Press conference report from Lucca Comics and Games

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Earlier today, a press conference was held in Lucca in anticipation of the panels and the trailer premier of Netflix’s The Witcher. While we will have to wait to hear more, Henry Cavill (Geralt), showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich, Anya Chalotra (Yennefer), and Freya Allan (Ciri) were present to answer questions ahead of their highly anticipated panel. Here’s our translation of the report from badtaste.it.

Lauren S. Hissrich, Anya Chalotra and Freya Allan ready to face the media

How many novels are there, and how has it been adapting them?
Lauren: Let’s start with simple questions! I have always been a great fan of the Guardian of the Innocents, the story of Geralt of Rivia has always fascinated me. I read all the books a year before Netflix contacted me to work on the series. It was not easy to adapt them, my task was to decide the best way to tell almost four thousand pages divided into 8 books of material, presenting the world of The Witcher to the general public. I immediately decided to make a change: to show Yennefer and Ciri from the start. If I had followed the timeline of the books, I would have had to wait three seasons to introduce Ciri. Instead I wanted these women to be complete and complex by the time they met Geralt. I think fans and viewers will find a lot of the books in the series. The writer Andrzej Sapkowski has helped me a lot to make the spirit of this story my own. He told me what was at the center of the project: a dysfunctional family, three orphans who have to find their place in the world, who consider themselves outsiders and who are convinced that they do not need anyone but they will find each other by destiny. And then there is a political aspect that we did not overlook: issues such as sexism, racism, xenophobia, and being a marginalized immigrant in this world. And finally magic, monsters and the adventure that are characteristics of this series.

Anya, Freya, tell us who your characters are.
Anya: Yennefer is a sorceress, fans of novels know that she is really stubborn and in this story we will also discover her past: we meet her as a fourteen year old (as in books) and we witness her progressive evolution. Obviously we see her relationship with Geralt, and above all what hes power means to her. She has a gigantic heart, she is a smart and tough woman.

Freya: Cirilla is a princess, the princess of Cintra. She has always lived in a bubble, protected from the world and its ugliness, but at the same time she is curious: for this reason those who love her try to protect her as much as possible. At the beginning of the series she decides she wants to find out more, she wants to get out of her crystal bubble. We will also get to know her when she is inserted into this brutal world that she had never experienced before. That is where we will also see her vulnerable side, but we will also discover her determination. Ciri does not know what she is doing, so she must learn a lot and therefore undergo a great evolution. She will change a lot during the series.

Images courtesy of itakon.it

The relationship between protagonists and destiny emerges in the books…
Lauren: First I had to understand and make a difference between destiny and fate, to understand how to deal with it in the series. Destiny is what we consider completely predetermined and it cannot be changed despite our choices, while fate can be changed. This happens for example when Geralt invokes the “law of surprise”: it requires a prize of which nature does not know, and this has an impact on his destiny, because he gets a daughter, Ciri. What do you do when your choice changes your destiny? How do you adapt?

What was your vision for the series? We know that it will be different from the video games, but what about animations and CGI?
Lauren: For me it was very important to use the short stories, which however do not have a straight narrative line. My task was to use them to bring together the three protagonists with three individual stories and an independent arc before they meet each other. Then I made additions: for example, Ciri travels alone at some point in the story, but that means she can’t talk to anybody, so we had to introduce a character to change that. These changes do not disrespect the source material, they are useful additions to the narrative. As for video games, which are also based on the books, I find them beautiful but what we tried to do was to distance ourselves from them. In the series we tried to do something different, to not repeat ourselves, for example there are so many CGI effects for monsters, but every time we could, we used special effects and prosthetic effects. We shot in five different countries, exploring many locations.

Freya, Anya, what is your relationship with the fans?
Anya: I had no idea how big this fandom was and how many people loved these stories, and so it was a big surprise for me. Working on such a colossal production was scary, because there are huge and very detailed sets: I learned a lot during these eight months. Obviously there have been good times and bad moments, but I tend to remember the beautiful ones…

Freya: for me it was very emotional to learn that I got the part. I was happy to work with Henry, because Anya has the same professional experience as me, but Henry has a lot more, more so when it comes to very large international fandoms. It was a different experience for me: the sets were alive and we could interact with them, and all the people involved were very passionate.

The Witcher is a series where you fight and fight. How hard was it to train and was it difficult to work with stunts and avoid getting hurt?
Anya: I loved it, I love stunts and I always tried to do my action scenes without stunt doubles, even if it was difficult because there was never enough time to train. But whatever Henry did, I wanted to do it too!

Freya: I could not do as much as Anya, but I would love to do it in the future. I traveled a lot on horseback, though, and it was beautiful.

Anya: She’s very good!

How different is it to write an action scene?
Lauren: One of the things you learn as a writer is that you’ll never be good at writing everything. I have learned to trust the professionals I work with. I have been very committed to the story, but I am not a fighter, so I let the stunt coordinators do their magic. I only wrote the elements of the story I needed to be clear in the action scenes and then asked them to create the action sequences to the best of their ability. They showed me everything in advance by making previews, and in this way we were perfectly organized.

About the fandom: what is your relationship with cosplayers and fan arts? Have you searched for them online?
Anya: A few months ago we went to Comic-Con in San Diego and we had our first encounter with the fandom, there were cosplayers identical to Geralt and Yennefer, the costumes were really the same: it shocked me. As for fan art … it’s almost inevitable! I use Instagram, and I often find fan art so for me it’s almost unavoidable, but sometimes I also find illustrations that I imagine as Yennefer, and they are really splendid.

Freya: I haven’t seen anyone dressed as Ciri yet … at least so far!

Lauren: it will happen, you’ll see!

Freya: And I also use Instagram and I’ve seen a lot of fan art too, it’s nice to know that there is this interaction between the fans and the story.

I read that you also shot in the Canaries, how was working on the set and how did you protect the series from spoilers?
Lauren: we shot 3 and a half weeks in the Canaries, it was my favorite location. We climbed the highest volcano on the island for three days, a crazy place, there was a smaller crew so we took the equipment up to the top of the mountains … The Canaries are fabulous. Protecting from spoilers is very important, we don’t want information to come out, but luckily there is always excellent security on the set. The spoilers are difficult to manage because the public does not have a context in which to insert them, so it could be misunderstood: maybe a photo appears online in which Geralt drinks coffee and the public might think that he will drink coffee in the series as well!

If you somehow missed the news, thanks to the new trailer we already know the release date of the show. Stay tuned for our frame-by-frame trailer analysis, recap of the LCG panels and more!

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