From the very beginning, Netflix’s marketing for their upcoming fantasy series The Witcher has maintained a focus on its three central characters: the monster hunter Geralt of Rivia (as played by Superman‘s Henry Cavill), Princess Ciri (played by Freya Allan) and the sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg (played by Anya Chalotra). Notably absent from the show’s trailers (aside from one single frame showing his back) was the series’ fourth main cast-member: Joey Batey, who plays the bawdy bard Jaskier (known as Dandelion in the original English translations and the video games). Thankfully, Jaskier is still a big part of the show. In a new interview with Polskie Radio, Executive Producer Tomek Baginski explained how Batey was selected for the role.
“It was a very interesting casting,” said Baginski. “It was a long search. Joey is an actor who has done a lot in his life. He was even a stuntman, [which could be useful in our series]. We were looking for a great actor who [could bring about the right atmosphere], the humorous element of the series, but the most important thing for us was that he could sing fantastically.”
For those unfamiliar with Jaskier, the bard is essentially Geralt’s best pal (though the witcher would not readily admit that). Other than having a beautiful voice and a knack for poetry, the bard is also behind some of the series funniest moments (of which there are many). Luckily, Batey has his fair share of experience not only as an actor, but also as a comedian, musician and singer. And perhaps just as importantly, he can play Jaskier’s signature instrument: the lute.
Baginski explains that casting Jaskier was diffficult, but Batey’s audition left them all confident they had found the one. “I remember, during the casting, how we watched [so many] different faces, different people auditioning, and then a nice guy comes in, looks good and suddenly he takes the guitar and starts to sing. And I immediately thought that we found him. That was it. This is a guy who can draw emotions and immediately becomes credible. The whole character of Jaskier, his womanizer features. As soon as he starts singing, this is all ready.”
This is not the first time praise is given for Batey’s performance, and it’s not likely to be the last. Early review copies of The Witcher‘s first five episodes are already in the hands of lucky critics and fans, and many mention Batey as a highlight.
“I believe Jaskier is in three of the [five episodes released for critics],” said an early reviewer on Reddit. “One of my favorite characters. He’s definitely worth it. Hilarious and very Jaskier-like.” It was also mentioned that Jaskier will sing a song in every episode he appears (at least in the episodes released in screeners).
“We wrote and recorded four songs for Jaskier,” said The Witcher composer Sonya Belusova in an interview with Episode magazine. “Toss A Coin To Your Witcher in chapter two, Her Sweet Kiss in chapter six, The Fishmonger’s Daughter in chapter four and You Think You’re Safe in chapter two. We wrote songs and worked with Declan De Barra, Jenny Klein and Haily Hall before the shoot. Then we recorded it with Joey in London. The rest of the production was completed here in our Los Angeles studio.”
Other than the show’s early reviewers, The Witcher‘s casting director Sophie Holland also praised the actor. “With all the auditions we do on a daily basis there are few as joyful as Joey Batey’s for Jaskier in The Witcher. It felt like we’d seen hundreds of brilliant choices but still hadn’t found our guy, and I decided we should do One. Last. Push. Before I threw in the towel and collapsed on the floor sobbing in defeat. In 24 hours, King Joey – (for that is what we now call him in the office) had learned by heart 2 epic scenes, borrowed a lute, it turned out he could play like a dream (I mean, where did he get such a thing on such short notice and who the bloody hell can play a lute in 2018?) composed and learned a frickin’ song! We knew, we KNEW we had our guy. I could have leapt across the room and hugged him. (I likely said as much.) Never was a role made for someone the way this role was made for him. I can’t WAIT for you all to see Joey and love him as much as we do.”
Even Ciri costar Freya Allan admitted Jaskier was her favorite character and teased his much anticipated friendship with Henry Cavill’s Geralt: “I love his relationship with Geralt,” Allan said in an interview with Nowa Fantastyka magazine. “It’s something that I can’t wait to see in the show. They’re like Shrek and Donkey.”
The Witcher launches all eight episodes of its first season on December 20. In the meantime, check out Batey’s band The Amazing Devil, who have dropped their first album on Spotify.