Remember that, by now already infamous, leak from about month ago when it seemed that Netflix intended to recruit a BAME actress for the role of Ciri? The gaming community and Witcher fandom reacted with what can only be described as a violent and righteous uproar, preparing to rain down fire and brimstone on the infidels from Netflix who intended to ruin the lore of their beloved Witcher franchise. Pretty soon, everything turned into heated and rather ugly debate about intolerance and fidelity to the original source material, which continued to rage on long after the alleged leak appeared. Well, in the end, it turned out that we diligently sharpened and oiled our favorite knives, axes, and swords for nothing. Netflix had revealed the identity of two actresses which will play the role of Geralt’s ward Ciri and that of his enticing and deadly paramour, sorceress Yennefer of Vandenberg – neither of which even remotely fits into a BAME category.
Ciri will be portrayed by Freya Allan, a 17 old actress native of Oxfordshire. Although by her innocent looks she might seem awfully inexperienced, the young actress with striking blue eyes already has a couple of projects under her witcher’s belt, such as TV shows Into the Badlands and The War of the World, so we know that she’s probably more than capable to pull off the demanding role of princess of Cintra. Yennefer will be played by brunette Anya Chalotra who played in The ABC Murders and Wanderlust, and, as her young protégé in the upcoming TV show, she’s a young thespian mostly unknown by a wider audience.
Now, while some of you will holler “That’s more like it!” others will undoubtedly be somewhat disappointed by the choice (heck, I always personally thought that sassy Bridget Regan from TV show Legend of the Seeker will be ideal as Yennefer). In both cases, we have to remind you that the TV show will actually be based on books by Andrzej Sapkowski, and not on the famous RPG trilogy by Polish CD Project. Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, executive producer, screenwriter, and showrunner of soon-to-be Witcher series, said that, although she’s a die-hard fan of the games, she tried to keep away from the games and try to create something new and original, even abstaining from playing the games in order not to interfere with her own vision. She also stated that the choice of these two actresses is a result of the extensive casting process, reviewing more than 200 candidates for the role of Ciri before the choice landed on young Freya. Likewise, she added that their casting criteria wasn’t based on the popularity of prospective actors (or the lack of it) but on their performance. As was the case with Geralt, Netflix was looking for best actors for a particular role and Hissrich even stressed that in her opinion Freya Allan and Anya Chalotra perfectly “embody the spirits of the characters”.
Of course, in the end, we can’t help but wonder what was that all about with leaked BAME add? Was it a real leak or a profile-raising fake, or we just misinterpreted everything since it was out of context? Or, perhaps, Netflix just chickened out by the extremely negative response of the fans? Not surprisingly, Lauren Schmidt Hissrich has a roundabout answer to that question also. She emphasized that she’s always on the side of the Witcher fans (being one herself), saying:” 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.“
Well, we’ll just have to wait and see about that. Good thing is that the screenplay for the last episode of the first season has been written on September 24, although TV show won’t appear as soon as we’d like to – probably not before late 2019, or even 2020. “Quality comes before speed” stated Lauren S. Hissrich and we hope that Witcher will receive the treatment he deserves in the upcoming TV show.