Netflix’s The Witcher fantasy series is aiming to cure your post-Game of Thrones blues, and it’s already clear the cast is just as passionate about the project as the crew is. At the center of this is lead actor Henry Cavill, who revealed during San Diego Comic-Con that he’s very possibly the biggest Witcher nerd of all time.
Cavill, who was drawn to the games and Andrzej Sapkowski’s series long before the show was even optioned, always knew The Witcher world was perfect for a live-action adaptation. “I was very, very passionate about the games. I did play them a lot. And every time I played the games, I just thought, ‘I really hope they makes this into a movie or a TV show or something’,” Cavill told the audience in Hall H. “And eventually, I heard [of the Netflix project] and it was, I don’t want to use any cliché terms or anything, but it was something which I wasn’t gonna let pass me by without giving it my absolute best shot. So yeah, I annoyed the hell out of my agent. Called them every day.”
Showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich joked that Cavill was indeed “really annoying” because he kept calling before “they even had a showrunner, let alone a script.” Once Hissrich was officially hired she met with Cavill, but told him they were writing the script and screening other actors, so he’d have to wait. After four months and a mind-boggling 207 auditions with other actors later, the role of Geralt finally went to Cavill.
“What’s so fantastic about Henry is he’s so all in. He’s so committed to the role,” Hissrich told journalists after the panel. “As soon as we asked him [to accept the role], he and I were sending images back and forth about what wigs would look like and what contacts he would wear. I would send him my favorite passages, and he would send me back his favorite passages. Having a fan be at the center of the show, I think he understands what fans are looking for … he will sometimes come to me and say, ‘This line is really meaningful from the books. Is there any chance that we could throw that in dialogue?’ He’s an incredible resource to me.”
Hissrich went on to say that Cavill was so attuned to Geralt’s character that they redefined how they approached the scriptwriting over time. “I’m a writer. So I put a lot of words in people’s mouth,” joked Hissrich. “And the very first script, Geralt was super chatty. And we filmed it all.” (Filming more lines and scenes than necessary is common, and gives editors more options in post-production.) But Cavill was confident in his ability to convey who Geralt was without that. “It was Henry who finally said, ‘Look, I don’t think I need to say as much. I think that I can evoke his character and sort of dig in and present his POV on the world a little bit better, actually, if I say less.’ And he’s absolutely right,” said Hissrich.
As someone who’s most famous for playing the literal golden boy superhero, Cavill was drawn to Geralt because he’s such a nuanced portrayal of what it means to be a real hero. “There was something about Geralt which really struck a chord with me. He’s not your average hero,” Cavill said during the panel. “He’s a very hard exterior, tough, real world-type person who won’t treat everyone perfectly. At the same time, deep down, he’s a real hero, but at the bottom of it. He keeps that very secret and very private.”
Cavill didn’t just spent a lot of time understanding Geralt’s personality and motivations. He also trained a lot and insisted on doing his own fight scenes. “It’s very important to me that when you see Geralt on screen, you know it’s Geralt and that it’s not some [stunt] guy and I’m just the acting piece in it,” said Cavill. “For me, the character involves all of that.” Cavill said that he spent all his free time on set “with a sword in hand” to get used to the weight. He kept three swords at home, four at work, and practiced constantly.
All in all, Cavill’s deep passion for the project can only mean good things for fans, as it’s clear he’s determined to honor The Witcher series as much as possible. “Henry is just so passionate, and it’s so infectious,” Ciri’s actor Freya Allan told journalists. “And he’s totally committed to this role and project and he just loves it. And you can tell that when he’s talking to you about it.”
No release date yet for the show, but with Cavill at the helm, the future of The Witcher is looking bright.