” refers to the sequence that plays before the title credits.

An excerpt from one of the script’s first pages, shared on the showrunner’s Twitter page, where Geralt swings his silver sword. Remember, silver is for monsters

Back to The Lesser Evil… After slaying the kikimore, Geralt rides into Blaviken with the monster carried atop a donkey. The townsfolk notice the creature’s boney limbs rustling under the horse-cloth and quickly surround the witcher.

The beginning of The Lesser Evil, as depicted in an old Polish graphic novel
The claws seen here match those of the kikimore in the teaser

This is the location of today’s first still. Here, we see a hand reaching out to touch one of the dead kikimore’s limbs. It’s possible that the hand belongs to Mia McKenna Bruce‘s character, Marilka, though we aren’t positive.

We won’t spoil the rest of The Lesser Evil, one of Sapkowski’s best short stories, so we’ll skip ahead to the next image. This still shows Cavill’s Geralt in a Blaviken tavern. In the books, Geralt first meets Princess Renfri (played by Emma Appleton) and her outlaw crew in a tavern much like this one.

The final still from the pilot features Cavill’s Geralt on his trusty mare, Roach. The woods around Geralt appear quite familiar, and it’s likely that another shot of the same scene was shown in the teaser.

This frame from the teaser is likely from the same scene

The last picture shared by Corriere is one of Anya Chalotra as the sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg. This is taken from a scene featured in the teaser, although the expression is a bit darker here. This scene follows Yennefer’s transformation from hunchback to beauty, a moment which will happen in the show’s third episode.

Anya Chalotra’s Yennefer (Credit: @anyasource)

Now that we’ve analyzed the stills, let’s dig into the interview. Corriere was able to get some excellent quotes from the cast and crew, and we’ll collect (and translate) them here.

Perhaps the biggest revelation in this article is regarding The Witcher‘s set design. Apparently, each of the nameless Continent’s locations has a different architectural and cultural inspiration. Corriere writes: “In the large complex where The Witcher is filmed, it’s rather cold. Small dark stoves heat the corners of the structure [Origo film studios, Budapest] in which various countries that make up the Continent [the setting of the show] take shape. Each has a precise inspiration.”

Set decorator Naomi Moore further explained that Cintra, the home of Princess Ciri, is inspired by Art Nouveau elements. Meanwhile, Aretuza‘s school of sorceresses is rather Gothic, with Indian brushstrokes. Blaviken will have a Scandinavian style (that still of Geralt in a tavern certainly does). Lastly, the city of Vizima will have Asian inspiration. Most of the textile shopping for the series took place in India.

Aretuza, school of sorceresses
Landscape art taken on set of The Witcher the gothic style may indicate this is Aretuza

During their visit, the journalists of Corriere were only shown one of The Witcher‘s sets – the hall of Cintra. Here, the crew shot a complex scene featuring princess Pavetta (Ciri’s mother, played by Gaia Mondadori) and the cursed prince Duny (played by Bart Edwards), who has the monstrous face of a humanoid hedgehog. Cavill was also present as Geralt of Rivia. The scene will be familiar to readers of the short story A Question of Price and anyone who’s seen the teaser trailer. This sequence will appear in episode four.

Duny and Geralt fighting side by side in the hall of Cintra, inspired by Art Nouveau architecture
Pavetta uses the power of the Elder Blood

Speaking of Cavill’s Geralt, Corriere was impressed despite fears stemming from the worrying costume test release by Netflix in 2018. Not only does the wig and costume look better, but Cavill himself left an impression. Apparently, his Geralt has a deep voice comparable to Doug Cockle’s vocal performance as the character in CD Projekt Red’s video game series by the same name. Moreover, Corriere was told that Cavill was so immersed in the character that he would continue speaking in Geralt’s voice even after the shoot.

Next, the article shares showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich‘s thoughts on her adaption of the saga, which she considers a third adaption of the story following the old Polish television series and the game trilogy: “What fascinates me is to take the characters I loved and the stories that I loved, and to add new ‘connective tissue’, which is what we call it with the writers’ room.”

