Netflix‘s The Witcher kicked off its SDCC 2019 Hall H panel with a sudden fade to black, a big-screen 30 second countdown, and then…nothing? After a quick fakeout, we then got a quick highlight reel that looked very game of Thrones. Big battles, wintry forests, island castles, magic shockwaves and royal courts.
Yvette Nicole Brown came onstage to introduce Producer Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, and actors Anya Chalotra, Freya Allen, and Henry Cavill
Cavill mentioned he plays the games a lot, as he does Warcraft. He loves that Geralt is not your typical hero but deep down he really is a good guy and he keeps that private. Defines a Witcher as a young boy taken from the streets, taken in by a group to train in inhuman agility and endurance, subjected to alchemical trials to turn them into mutants. One in ten survives to hunt monsters for coin. They’re not supposed to have emotions.
Hissrich wasn’t initially drawn to fantasy but liked that the movie was about a family. Promises lots of sex and violence. She cast Cavill because when he read the lines, it sounded like what Hissrich heard in her head. As a fan of the game, Cavill decided he had to give it his best shot, and pestered everyone involved constantly until he got into the room…and was told they weren’t ready to cast. Four months later, he got it.
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Cavill has no stuntman on the show — he does everything himself. To that end, we got show a clip of him and a hedgehog-faced mutant taking on an entire royal court with swords, until the queen steps down from her throne, approaches Geralt with a sword and yells “STOP!” And cut.
Chalotra described Yennefer as being on a journey of self-discovery, and the ultimate survivor. She’s on a quest to find power and love, but there’s a big personal trade-off. She may ultimately be the most powerful mage out there. We then got a clip of Yennefer talking to a dead baby — yep, that’s right — telling it how terrible life would have been for it anyway, as a girl. She laments that women are just vessels in this world, and as a vulture circles above, she tells the infant it has already won the game, before burying in a shallow grave. Dark.
For Allen, this is her first major role. She has always wanted to be in fantasy, and now she’s Princess Ciri, “very privileged” and “incredibly naive.” Her journey this season will be about “putting herself in other people’s shoes.” She tries to see the good in everyone. In a Ciri-centric clip, we saw her walking through snowy woods towards a bright light in the ground. Whispers in her head grow louder, as she is suddenly surrounded by dreadlocked female warriors pointing spears at her and speaking another language. She pleads that she’s lost, and has to find Dara.
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Hissrich wanted to specifically flesh out the supporting characters, who are all seen from Geralt’s perspective in the books, which only hint at their backstories. The show will fill out those stories more, making it not just about Geralt. Gerlat is 100 years old and has been through many horses, but his current steed, Roach is “the one access point he has to humanity.” Hissrich was told by many readers she should cut a soliloquy Geralt gives to Roach, but she kept it and added to it. Witchers are supposed to have no emotions so they have an edge in negotiations, but Cavill says “it’s clearly a lie.” He makes moral decisions along the way, “and all of them get him in trouble.”
This led to a longer mega-clip incorporating bits of all the previous scenes, and reveals the female warriors are elves, Yennefer begins as deformed but become beautiful, Ciri is on a quest to find Geralt. And there are monsters, magic purple trees…and a big giant spider-creature in a swamp at the end, as Geralt’s eyes turn black.
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When Chalotra auditioned, she angrily chewed on an apple and spit it everywhere. Afterward, she was very apologetic and tried to pick every bit up.
The panel concluded with the news that The Witcher will be a binge-watch, with every episode drpping at once.