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Netflix is getting magnificently monstrous with the upcoming premiere of The Witcher, starring Henry Cavill of Superman fame as the legendary monster-hunting witcher by the name of Geralt of Rivia. That said, the show -- which is based on a series of books and short stories by author Andrzej Sapkowski -- isn't just going to focus on Cavill's character, as Geralt will share the spotlight with the sorceress Yennefer and the princess Cirilla. Showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich shared why the series also tells Yennefer and Ciri's stories in-depth rather than solely focusing The Witcher on... well, the witcher.
Speaking with CinemaBlend about all things Witcher, showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich explained the decision to fill in the backstories of Yennefer and Ciri as well as Geralt, which may come as a surprise to book fans as much as newcomers to this saga. Here's what she had to say:
It's a great question. When I dig into the source material and I take away all of what I call the bells and whistles of fantasy, the monsters and the magic and sex and the violence and the gore and the blood, all the things that we all want to see and are very much there, we pushed those to the side a second and we get down to the soul of the story. It's the story of a broken family. It's a story of three people who are on their own in the world, really orphans all living in the margins of society who are determined to not need anyone, and yet of course they do. And are maybe even destined to be with someone.
This show may be called The Witcher, but that doesn't mean viewers should go into the series expecting eight episodes of Henry Cavill's Geralt from beginning to end. The show, also starring Anya Chalotra as the sorceress Yennefer and Freya Allan as Princess Ciri, has a story of three people to tell and will do so by focusing on all three characters.
After all, book readers know that Yennefer and Ciri are rich characters in their own right, and it's hard to imagine The Witcher doing justice to them without giving them their fair share of screen time. Besides, The Witcher is a TV series rather than a movie, and it has already been renewed for a second season.
So, the show has time to build the world and characters of The Witcher, and that includes more than just Geralt, even though Henry Cavill is remarkably committed to the role. He even did his own stunts for the show! Lauren Schmidt Hissrich elaborated on The Witcher focusing on Yennefer and Ciri as well as Geralt:
If we get to that story, then to me the most important thing is understanding those three players very well, because the fun is building each of them to be a standalone character with their own backstories and their own motivations and their own journeys and their own complications. All of those things. We want to build those up from the beginning and then you want to start basically colliding them into each other. To see how they change each other, how they better each other, and how they perhaps bring out the worst in each other sometimes. To play that story, to play that dynamic of those three sort of pinballs hitting against each other, we need to really understand and love who they are to begin with. And so there was a great opportunity.
Instead of viewers being tasked with investing in these characters and their dynamics with each other right off the bat, The Witcher will evidently allow time to get to know Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri without immediately making their relationships a focus. The saga of The Witcher as told via Andrzej Sapkowski's novels has the advantage of characters' thoughts to reveal events without explicitly saying them; the show will handle events in a different way.
Interestingly, Lauren Schmidt Hissrich and the Witcher team did have some source material as a starting point without jumping immediately into the saga. Andrzej Sapkowski also penned a series of short stories of in-universe adventures unrelated to the grand plot that is presumably to come on the TV show. Hissrich explained how the source material impacted and inspired how The Witcher handled Yennefer and Ciri in particular:
Andrzej Sapkowski, the author, he did a really great job in the books of referring to the backstories of Ciri and Yennefer. Even if it's just in terms of a line of dialogue or thought in someone's head. We do know a little bit about where Yennefer came from and where Ciri came from, and all we did as a writing staff is we went through and we pulled out all of those examples and then we created a narrative around them. So even when you get into Yennefer's backstory, say, it's something that's not in the books but will also be recognizable to existing fans, which I think is really fun. It's there and we're just building on it and fleshing it out. And to me, it makes the moments when these characters meet all the more delicious.
Instead of just telling Ciri and Yennefer's stories prior the novel saga via exposition, the Witcher TV show has the opportunity to show what was written and elaborate on it for audiences. This has the benefit of expanding the world of Geralt, Yennefer, and Ciri as well as delivering some twists that even the greatest experts in Andrzej Sapkowski's works couldn't see coming.
Now, does the fact that The Witcher is a fantasy saga based on a series of books mean that it's going to be Game of Thrones 2.0? Definitely not, and the comparisons may more or less end at the fact that they're set in the same genre and are adapted from source material, although the trailer suggests that it could be right up the alley of Thrones fans missing epic fantasy on the small screen.