This new connective tissue will glue together some of the series’ most famous short stories, including the ones mentioned above and many more. Regarding the short stories, Hissrich did not strictly rely on the books’ chronology and instead calls the show’s arc a “mix and match”.

Other than the ambiguous connective tissue, the show aims to explore the main trio’s backgrounds to see how they become the heroes we know and love. “One of the greatest things about the [short stories] is that they deepen the characters,” said Hissrich. “But [the characters’] origin is in the past, and is often not narrated directly. [Exploring these orgins] seemed like a great storytelling opportunity. In this sense, I would say that the series will add something to the reading experience by offering origin stories from an unexpected point of view.”

The Witcher has a large fanbase already, but Hissrich understands that the show will reach a far broader audience when it launches on Netflix. Many of the newcomers will have never heard of the books or the games, but Hissrich is confident that the story will not confuse them, going on to say: “The point was just that, finding stories that showed what The Witcher is. We don’t want to talk, we want to show. And fate always has an important role in the story.”

Cavill and Chalotra praised Hissrich as a showrunner. “There are subtleties to which Lauren has been very careful,” said Chalotra, who was glad to have a woman as her showrunner. Cavill himself added that he never felt “stuck in a cage”, alluding to other projects in which he was (hint: Superman).

Cavill was eager to describe Geralt, as well: “He is a hero and an antihero all at once. My Geralt is faithful to books, but also borrows from video games. He has a heart of gold, which was shattered, and by now it is very difficult for him to trust other people.” Hissrich promises that Cavill’s interpretation of the character will not disappoint: “We will not see Cavill; we’ll see Geralt.”

Ciri is also described in the article, very briefly, and you may want to sit down before you read this next quote from Freya Allan: “[Ciri is] a bad boy, perhaps, or simply a very sheltered and very naive child, and also very intelligent. She is very stubborn, but must learn a lot.”

(Note: It’s quite possible the actual translation here should be “tomboy”, rather than “bad boy” … but you can decide which you like best.)

Finally, Chalotra spoke more about her character, Yennefer: “The more I get to know her, the more I seem to resemble her. It is as if our lives were mirrored. Her challenges and feelings live within me, and she has certainly done something for me as a woman. She is brave and fearless, sharp. She has superheroine, magnetic energy. She is a sorceress, of course, and sorceresses are experiencing a new age of glory. I believe that empathizing with Yennefer will be very simple. I also believe that Lauren’s work reflects particularly well on Yennefer – from the costumes, which make me feel powerful, and to the script.”

Though she is considered a divisive character among the fans, Chalotra believes Yennefer will capture everyone’s heart: “She is always in control: nice or nasty, she presents different versions of herself depending on the person she is with – and you will discover why.”

Also cropping up in the article is The Witcher‘s approach to CGI. “I want to stress that no one is in a green room talking to a ball,” said production designer Andrew Laws. “We wanted a visceral story with multiple visual dimensions. We were more physical than we could have been. The public is too clever when it comes to CGI, and [with bad CGI] they can disengage from the show’s magic. The experience must be seamless with the special effects and we are interested in avoiding the disparity between reality and imagination.”

Regarding monsters, this is what Laws had to say: “We have tried hard to restore a materiality to the creatures, because they are an important part of the story.”

The disparity between reality and imagination, as seen in the Polish adaption ‘The Hexer

Laws proceeds to address the show’s approach in adapting the popular property: “We will have a large international audience divided between the curious and the passionate. It is our intention to honor their expectations, to bring those who already know the story into a familiar environment but at the same time to surprise them, to create an air of unpredictability, while remaining within the medieval-like boundaries of the source material. This is a story that does not reflect history, but looks like history. We do not wish to exclude those who have not read the novels, nor do we want the Continent to resemble what has already been seen in other productions.”

With The Witcher‘s trailer arriving this Halloween, and with these new quotes and images, we could not be more excited. Join us next week as we cover all of the fresh news coming out of London Comic Con and Lucca Comics and Games, where we’re due another great feast of interviews, footage and scoops.

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