Witches, mutants and monsters, oh my. Netflix’s The Witcher delves into the dark world of the Continent, a place where royals rule, sorceresses exercise magical powers and witchers hunt monsters. Early reviewers have called it the new Game of Thrones.
“It’s an amazing world of crazy for you,” Anya Chalotra, who plays Yennefer of Vengerberg, said. “It was great Netflix was able to support this and how big the set was. As an actress, it’s brilliant to have a world created for you already.”
The eight-episode show is based on the best-selling fantasy saga written by Andrzej Sapkowski, which was translated into 20 languages and later spawned a video game franchise.
“I’m thrilled that Netflix will be doing an adaptation of my stories, staying true to the source material and the themes that I have spent over 30 years writing,” Sapkowski, who served as a creative consultant, said in a press release.
The story of The Witcher follows Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill), a mutant who hunts monsters and struggles to find his place in a world where he is hated by almost every other species. He teams up with Yennefer, a powerful sorceress, and Cirilla, Princess of Cintra (Freya Allan) to navigate the Continent.
Yennefer’s life began with hardships; she was born with a deformed spine and an abnormal jaw. Because of it, her father resented her. Although she is in a constant battle with herself, Yennefer strives for more. Chalotra described her character in three words: survivor, resilient, passionate.
“As someone in my 20s, I have a big transformation in episode three, you don’t see the character aging, she stays in her 20-year-old body, but I have to change the character. And through life, she responds differently with what she learned, and I had to think of that before every scene,” Chalotra explained. “It was difficult because you don’t shoot in order, so I was really leaning on people for her perspective. The material we had, it took everyone.”
Unlike Yennefer who experienced the cruelties of the world early on, Cirilla, also known as Ciri, lived a sheltered life as a princess. But she tries to break free of that royal world. Allan explained the most challenging part of her role was portraying someone who had to deal with losing “everyone she loved in one night and the impact of that.”
“I Googled her when found out I got the audition and I saw she was a strong character,” said Allan, who, similar to Chalotra, hadn’t heard of the books before their audition.
“I was relieved when I read the scene and realized they weren’t portraying it like she was born and can tackle anything,” Allan said. “You get to see vulnerability in her and I liked that. You see serious strength through vulnerability and I liked that. Sometimes, people get caught up in creating a strong female being physically strong. It wasn’t more important to make it that she battles and fights.”
Allan and Chalotra agreed that while they were playing determined and powerful female roles, they were focused on developing those characters.
“I think we hear the phrase [strong female characters] so much and I think it’s not about the role being strong, but about needing a broader range of roles for women,” Allan said. “They’re not just playing the same old story line, they’re given a wide range of characters.”
Both characters provided that range and proved to be a challenge.
“Knowing I would be able to develop her back story and not just see it through Geralt’s eyes but give her a story independent from that [is what drew me in],” Chalotra said. “To learn that she is more than just a cold exterior. It was a great challenge for me.”
The two gushed and joked about working with the world’s latest Superman. Unlike his two co-stars, Cavill was a fan of the books and games, telling Entertainment Tonight he would call his agents every day to find out if he got the role of Geralt.
“He was just so enthusiastic and passionate and a gift for me personally to work with,” Chalotra said of Cavill. “He’s such a fan of the books and games and The Witcher and I didn’t know anything about it. He was such a hardcore fan and it was so great.”
The Witcher series hits Netflix on Dec. 20.