Amid numerous headlines about The Witcher star Henry Cavill leaving the Netflix series, the franchise continues with The Witcher: Blood Origina prequel to the story.
Fans of The Witcher have been increasingly vocal with their opinions of the Netflix adaptation of the famed franchise, including Cavill’s departure, but showrunner Declan De Barra stressed that, despite fans of the franchise being particularly passionate about the narrative, it’s not constructive to write specifically to serve a fan base.
“You never write exactly for fans, it is impossible because every person has their own version of that book in their head, their own version of Geralt, their own version of Yennefer, their own version of Conjunction of the Spheres,” De Barra told Yahoo Canada. “It’s just such a massive fan base and you’re never going to satisfy everybody.”
“So our job as storytellers is to tell the best through line, the strongest story we can, and we love this stuff. We’re passionate about it. So it’s finding that through line that will, hopefully, tell a story that will bring everybody on board going forward.”
For executive producer Lauren Hissrich, she indicated that she “loves” engaging with fans who are “super passionate,” but she also ventured to make this franchise something that can connect to any viewer.
“One of the things, from the very beginning, that I wanted with this franchise is to show that fantasy is actually for everyone,” Hissrich said. The Witcher as someone who had played dedicated hours on the game, I’d read the first few books and I had fallen in love with them, even before I was asked to do the series.”
“I then read the rest of them and I realized, wow this series is actually for a lot of people. That’s why, for me, I elevated a few more female characters. We are all about diversity, inclusion, making sure that the world that we’re representing on the screen represents the real world in front of us, and showing that fantasy welcomes everyone.”
The Witcher: Blood Origin takes place 1,200 years before The Witcher story we’ve seen, taking us through the time that led to the creation of the first prototype Witcher and the Conjunction of the Spheres, a moment taken out of Andrzej Sapkowski’s books.
In this world, the elves are the monarchs, the overclass, and a group of seven misfit warriors assemble to take down Princess Merwyn (Mirren Mack) and her empire.
“Sapkowski gave us a great gift with his books in describing the elves and the state they’re in, which is barely hanging on, and they’re the underdogs” De Barra said. “He talks about the Conjunction of Spheres, which led to the humans coming and colonizing them.”
“That there is a story, you just go, OK I want to know about how that happened and what that world was like before the great collapse. What amazing things could they do? What wonders did they have? What was magic like then? How did people dress? How did they talk? What was their architecture? What was their music? So that was the basis of the origin of this.”
‘The funny lines always normally go to the men’
In terms of Lauren Hissrich’s goal to elevate the women in The Witcher franchise, there are a lot of women to celebrate in The Witcher: Blood Origin.
Notably, the legendary Minnie Driver has joined the cast as Seanchai, the narrator of this tale. Early on in the four-part series, Seanchai tells Jaskier (Joey Batey) that she needs him to “sing a story back to life,” as we journey through this adventure. Seanchai is a shapeshifter who can travel between time and worlds, but very few of her kind remain.
“I think it was just a super imaginative idea for a character,” Driver said. “I love that they blend so much of the folklore that exists here in our world and the idea that she is such a powerful force within this Witcher universe.”
“The idea that a story could maybe change the course of history. I love that.”
A significant part of The Witcher: Blood Origin story is around Mirren Mack’s character Merwyn. A princess who was destined to be married as part of negotiations in the continent’s civil war, but things take a turn as Merwyn works to gain more control and tries to bring about a “golden age.”
“How they have crafted Merwyn is that she’s a prisoner of her circumstance and she’s born into this patriarchal monarchy where she’s told this is what you will do, you will marry off, you have no choice, you have no voice,” Mack explained. “Merwyn’s love of history and thirst for knowledge is what sort of grounds her in the fact that she has this voice, she has opinions, she’s destined for more.”
“Having autonomy, being decisive, taking control of her situation and flipping it on its head. Although [I personally] don’t agree with everything that she does, I think I found, to be able to play her well, I had to find that drive, that need to be prepared and seen as a person. To be able to dress the way she wants, see what she wants, and help build a world that she cares about.”
Sophia Brown plays Éile, part of the Raven Clan and now a well-known bard. In The Witcher: Blood Origin she meets Fjall (Laurence O’Fuarain), a warrior who was banished from Xin’trea for sleeping with Princess Merwyn, and the two transition from enemies to allies in a quest to avenge those who have wronged them.
“I think being able to play an elite warrior, but also a sensitive kind of musician, to be able to hold both of those two things together was just so exciting to play,” Brown said.
Another highlight is Francesca Mills’ Meldof, a dwarf who is traveling the continent in search of the Xin’trean soldiers who murdered her lover.
“I want to be friends with Meldof, she’s got so much courage and she’s so strong, and she has a fight in her like no other,” Mills said. “She also has buckets full of wit and we don’t often, on TV, see women being funny. The funny lines always normally go to the men, so it’s lovely to have that balance.”
“Also, I love that she then, when Brother Death [Huw Novelli] and she met, they became friends. There’s no like dot, dot, dot of ‘oh are they going to be lovers?’ It’s a pure friendship and I think for that to be seen, a dwarven woman in that light, I think is just really exciting. Also with the bad-ss fights, because she doesn’t take sh-t from anybody. She doesn’t take any prisoners.”
‘It’s groundbreaking for me, it’s really epic’
For The Witcher star Joey Batey, who plays the fan favorite Jaskier, he explained that where he believes Blood Origin really succeeds is in the way it takes from, but expands on, Andrzej Sapkowski’s storytelling.
“What Declan has been given is this opportunity to go back and explore this, and take everything that Sapkowski wrote, the tonal dissonances that he employs, and translate them into his own tale,” Batey said. “That is, for me, one of the most exciting things.”
“When I was reading the books I was always wondering, ‘I wonder what happened and I wonder how that would have played out?’ Declan has basically taken that and structured it into an unbelievable piece of television cinema. It’s groundbreaking for me, it’s really epic.”