Witcher set visits reveal expanded role for Jaskier

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With just five weeks remaining until The Witcher airs on Netflix, we are in for a real treat as more and more information about the show’s anticipated first season goes public. Today’s news comes courtesy of the set visits by Polish sites teleshow.wp and RMF24, and you can read the highlights from both articles below.

Coming home, tears of emotion and a star in the making

Teleshow.wp had a chance to speak to showrunner Lauren Hissrich and executive producer Tomek Bagiński during the show’s brief but memorable filming in the Witcher’s homeland, Poland. The scenes were shot in the ruins of Ogrodzieniec Castle (around 60km from Kraków) which were closed for tourists during filming. Word was that the castle was being renovated, but the security, fog machines, cameras and people in vaguely medieval outfits made it clear that something different was going on.

Shooting in Poland was a matter close to the heart of both Hissrich and Bagiński. For the showrunner it was almost love-at-first-sight, as she stumbled upon the ruins of Ogrodzieniec Castle almost accidentally during her first visit to Poland: “It was fate. Or, as we’re talking Witcher, I should rather say – destiny.”

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Tuesday. ♥️🇵🇱

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“We really wanted to shoot in Poland,” Baginski added. “And we managed to do so. But making something of this scale is hard. Any shooting on location is a big undertaking. This season we shot relatively little in Poland, but from the start we wanted Poland to show up in the show.”

“In Poland, you don’t have studios and well-trained crews who can pull that off. There are a lot of talented people, but they aren’t used to working on a scale like that. You don’t do productions [shows] like this in Poland.”

Will The Witcher return to Poland in the future? Bagiński, a Polish man himself, believes so: “Earlier there were no tax benefits, but now, as far as I know, a few businesses think of setting up filming halls in Poland. So that we can compete with the Czech Republic, Hungary or England.”

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Ogrodzieniec Castle, a filming location in The Witcher’s season finale
Tomek Bagiński At Ogrodzieniec Castle

Of course, the trip to Poland wasn’t the only factor in establishing a relationship between the show and its origins. Witcher author Andrzej Sapkowski visited the set in Budapest as well, and was genuinely moved. Hissrich said he had tears in eyes, not because of the scale of the production, but because he saw how dedicated everyone in the crew is. He spoke to the actors and the director, and even met Henry Cavill while he was shooting a spectacular scene.”

Bagiński had a personal relationship with Sapkowski long before the production of the series. “Andrzej kept saying that he doesn’t want to look at the ingredients because you can’t judge a soup by the grocery bag’s contents. I think it’s a great and smart outlook. He’s a complex and interesting man. A rare man who doesn’t use Instagram”

Andrzej Sapkowski studying pictures with Bagiński and costume designer Tim Aslam
Baginski and Sapkowski on set of The Witcher

Hissrich emphasized that the show will stay true to the spirit of the books and won’t be a ‘cheery, American spectacle’: “This world isn’t only one of great heroes, fighting monsters and casting spells, it’s also just normal people living day by day. It’s also their world.”

She explained that The Witcher will differ from other shows as it strives to uphold the humour and some of the long but natural dialogues that are characteristic of Sapkowski’s writing.

When asked about the chronology of events, she added: “I can’t tell some of the details, but it’s clear that the writers connected different storylines when necessary.” For Hissrich, the short-stories about Geralt are the introduction to the saga and she treats them as a part of the larger story, rather than just individual chapters.

When asked about The Witcher’s impressive cast, Bagiński pointed out Anya Chalotra, who plays the sorceress Yennefer, as their biggest discovery. In his opinion, The Witcher will make a star of the young actress, who previously appeared in BBC’s Wanderlust and The ABC Murders.

Anya Chalotra as Yennefer

He also had positive things to say about Henry Cavill, who was very involved in the production and a “total professional”, not acting like you would expect from a big movie star. “In Hungary, he spent weeks sleeping in a trailer right by the set. He didn’t go back to the hotel in Budapest which saved him an hour every day, but mostly it meant that during the whole time he was in the Witcher world. That doesn’t happen very often. Henry is a working actor, he knows what to do and he delivers fantastic scenes.”

A bard in Cintra and other tidbits

During their visit to the set in Budapest, RMF24 was present at the shooting of an important scene. In their article, they shared some exciting new descriptions of the setting and characters:

We pass a giant canteen and we are going to meet the creators of the series. We enter the interior of the giant hall. A huge model of the castle’s interior was built in it. In the background, you can hear songs. It is dark and quite cold. Dozens of people are on the set, but it’s very quiet. We sit down behind small screens, we have an accurate view of what is happening on the set. Director Alex Garcia Lopez gives directions to actors.

One more try before filming. Then another try. Finally, the command is given: “Silence on the set. Action.” The wedding scene of Pavetta and the Urcheon of Erlenwald is created. The Witcher appears on the set. Henry Cavill is in a great mood. He makes sure which scene is being created, standing next to Jaskier, played by Joey Batey. Taking a short break, he pretends to take a selfie. Someone trips over the props. “It’s a bit dark here,” comments Cavill. The director asks for silence on the set.

Henry Cavill in a stunt scene. Visible in the background are Ross Telfer (Draig Bon Dhu), Blair Kincaid (Crach an Craite) and Joey Batey (Jaskier)

There are two key takeaways from this description. The first one is, that there will be a wedding between Pavetta (Gaia Mondadori) and the Urcheon of Erlenwald (Bard Edwards), likely in the same episode as the fateful events of A Question of Price. The second and more surprising one is that Joey Batey‘s Jaskier will be present during the scene, confirming what fans have suspected after seeing his character hanging out with other cast members in the image above. Will he be joining the banquet’s already impressive ensemble of bards, competing with the likes of Ross Telfer’s Draig Bon Dhu?

Meanwhile, the journalists also spoke to some of the cast and crew. Here are a few tidbits worth noting:

Freya Allan (Ciri) said she had a dream just before her birthday – to get a great role instead of a gift. Just as she blew out the candles on the cake, the phone rang and she was offered the role of Ciri in The Witcher.

Tim Aslan (lead costume designer) revealed that he used brocades, silk materials, leather, and metal elements. In total, he designed 140 different costumes for the main characters and each “hero” has 6 or 7 of them.

Finally, Lauren Hissrich was jokingly asked whether she has thought about including a sex scene on a unicorn, as it was mentioned in the books and shown in the video games. “It won’t be in the first season, but we don’t know what awaits us in the future”, Lauren laughed and returned to the set.

The Witcher‘s first season launches on Netflix this coming December 20. Season two, already renewed, will begin filming early next year.

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