Earlier today, Netflix’s The Witcher kicked off its Halloween marketing campaign with a Panel at MCM London Comic Con, starring showrunner Lauren Hissrich and lead actress Freya Allan, who plays Princess Ciri. If you missed our live coverage of the event, fear not – we have you covered. Since filming wasn’t allowed, we’ll deliver a summary of the panel’s highlights, including in-depth transcriptions of the new footage that was shown and the panel’s best quotes.
First things first: There will be a London premiere for The Witcher on December 16 where the first episode will be screened. That likely means the show will be available for binging on Netflix the following day. This detail isn’t too surprising seeing as several leaks (including one that came directly from Netflix) pointed to a worldwide release on December 17. As usual with premiere events, we expect members of the cast and crew to be present.
The sign above stood beside The Witcher‘s photobooth, announcing that those who participate in the activity have a chance of winning tickets for the series premiere. Inside the booth, there was the statue of a monster called a “kikimora” with a sword thrust through its oddly-humanlike head. Before the panel, Allan and Hissrich arrived at the photo-booth and greeted fans.
At 12:00 PM London time, the panel began with a short teaser featuring brand new footage. The teaser showed a quick succession of scenes, too quick for our agents on the ground to be able to remember. However, one image of Anya Chalotra‘s Yennefer was particularly striking, showing her standing on a hill full of trees and flowers. Afterward, Hissrich and Allan were invited to the stage.
The panel showed three clips, two of which were shown at San Diego Comic Con and one that was brand new. The next two paragraphs include light spoilers, so skip them if you are hoping to enter the show without prior knowledge of the series’ scenes and developments.
The first clip showed Henry Cavill‘s Geralt fighting alongside Duny (played by Bart Edwards) in the hall of Cintra. The next clip showed Chalotra’s Yennefer sitting on the beach next to a dead baby, providing a quintessentially “Yennefer” eulogy. Word from those who’ve seen the clip say the acting in this scene is fantastic.
The final scene, and the only really new one, was a scene featuring Ciri and the show’s original character Dara. Ciri is seen running in the woods after escaping Cintra, which has just been sacked by Nilfgaard, where she crosses paths with Dara. He offers her rat meat but doesn’t speak. Later, Ciri notices a Cintran banner in the distance and runs towards it, believing it to be their savior. When she turns back towards Dara, he has disappeared. According to Hissrich, this scene will appear in the season’s second episode. This means Cintra is likely to fall as early as episode one and no later than episode two.
For a full transcript of the scenes, check out the article below.
In between these clips, Hissrich and Allan discussed the tone of the show, its character-driven focus, the casting process and adapting Andrzej Sapkowski‘s novels, the show’s source material.
“It wasn’t easy,” said Hissrich. “They’re 8 books, I’ve read all of them. I knew I wanted to start with the short stories. They explain what the witchers are, [etc]. But I wanted to introduce Ciri and Yennefer earlier. You get to meet Ciri [and really know her] before she interacts with other characters.”
While the short stories are told from Geralt‘s perspective, the show will put the female characters Yennefer and Ciri at the forefront of the story from the very beginning. This is to capture them before they’re seen through someone else’s lens. Hissrich took inspiration from Sapkowski who told her about the hardship and enduring strength of Polish women during World War II. With many men falling during the fighting, Polish women assumed an important role.
With Yennefer and Ciri’s roles expanded, a concern was raised regarding Henry Cavill’s screentime as Geralt. Hissrich insists there’s nothing to worry about: “He is on the screen a lot. It’s important to make sure that Ciri and Yen get their due. We need to understand them all individually, so we can understand them together.”
Allan describes her character as stubborn, feisty, and driven, but also very naive. That will become clear when there is a shift in her environment as the sheltered princess finds herself alone in the wilderness hunted by the Nildgaardian knight Cahir (played by Twin Peaks: Revival‘s Eamon Farren).
Ciri will spend most of her time on the run meeting new characters. One of the more important of these encounters will be Wilson-Radjou Pujalte’s Dara. While Dara isn’t a character from the books, he will be a “crucial part” of Ciri’s story in the first season. Allan shed some light on this dynamic, saying: “He is the main source for her different perspective and viewpoint. He’s vital at keeping her going and they make a good team. They are from completely different backgrounds, but they get together and it doesn’t matter anymore.”
Following Yennefer’s clip with the baby, Hissrich addressed the tone of the show: “You can have all the action in the world. There is violence, blood, sex, dead babies. But even when you take all that out, there are great moments of pure drama, human moments. Fantasy is normal people in abnormal places and situations.”
Allan added: “Lots of films are suffocated in CGI and action and you think: ‘Where are the moments of stillness and emotion?'”
Regarding casting Freya Allan as Ciri, Hissrich reiterated that Allan was originally cast in another role: Marilka, a supporting character in the show’s pilot episode. During the same time, The Witcher‘s casting department screened hundreds of potential Ciris of various ages but didn’t find the actress they were looking for. It was then that casting director Sophie Holland offered the already-cast Freya Allan an opportunity to read for the role of Ciri.
Allan spoke about landing the role: “I found out I got the role a day before my birthday […] I got Blood of Elves and read it in two days. It’s the only book I’ve read. [From the book, I understood] the essence of Ciri, her stubbornness and how fun that would be to play.”
Regarding the visual style of the show, Hissrich pointed out that the books were the team’s greatest source of inspiration: “We went back to the books [to guide our style]. We didn’t want the show to be too dire, there is a lot of life in the show, we wanted to introduce a lot of colors.”
Author Andrzej Sapkowski is apparently quite confident about the Netflix adaption and has visited the show’s set during filming: “He was very excited. He was wiping tears away at one point. He was excited to see how dedicated we were. We have cut no corners in bringing [his books] to life.”
Sapkowski, however, was eager to see the show in its completed form. “Sapkowski doesn’t want to see ingredients to the soup, he wants to taste the soup,” Hissrich explained. “He has access to the scripts and dailies but doesn’t want to see them.”
Finally, when asked why people should watch the show, this is what showrunner Lauren Hissrich had to say: “Cause we think it’s really good?”
And with that, The Witcher‘s London festivities came to a close. But if you’re eager for more, the show’s dense Halloween schedule is sure to be a relief. Starting Wednesday and lasting through the week, The Witcher will take to Italy for Lucca Comics and Games where the show is slated to premiere its first full-length trailer amidst panels, costume exhibitions and other festivities.
Redanian Intelligence will be covering the week’s events very closely, including live-tweets and recaps for the event’s panels, a frame by frame analysis of the coming trailer, and a piece on the fan experience on the convention floor, which is set to be “transformed” into The Witcher‘s Continent for the duration of the show.