Fantasy reflects real world, not escapism: 'The Witcher' showrunner


New Delhi, Jan 2 (PTI) Writer-producer Lauren Schmidt Hissrich is not new to adaptations but 'The Witcher' gave her a chance to explore an entirely new world, which she says despite its fantasy setting, deals with reality.

It is for the first time Lauren dabbled into the genre after working on prestige drama projects such as 'The West Wing', 'Justice', 'Parenthood' and, comic adaptations in 'The Umbrella Academy' and 'The Defenders'.

The showrunner said she instantly fell in love with the characters that Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski has created as they are closer to real people though they move through a world dominated by magic and monsters.

'I was comfortable in the realm of adaptations but what I was surprised the most about fantasy is that it isn't about escapism. It's about reflecting the real world, the one we're all walking through. I fell in love with Geralt, Ciri and Yennifer. They're all loners, they don't feel like they fit in. That's something I could relate to,' Lauren told PTI in an exclusive interview from Manila.

'The other fantasy aspects though, they were so much fun because I had never written monster fights or people learning to use magic for the first time. Those were brand new to me as a writer,' she added.

Set in a medieval world known as The Continent, 'The Witcher' follows the story of monster hunter Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill), sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra), and princess Ciri (Freya Allan), whose destinies are tied together.

Cavill, a Hollywood A-lister and best known world over for his portrayal of Superman, was the perfect lead for the show, believes Lauren.

'It's a dream to have a star who is so passionate about the material and is really a scholar of 'The Witcher'. Henry will tell you it was his dream to play this character. And it's a great advantage to me as creator because he shows up every day excited to work. 'I put words on page and in my brain, I already have an idea of what Geralt looks like and what he sounds like and how he reacts to certain things. But the truth is, I have to put that in the hands of an actor, and I have to let them pour themselves into that role. And Henry's a great collaborator in that way. His silence, his stoicism, his dry sense of humour, these things are really important to Geralt and Henry just embodies that.' The first season, which premiered on Netflix on December 20, is based on 'The Last Wish' and 'Sword of Destiny', a collection of short stories that precede the main Witcher saga.

Lauren said she had read the first collection of short stories and decided to board the project to understand why it clicked with so many people, who have either read the books or know the characters through the popular video game series.

'I discovered that at the core of these stories is this broken family, these three people coming together. They are people who think they don't need anyone and they can just walk the world on their own and they're fine. But in fact, they really do need each other. Even if they're in denial, destiny has a greater plan for all three of them,' she added.

Adapting a popular book can be a double-edged sword but Lauren, an admirer of the source material, said she understands and empathises with fans.

'I feel the pain of fans who will always have their favourite parts which may or may not be on the screen. But we have really captured the soul of the book.

'It will be fun for fans when they watch these episodes and see that we actually pull direct dialogues, visualisations and places or people from the book. My copy of the books are all folded down and marked up. Because we continue to go back to the source material to try and make sure that even when we can't do everything, we stay very close to the book.' The show has already received a second season order and is one of the most watched fantasy dramas on the streaming platform.

Lauren said she would continue to unspool the saga as long as the source material sustains.

'I will go as many years as I can on this show. That's up to a couple of things. One, I would really say that the path of future seasons is determined by the source material. I want to tell as many stories as the original material will sustain, I don't feel the need to start going out and crafting all new adventures of Geralt.

'The books have so much to offer and that's what we'll dig into. But it's also up to viewers and audiences. I really hope the show resonates,' she said. PTI BK RDS RDS