Netflix rounded out the cast of its Henry Cavill-led series based on The Witcher, including two pivotal female roles.
Freya Allan (Into the Badlands), a 17-year-old native of Oxfordshire, will play Ciri, the Princess of Cintra, which is an important kingdom in The Witcher saga.
Game of Thrones’ Jodhi May will play Cintra’s Queen Calanthe, Fortitude’s Björn Hlynur Haraldsson will play Calanthe’s knight husband Eist, and Knightfall’s Adam Levy will play druid Mousesack. Wanderlust’s Anya Chalotra will then play another crucial role, that of the sorceress Yennefer. Her world at the magical academy at Aretuza will be populated by MyAnna Buring (Kill List) as Tissaia, Mimi Ndiweni (Black Earth Rising) and Therica Wilson-Read (Profile) as novice sorcerers Fringilla and Sabrina, and Millie Brady (The Last Kingdom) as outcast Princess Renfri.
Cavill, meanwhile, plays the lead role of The Witcher, Geralt of Rivia.
Ciri was initially the subject of media attention when a casting ad for the character called on women of color to audition, while the original Polish novels and ensuing video games portrayed her as white. Hissrich proceeded to take “a Twitter hiatus” after all “the hate” percolated on the web.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Hissrich said of the pushback, “It boils down to a couple things. One, this property has such a passionate fan base. I think any leak at all was going to attract this type of attention, and with any attention comes backlash to that attention. I do think that whatever information is trickling out there, there will be people responding positively to it and people responding negatively to it. I think that’s just part of making a television show, and especially a show this big.”
She continued: “In terms of why people responded so strongly, I think the fans really have pictures of these characters in their minds and I don’t blame them for that. I get it. When I read my favorite books I certainly imagine characters a certain way. There’s obviously a couple lines of description of Ciri in the books and people become very enamored with their own vision of it. I think coming in as a writer and saying my vision might look different than yours is scary for fans, but truthfully I don’t think it has to be. One of the things I feel most strongly about is people being afraid that we’re going to strip out the cultural context of The Witcher, to remove its Slavic roots, the very thing people in Poland are proud of. That couldn’t be further from the truth. What I’ve always wanted to do is take these Slavic stories and give them a global audience.”
The Witcher is the story of monster hunter Gerald as he struggles to find his place in a world “where people often prove more wicked than beasts,” according to the logline. Destiny soon thrusts him together with Ciri, who holds a dangerous secret, and Yennefer as they navigate the Continent.
The drama is mainly based on the original Polish novels, and since the video game series is “the sole visual representation of these stories,” Hirssch told THR her team needed to find their “own visual representation.”
Episodes will be directed by Alik Sakharov (Game of Thrones), Alex Garcia Lopez (Marvel’s Luke Cage), and Charlotte Brändström (Outlander).