The Witcher showrunner: “If it’s not a good story, it’s not appealing”

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Speaking to reporters from SFX magazine during the filming of Netflix’s The Witcher, showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich discussed the show’s tone and structure as well as the unavoidable comparisons to Game of Thrones. Also included is Ciri star Freya Allan, who discusses her connection with the character.

Hissrich opens the article with a description of the show’s setting, the Continent. “The world of The Witcher is really unique in that it takes this world of fantasy, adventure, fights, monsters, romance and witches… and yet, Sapkowski thought it was really important to ground it in what was happening in the real world.”

“I think The Witcher tells a lot of really human stories” says Hissrich. “Yes there are monsters, and yes, there will be a lot of blood but there’s also a family coming together. To me, that really has been the theme of the first season: What makes a family? How does a family find each other? Why are they meant to be together? People who may not think they are fantasy fans will come and find that they are.”

The actress behind The Witcher‘s Ciri concurs. “Of course it’s got brilliant fantastical elements, monsters and magic,” says Freya Allan. “But there are a lot of relatable topics within it: loss, wanting to have a family, having been orphaned, wanting a child. Those are some of the big themes that are not fantastical.”

Allan also discusses her character in the article, and how she was able to connect to Ciri. “She’s not afraid to ask questions. She won’t just accept things because that’s how they are. She’s feisty. I can definitely be stubborn as well, and she’s stubborn too! She’s a mixture. She likes to go and play with the boys and get dirty and muddy, so she’s a bit of a tomboy, but at the same time I don’t think she wants to be exactly like the boys. I think there’s part of her that enjoys being a princess and having some power and the possibility of maybe being a strong woman like Calanthe, her grandmother. She’s got two sides. She’s three-dimensional. She’s not just a tomboy.”

On the subject of violence, the verdict has already been revealed by Hissrich: The Witcher will, indeed, be a bloody show. It was important for her, however, that the show’s violence would be justified by the narrative. “I think audiences are much smarter than that now,” said Hissrich. “If you’re not telling a good story, it doesn’t really matter how many heads you’ve chopped off. If it’s not a good story, it’s not appealing. It’s more of a gut feeling and it really is making sure that anything we do with violence propels one of our characters along.” When asked if that means we will not see severed limbs, Lauren chuckled. “Oh, there are limbs flying… Yes, there are.”

Like most of Hissrich’s recent interviews, she was asked about the comparisons between The Witcher and Game of Thrones. Hissrich reiterated that these are two very different fantasy shows, especially when it comes to their tone.

“There is a humor to the world of The Witcher, there is a tongue-in-cheekiness. The world doesn’t take itself too seriously. Part of that is a reaction to Geralt, who is a very serious character. He has a dry wit but he works through the world in a morose [place].”

Another major difference the showrunner cites is The Witcher‘s smaller story arcs, embedded within the larger narrative. “With Game of Thrones, you can’t just pop in and out of episodes, and that’s part of the brilliance of it.” Unlike Game of Thrones, The Witcher‘s first season is based on a series of self-contained short stories – and it appears that they will carry over to an episodic format.

And what of the future seasons? SFX were gracious enough to ask Hissrich if she has season 2 mapped out. This was her response: “Oh, hell yeah! Second season? I’ve done it for seven seasons!” Hissrich was also quick to remind that nothing, at this stage, is set in stone. “We don’t have a second season yet – God willing we will – but right now it’s just about ‘How do you set up stories that really capture audiences years at a time?’ The worst thing we could do was to put all of our energies into just season one and not be thinking about where these characters can grow to.”

The Witcher‘s first season launches on Netflix on December 20.

1 comments on “The Witcher showrunner: “If it’s not a good story, it’s not appealing””

  1. All that is true. But there are so many ways to eff up even the best story. Have you ever seen a good film based on Bulhakov’s “Master and Margarita”? Or Lem’s “Solaris”? Or even on Pullman’s “Dark Matters”.

    Dick is a good example too. Intricate, passionate stories, each and every one. And the movies based on them vary from horrible to phenomenal.

    So – we shall soon see what you did to Sapkowski’s universe.

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