Netflix’s The Witcher Casts Actresses to Play Ciri and Yennefer

Netflix’s The Witcher show has cast 17 year old Oxfordshire-native Freya Allan to play Ciri in the upcoming live-action show that will also star Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia.

Joining Allan and Cavill will be Anya Chalotra, who will play Yennefer. They will also join Jodhi May as Queen Calanthe, Bjorn Hlynur Haraldsson as her husband, the knight Eist, Adam Levy will play the druid Mousesack, MyAnna Buring will play Tissaia, the head of the magical academy at Aretuza. Mimi Ndiweni and Therica Wilson-Read will play novice sorcerors. Finally, Millie Brady will play Princess Renfri.

Netflix also revealed descriptions of the characters.

Allan is a relatively unknown although she did have an appearance in Into the Badlands and is currently filming the TV mini-series The War of the Worlds. Chalotra is also a relative unknown appearing in Wanderlust and the upcoming TV mini-series The ABC Mudrers.

Showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich spoke to The Hollywood Reporter (THR) revealing the show has cast 50 people in total. She explains they “ended up seeing over 200 young women from all over Europe and really saw a great group of girls, but then when we met Freya, she read for another role. I actually went to London to meet with her in person and we knew it right away.”

The news might come as a surprise to many fans as an alleged casting call for the show indicated Netflix and Hissrich was looking for a BAME actress. BAME stands for black, Asian, and minority ethnic.

Fans were rightfully discouraged and upset by the casting call because it would be race-swapping the character. Ciri is depicted as having very pale and fair skinned as well as ashen grey hair and green emerald eyes in both the books as well as CD Projekt Red’s popular video game series, [easyazon_link identifier=”B01K6010FM” locale=”US” tag=”boundingintocomics-20″]The Witcher[/easyazon_link].

Hissrich played coy with fans after the alleged casting call was leaked.

However, fans made sure to express their anger and disappointment at the alleged casting call. Hissrich would eventually announce she was taking a break from Twitter.

Hissrich spoke about the fan backlash with THR:

“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. 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.”

Hissrich would explain how she doesn’t want to put her stamp on it:

“I’m in this position to peel back the curtain a tiny bit to show people the process of making television. I wanted people to understand that I’m not trying to make this property my own or put my stamp on it, or make an American or female vision of it, or any specific vision of it. I just wanted people to know that I really respected the material. Truthfully, the controversy about Ciri, my own politics or the fact that I’m a woman, to me, just interacting with the fans has helped an enormous amount, because they see I’m on their side.”

She also explained her approach to casting:

“We’re looking for the best actors for these roles. Period. End of story. It comes down to the best actor for the role.”

As for whether she drew inspiration from the books or the games Hissrich noted she wants the televsiion series to steer away from the video games being the only visual representation of the series. She specifically says, “we needed to create our own visual representation.” She does admit she’s actually “pulled back from playing the video games because I wanted to make sure the show we were creating was its own unique thing.”

The show is expected to go into production soon.