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The Witcher Showrunner Gets Honest About People Who Like The Books More Than The Shows

the witcher season 1 henry cavill screenshot
(Image credit: Netflix)

It’s a struggle as old as time. Or, a struggle as old as movies, anyway. How do we accept a screen adaptation of a novel that we’ve loved, with our feelings for said original property sometimes going back years, or even multiple decades. Fans of The Witcher have had to deal with this at least twice, when the many books / short stories of author Andrzej Sapkowski were turned into a series of video games, and in December 2019, when the first season of Netflix’s hit fantasy show debuted. Now, though, The Witcher’s showrunner is getting very honest about people who like the books better than the shows.

Lauren Schmidt Hissrich is the person behind The Witcher, who helped shepherd Sapkowski’s expansive and fantastical world to the small screen. With The Witcher Season 2 finally (Finally!) set to premiere in a little over two months, she was recently asked by a fan on Twitter if she had tips on being able to separate the work of a novel and that of its adaptation, so that people who adore that book can still enjoy the TV show as its own thing, even with the inevitable changes. Hissrich fessed up, and said, in part:

To be honest? I can't think of a single time I've liked the adaptation better than the original. Ever. I'm a book girl, period...Truth is: we all know what works in books doesn't always work onscreen. All that stream of consciousness? A character telling me her own fears or pain for 10 pages? Chapters of explanations of magic, societal rules, or backstory? They will never be portrayed with the same detail. So if I need that? If anything less than that is a cop-out, or does the author dirty? I have to skip it. For my own sanity. Where adaptation works for me is when I am willing to go along for the ride. When I am excited for the challenge of hearing a familiar story in a new way.

Man, it’s tough sometimes, right? But, I think that this question was brought to the showrunner on Twitter because it’s a thing that many readers deal with. When you find a book or novel series that you love with all of your heart, it’s not uncommon to become both extremely excited and fearful when it’s announced that a show (or movie) will be made from it. 

As Hissrich noted, we know that some aspects of the story will have to change so that it fits a screen adaptation better, but we always worry about what will change and how, not to mention the general anxiety over casting, set design, and other things we’ve fully imagined in our heads for years.

The key that Hissrich has found to enjoying both seems to be just accepting that sometimes major changes are a part of the adaptation process so you can “go along for the ride,” as long as you know that no aspect of the story that’s necessary for your immersion in it has been removed / severely altered. Plus, as long as you feel like those who adapted the story respected the original work, even as they made changes, it should help that process along.

As Hissrich added:

And yeah, even when that happens, I still love the books more. I just do. But I love the adaptation for its own journey. Take Harry Potter: the writers are able to take 500 pages and boil them down to two action-packed, emotionally-driven hours that build to a larger adventure. It's brilliant. Even if they do occasionally miss puzzle pieces I love, or change the order of action, or blend two characters into one. I appreciate it for what it is -- as you say -- and simply enjoy it.

Fans will have another chance to separate the books from the TV show when The Witcher returns (with the well-paid Henry Cavill) on December 17. And, you can see what’s coming up with other book-to-show adaptations with news on Outlander Season 6, read up on Netflix’s Sandman TV show, or look into what will be new for The Flight Attendant Season 2.

Adrienne Jones

Bachelor Nation, Gilmore Girl; will Vulcan nerve pinch pretty much anyone if prompted with cheese...Yes, even Jamie Fraser.