We had the privilege of being part of the roundtable interviews for Netflix’s The Witcher at San Diego Comic- Con. Part one of our interviews with the people behind the highly anticipated series was with Showrunner Lauren S Hissrich followed by Freya Allan (Ciri) and finally we had the chance to talk with Anya Chalotra who takes on the role of Yennefer of Vengerberg:
Q: Is this your first comic con? How does it feel?
Anya: Insane, just crazy. All the interviews, and just seeing the trailers and bringing it out to the fans. I’ve been so excited about it because I’ve worked on it for so long. It’s been like nothing else I’ve ever done.
Q: That clip was so haunting, and she sounds like someone who’s lived for so long, she’s almost jaded by life. Can you tell us about getting into the head space of someone who’s lived as long as Yennefer has that she can justify an infant dying?
Anya: Yeah, I was playing from 1477, so I was debating what’s the transformation from 45 and then 77, and that journey I could only do through breadth. I wasn’t aging. And that was something I focused on more. I looked at all her life experiences up until that point, which informed the decisions I made within that scene.
Q: But we feel it without the process, and that was…
Anya: Well I’m glad. I reread the script again and again. That was my bible. I’m still figuring out my process, but it was definitely the breadth. I can’t say anything more than that
Q: How was it for you considering that the series has a big fandom. Did you feel pressure or comfortable…?
Anya: There are days I feel a lot of pressure and there are days I don’t. I just love this story, and I’m behind it all the way. And that’s what excites me. I get nervous because I want the fans to love it. We take it from the book, but we create mastery from it. and we try to bring out the heart of the story.
Q: People love to see Yennefer and Geralt’s relationship in the games. Will we see more from them together? Not only as a family, but as a romantic couple.
Anya: Yes, we do definitely explore that relationship in detail, and I’m excited for the fans to see that.
Q: Not that the show will take it in this direction, but I’ve always like that Yennefer has this strong internal drive, and one of the things that drove her was that she wanted to be a mother, but she couldn’t because she’s infertile. Did you get to work with that aspect of the character at all?
Anya: Yes, that was my main drive. With that, I remember the comment I had with Lauren when I first got this job. We discussed that part of Yennefer’s journey so intensely because it’s just so important.
Q: What was the most challenging part of the role for you?
Anya: Playing Yennefer’s story. I began shooting in consecutive order, as a 14 year old with those experiences and those were things that made her who she is. The things I had to tap into there made things very difficult for me at the time.
Q: Henry Cavill is a big fan of the books and game. Did he give you any advice? What did you talk about behind the scenes?
Anya: Not necessarily advice, but he’d always offer facts because he’s enthusiastic and passionate, and that was a joy to work with.
Q: In your opinion, how big of a meathead is Geralt to Yennefer? Why doesn’t he put a ring on it and devoting his whole life to her?
Anya: Do you want me to speak as Yennefer or Anya? *laughs* Every person believes what they’re doing at any moment is the right thing, and there isn’t a right or wrong, but hopefully the audience will go with them on that journey in exploring the morality of each character.
Q: I still think Yennefer will think he’s a meathead.
Anya: Yeah he’s a meathead.
Q: Are there any traits of Yennefer that you don’t agree with?
Anya: I don’t dislike anything about her. I think she could think before she does things, but if she did do that, then that wouldn’t set her apart from every other mage. The reason she’s so powerful is because all her power comes from this fierce emotion. So, no.
Q: Do you have any interesting languages or words for her? I like that a lot of her sorcery come from a place of science, but does it involve learning any new words for spells?
Anya: Yes. I can’t wait for you to see it!
Q: What’s it like to work with so many women on set?
Anya: I think what’s great about this company is that we have Lauren running the show. That was part of the reason why I wanted to go on this journey with Yennefer. Not just the story, but Lauren was running the show. And I’ve been able to have so many important conversation with the women on set about Yennefer, and I could speak freely and openly about my concerns with the people we have on our team. It’s a male heavy industry, and I think we’re making progress, and just having a female showrunner made a difference.
Q: Can you share any girl power moments? One that you enjoyed the most?
Anya: It was probably that scene, the clip that was shown. Because I was on my own on a beach, and I remember that scene held so much weight with me. I remember reading ti and then getting to the location we did it in. And I was just in awe of the waves, the rocks, the words…yeah. That was probably one of my favorite moments.
Q: During the panel, they talked a lot about the practicality and physicality. And Henry talked about doing his own stunts. And Freya talked about horseback riding…
A: I did my own stunts. There was one I didn’t have time to do but I really wanted to do….I can’t say what it is. But I loved it. It was very physically demanding.
Make sure to also check out our interviews with Lauren S Hissrich and Freya Allan.