A year ago around these days the first season of Netflix’s The Witcher was undergoing reshoots of the Blaviken scenes from the premiere episode. As you may have heard, while Henry Cavill remained as Geralt of Rivia, most of the roles from Blaviken were recast, including Emma Appleton replacing The Last Kingdom‘s Millie Brady as Renfri and Mia McKenna-Bruce replacing Rebecca Benson as Marilka. Here at Redanian Intelligence we had a very lovely Q&A with Mia. Read it below!
RI: Marilka appears in the opening episode and though the part is a small one, you have made an immediate impression and even become something of a fan favorite. How has your experience with the Witcher fans been so far?
MMB: Ah thank you so much! Marilka was such a fun character to play, I love that she has been received so well. The support from the Witcher fans is incredible, obviously from the books and the game, a lot of fans already have an idea of what the character should/would look like so it was super nerve-wracking not knowing if they would like what I have done with her, but the feedback has all been incredibly lovely, it means so much! My favourite is the fan art that has been created I love it!
RI: As we know, the role of Marilka has been through quite a bit of a process until you landed the part. Freya Allan was originally meant to play her before she was cast as Ciri. After that, the casting team found a replacement in Rebecca Benson and when the reshoots happened you were finally cast. How was your audition and the sitdown with casting director Sophie Holland? Were you aware of the history of the part?
MMB: Sophie is amazing, I am super grateful she bought me in to read for the role. I wasn’t aware of the history until we had already started shooting and once you are on set, immersed in that world it was just about focusing on doing the best job I could!
RI: Coming in late for the reshoots, we can imagine you didn’t have much time to prepare for the part. How did you manage to get into the role? Were you given material from the already filmed scenes to help paint a picture?
MMB: It was definitely a fast turnaround from getting the part to then being on set, but honestly everyone was so welcoming it was easy to fit right in. I hadn’t met our director, Marc, until I was on set. We sat down straight away to talk about the character and the whole Witcher world, which really helped in getting me into the feel of everything! It sounds a bit crazy but working with such incredible actors, crew and on such a magical set, it was easy to just feel a part of that world. Also, Marilka is such a fab character I have so much love for her, getting into the role was just exciting!
RI: How was the filming process in general? Can you share any interesting stories from the set?
MMB: I think the best way to describe the filming process would just be purely magical. Watching Henry literally just ‘be’ Geralt was inspiring, you would forget that you were filming and in this make believe world. It all felt so real. Everyone on the set had worked so so hard, and had genuine love for the show and just wanted to create the best thing possible, it was phenomenal to be a part of. I can remember the biggest struggle we actually faced was the weather! There were torrential downpours literally the whole time I was out there. So the mud on the set of Blaviken became virtually impossible to walk in. I was slipping and sliding all over the place and had 3 pairs of shoes to swap between because they became so heavy with the mud I couldn’t lift my feet!
RI: You shared scenes with both Henry Cavill and Emma Appleton who gave a breakthrough performance as princess Renfri. How was working with the two of them? Can you take us back to filming the standoff scene at the end of episode one when Renfri threatened to kill Marilka and the whole town of Blaviken?
MMB: I feel so lucky to have got to work so closely with both Henry and Emma. Watching Henry was like something I have never seen, I was blown away by him on set, the way he just completely became the character. I didn’t actually see Henry out of character until we had finished the shoot entirely. I was like woah who is this person. Emma was like my absolute saviour on set, we became really close and she really helped me when I was feeling nervous! Emma had to train so much for all her stunt work, so seeing that come together on set was phenomenal she really was amazing and is such an incredible actress she made working alongside her so so easy and so much fun, even if she did have a sword to my throat!
RI: What was the most valuable lesson you learned as an actress by being part of such a huge production as The Witcher?
MMB: I think the most valuable lesson I learned from The Witcher, was that when a team of people really come together, and love and appreciate what they are doing. Magic is created. We got to watch the initial teaser of the show after filming one day. Everyone came together to watch, and everyone was crying (happy tears of course) at seeing all of their hard work come together and that what they had made was so truly incredible.
RI: One of the last things Marilka told Geralt was that she wanted to get out of Blaviken and “be more”. In the current timeline Marilka would be in her late 40s. Where do you like to think she is now and what is she doing? Did she become “more”?
MMB: I would like to most definitely think she is ‘doing more’. She is such a fearless person, I would hope she hadn’t let anything stand in her way. Marilka has this fire inside her, that I believed fuelled her, she also has such a charm and loveability about her that I like to think she will have used all of these tools to push on in her life.
RI: Lastly, what’s next for Mia McKenna-Bruce? Do you have any upcoming projects after this lockdown?
MMB: This is a bit difficult to answer at the moment with everything that’s going on! But I am currently working on a web series whilst being in lockdown, looking at how different people are dealing with isolation, which is really exciting. Beyond that, a series that I filmed last summer is due for its Netflix release next month. It’s called Get Even and is currently available on BBC iPlayer! No-one is entirely sure when the industry will be up and running again at the moment – fingers crossed in time for filming season 2 of Get Even. But on a whole I’d love to do something action related involving stunts etc. I’ve done a few bits that involve a small amount but watching the stunt team and Henry on The Witcher really made me want to do more of that! But all in all I just want to continue learning and hopefully keep on doing what I love most!
For more of our interviews, head to our RI Interviews page and find our Q&A’s with The Witcher’s other cast and crew.