Tired of re-watching episodes from hit TV series Game of Thrones? Then Netflix’s upcoming fantasy series The Witcher might just be your next go-to binge. There’s already a huge buzz around the show on the internet and the series was announced for a Season 2 renewal—ahead of its debut on December 20.

Based on the best-selling novels by Andrzej Sapkowski, the series stars Superman actor Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia, a mutated monster-hunter for hire in a magical medieval world. Joining him on his expedition are 18-year-old Freya Allan, who stars as Princess Ciri, and 23-year-old half-Indian actress Anya Chalotra as the powerful sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg.

We caught the leading ladies over the phone for first dibs on the epic series and their iconic characters.

Your characters are very different, but they’re both incredibly fearless, strong and resilient. How does it feel like to play these heroines in this age of women empowerment?

Freya: It’s an incredible opportunity [for us] to play such amazing roles that are so multi-dimensional and have such a great story to tell and a great arch. Playing Ciri, I got to explore a different way of showing strength through how vulnerable she is and how she continues despite the horrific things she goes through. I wouldn’t judge her if she couldn’t carry on but she does and I think that’s very admirable and takes a lot of strength.

Anya: It’s an absolute gift to play Yennefer and it’s completely changed my life—she really has! I play her from the age of 14 to late 70s and I’m now in my 20s. It’s an incredible challenge and I relished it but we didn’t shoot in consecutive order… We learn in the series where her powers come from, what her powers are and how her strong her insecurities are.

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What was it like preparing for your roles?

Anya: [When I was playing] the young Yennefer, I had to get my makeup done for three hours and that’s enough time to get into Yennefer’s headspace which helps me in my work. I had a back prosthetic for the hunchback and a mouth guard for the jaw deformity. … It was all those things that I was given really aided my performance.

Your characters have a large following of fans worldwide but they were quick to criticise your castings as it wasn’t exactly what fit into their expectations from the books. What’s your take on this and how are you dealing with the criticism online?

Anya: The way I know how the casting [team] approached this was that the best person for the part gets the part, and I know that was for every person they’ve cast. I fully believe that as well. I think if you choose to focus on [the negativity], then there’s a huge pressure because there are so many fans. It’s a hugely-anticipated show and we’re playing such iconic characters. But there was so much positivity out there and if you focus on that, it only ever supports you. I think you have to make the choice to focus on that and I did. As an actor, you do have your wobbles and you embrace them and you learn from them.

Freya: Obviously, there are people that are already really invested in these characters and have their own images of them in mind. But I think all we can do as actors is just work as hard as possible to give the absolute best interpretation that we can and that, I feel, is what we’ve all done. That makes any kind of pressure irrelevant because we’ve done everything we can.

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Has starring in this project toughened you up?

Anya: Oh god, I think being in this industry, yeah. Everything you say in the media now… We’ve become politicians in a way. We’re always in front of cameras all the time and I think that toughens you up. Social media does as well.

A lot of fantasy fiction has been adapted to the big and small screen. What makes The Witcher stand out in a saturated fantasy genre?

Freya: The fact that it’s got all the fantastical elements that everyone enjoys and [it allows people to be] able to escape to different world, environment and headspace. There are different possibilities which can be a release for people in the serious world we are in.  It’s a way of escaping into a world with elves, magic and beautiful forests. At the same time, we’ve got a sense of reality in it like the importance of family… It’s got all those things people can relate to.

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What is it like to revisit your characters in Season 2?

Anya: I’m so excited that we have been green-lit for a season 2. There’s so much more of the story to tell and for Yennefer, she hasn’t had the opportunity to interact with the other characters.

Freya: Gosh, I’m also excited. I will get to show the Ciri that so many people fall in love with and also get to look at relationships with other characters. I did a lot of filming alone in season 1 and now I’ll get to act with others instead of running through words on my own!

Watch the trailer below.

The Witcher premiers on Netflix on December 20, 2019.

Images: Netflix
Text: Sherlyn Sim