Inquirer Super

The revelations of WitcherCon

By: Ruel S. De Vera
At the beginning: Geralt (Henry Cavill) and Ciri (Freya Allan) start their journey–NETFLIX IMAGES

It is testament—or destiny—that Netflix’s “The Witcher” proved so successful that the streaming giant was able to stage a full-on online convention last July 10, 2021, quite a while since the first season dropped on December 19, 2019, with the titular Witcher Geralt of Riva (Henry Cavill) finally meeting Princess Ciri (Freya Allan) in the forest.

Based on Andrzej Sapkowski’s bestselling fantasy series as well as CD Projekt Red’s three RPG games, “The Witcher’s” eight episode-run, with executive producer Lauren Schmidt Hissrich at the helm, was Netflix’s fourth most expensive show at $10 million per episode.

The numbers that mattered, however, was 76 million—the number of viewers in its first month alone, and the show was ranked among the most in-demand lists for streaming shows. With a hungry viewership and an open ending, the world waited for season 2—after all, Netflix had actually renewed the show even before it began airing.

Shooting on season 2 had begun in 2020 but was hampered by the pandemic and an injury to Cavill but wrapped in April 2021 once production had been allowed to continue and conclude.

Thus we got the ambitious WitcherCon, which began with the a welcome message from Sapkowski himself. Then Hissrich, Allan, Anya Chalotra (Yennefer of Vengenberg), Mimi Khayisa (Fringilla Vigo) and Paul Bullion, who plays another Witcher named Lambert. At the beginning of season 2, Geralt brings Freya to Kaer Morhen, home of the Witchers.

Freya Allan and Anya Chalotra

“So we talked a lot about the Witcher as being almost like a military family they all go out, they sort of do they have their own adventures, it’s really dangerous,” Hissrich said. “You never know if your brothers are going to come back home or not, but when they do that’s when they relax every single winter. That’s when they get to relax and just be themselves.”

It was also a visibly older Allan begins her training to be a Witcher herself. “And it was really fun for me because I was like the only girl amongst these guys. It was hysterical. Like getting to getting to be with you guys all day. It was quite funny,” she said.

Season 2 will also see Allan’s Ciri start to truly come into her powers: “Siri, whatever she possesses inside her is a very scary thing for her, and so she’s not, she’s not keen to start kind of confronting it. But I think, you know, you see that as time goes on, and she’s introduced to the right people she realizes that actually it’s far more beneficial to try and control whatever this is that she has been running away from it.”

Everyone’s favorite bard Joey Batey (Jaskier) even makes a quick cameo.

WitcherCon then gives the fans what they want by dropping some incredibly important dates. First, they finally drop the date for the second season premiere: December 17, 2021. They also announce the drop date for one of “The Witcher” spinoffs, the Netflix Original Anime series “The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf”: August 23, 2021. That series tells us the story of Geralt’s mentor, Vesemir. It is one of two “Witcher” spinoffs, the other one still in development, “The Witcher: Blood Origin,” which is set over a millennium before Geralt’s time and has already cast Michelle Yeoh.

What would a fan convention be without merchandise? They showed off a Dark Horse Geralt figure, introduced the Gwent card game and while CD Projekt Red did not announce the much anticipated The Witcher 4, they did announce upgrades to 2019’s The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, even throwing in some demos.

Henry Cavill

But the big event was the one-on-one between journalist Josh Hamilton and Geralt himself, Henry Cavill. In this particular conversation, fans will realize just how much of a “Witcher” fanboy Cavill was. This is a guy after all who grew up being fed fantasy books by his father—and discovered The Continent through a video game.

“I actually played The Witcher 2 first, and I was very busy at the time, I read some good reviews dipped into it, and I was like okay, I can’t, I can’t immerse myself just yet, and so Witcher three when it came out, I just got stuck in and the world building and that is so fantastic,” he said.

So when Cavill heard a show was being made he legendarily bugged his agent to get the part of Geralt. But the show was not yet ready for production and hadn’t been cast yet but he put his hat in the ring. Then he got on a plane—and began reading the books.

“And so, I then went read them I thought these books are absolutely spectacular I read them all in record time, and I was literally landing on in a plane landing at one stage, I think it was reading a shard of ice, and I didn’t want to get up from my seat, even though everyone was moving, and I was like no, no, no, no, you don’t know what’s happening.”

But then—believe it or not, for one reason or other, he did not get the role—”And so then I got the the news and I thought okay, well, it’s understandable. Maybe that’s that’s not where they want to go with it, to have Superman playing your character is is definitely an understandable choice. And so it was heartbreak.”

But destiny is a tricky thing. Yeah, but then later down the line, the opportunity, popped up again.” And he was Geralt of Rivia. He promises a season 2 where you will not only hear Geralt talk more (not just grunt) but more of Geralt as a 70-year-old man who is actually “wise even if he’s capable of extraordinary violence, which is his tragedy.”

Cavill talked about how they worked to get the hair right, the voice right—to get Geralt of Rivia just right—and he seems ready to show off all that in season 2.

So the first WitcherCon, much like the show itself, delivered amid adversity and skepticism—for everyone involved. It’s something that showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich knows about well:  “Yeah, it’s just amazing to see how many people are inspired, and specifically what characters they’re inspired by. Obviously the show is called The Witcher. But it’s been fun as the person who sits back and has sort of been having these characters in my mind for so long to see how different people all over the world, relate to, you know, all of these characters.”