SDCC Interview with Lauren Hissrich

Along with interviewing actors Anya Chalotra and Freya Allan, we had the honor of speaking with showrunner Lauren Hissrich. While we learned so much from the panel, we were able to discuss aspects of the show in further detail. Below are the highlights from the interview (questions and answers edited for clarity and brevity):

How excited are you for this?

Crazy excited! I'm still basically vibrating after that panel. I went online on Twitter to do an AMA which I had to ask what that meant, but, “Ask Me Anything.” I was trying to keep up with questions, and someone finally was like, “It's been an hour.” I had to move up from my phone, because I'm so excited that the world is finally getting to see a glimpse of what we're doing.

What's your favorite part about?

My favorite part was making sure that we're giving all the characters their due. To me, the story is about Geralt, but also Ciri and Yennefer. The most exciting thing is really digging in and discovering who these women were, before Geralt, made sense that we're not just seeing them through his lens. But we're seeing them sort of find themselves first and be the heroes of their own journeys. And then once these characters come crashing into each other, it's all about how they impact each other, and how they change each other. That was fun to do.

What was the casting process like?

In terms of Geralt, Ciri, and Yennefer- they're all difficult to an extent. Because I'm, I was always afraid. The interesting thing is Anya, we actually cast first as Yennefer, she was the very first piece of the puzzle. We saw hundreds of auditions, and there was something about her. She had such a fierceness, but also such a sort of innate vulnerability. She was the first piece of the puzzle that came in.

Casting Freya as Ciri was also really difficult. We started with a very young, in the first script, Ciri was 11. Very quickly we started looking at 11-year-olds, and we realized a couple things. One, the production constraints of this show. It's a huge endeavor, we shot for a lot of days, and a lot of nights actually. And when you're shooting with someone that young, it's very restrictive.

One of the first things that I was told is that someone that young [of a] Ciri is not going to be able to be that big of a part of the story. And I was like, well, that's not going to work. So we did age up the character a little bit.

Freya, actually, we had cast her as another character in the first episode, and she was signed, sealed and done for that. I couldn't find a Ciri that I loved. Sophie Holland, our casting director, actually called me and said, “I'd love you to think about Freya Allan for this.” So I flew over to London, and we cast Freya that day.

And then Henry. Henry is a big fan of the franchise, and started reaching out to me before I had the script, before I had been greenlight, [or] write anything. Finally I sat down at a meeting, and was like, “Great. You're super nice. I'm glad you're really enthusiastic, but like we're not there yet.”

It took about four months, and we met. I met 207 potential Geralts, and I realized in that writing process, I actually I had Henry’s voice in my head the whole time. So I called him and we met in New York, he read for the part and again, and cast him that day. Every time that the decision was made, it was made in that moment and I just knew it was right.

The trailer was so dark and gritty, but will there be any funny aspects of the show?

It's funny, we tried a couple of different versions of the of the teaser with some some wit in it, because it's all through the show. I mean, obviously, I think the show is super dark. It has some really tragic things in it- some really dark things.

We always kept an eye to what real people do when faced with tragedy, and oftentimes they find the humor in it, because it's the only way to walk through the world. So storytelling wise, we always try to keep that in mind.

Teaser wise? The teaser was so big and so dramatic that anytime we would try to add something funny in you'd be like, “Oh, no, no, no, no.” We tried many versions, but yes. In the show itself, there's a lot- especially Geralt’s dry wit and Jaskier annoying him as much as humanly possible.

Will there be Easter eggs for fans of the games or books?

You know, it follows the books pretty closely, what I like to say is that we also, we find the things between the lines in the books, so there are events and books or moments in the books that you just kind of speed by them. And as a reader, you're like, “Okay, I get it, I understand we have 587 pages here that we've got to get through.”

But if you had a chance to push, pause, and dig into that moment a little bit more, there's lots of that in the first season. I think watching every episode, fans of the books themselves are going to understand every story we're telling- they're going to find the moments. We actually took the lines from the books as dialogue. So we did our best to honor them. But I also think there's a spattering of some fun, new things that aren't in there to really enhance the stories that we wanted to tell.

In terms of the games, no, we're not related to the games at all. So there aren't really easter eggs for gamers there, but I'm a huge fan of the games. So I think that if you love them, you probably love them because you love the characters. You love the tone of the stories, and those things will definitely be present in the show.

What was the biggest obstacle you encountered?

The weather. We shot a lot of different places, and it's a very big show. Our crew is about 300 people, and we carried most of them with us most of the time. And [they are] the most dedicated sort of tireless crew ever.

I think I mentioned on twitter at some point like I need to stop writing like “exterior woods, night.” Because there's a lot there's a lot of darkness and a lot of rain. A lot of weather, I would say that's really it. I mean, it was trying to to keep going day after day, when the world seemed to want to kill us, the actual planet seemed to want to kill us! But no, everything else was kind of a joy. Honestly, I mean, we feel we also so lucky to be able to be bringing this to life.

So you said you thought 207 other possible Geralts? What made you come back to him?

So much. So, you know one of the great things about Henry himself, he that he likes to just as a person, he likes to sit back and watch and sort of take in and process and not constantly verbalize everything. And that's something that he brought to Geralt that was really amazing.

In the first version of the first episode, I'm a writer so I'm like, Geralt has so many words. And I think you'll see by the finale, we really have toned down kind of how much he says because Henry himself is able to emote so much and bring so many different layers to this character without saying a word.

How long did it take Henry to get used to those luscious locks? How much does that hair play into his character?

It plays in so much! So you know, I'm not an actor, so I don't really understand it. There's something that happens when you put on the costume, and you put on the wig, and you put in the contacts. What's really funny is that we all got so used to seeing Henry with the the luscious gray locks, and the yellow eyes that when you see him not with them, you're like, “Who are you?”

He sent me a picture over Christmas to say ‘Happy Christmas,’ and it was him and Kal and he just had his normal dark hair. And I did one of those things of like, “Who is this man?” He owns it and he embodies Geralt so fully.

What about the fighting style?

You will be seeing seeing a lot of fighting, which means that you were seeing a lot of Henry, so Henry did not have a stunt double he does all of his own work. Anytime you see him, it's it's really him. Which means that he trained nonstop. Always had swords in his hand. He was always in the training room with his team.

Part of what we had to do is then adapt the fighting style to Henry. So it's, you know, you read in the books, and it's all about pirouetting and dancing. Then you take a 6’ 3” man and you say, “Pirouette!” And he's like, “Um...” So no, it really was about finding the right balance between what we would read that Geralt does in the books and what Henry does, and sort of finding and marrying those things together. Because again, we wanted to make sure that that was the best portrayal of the fighting.

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#1 TeaserIona 2019-07-25 04:12
I thought the teaser for the show was fascinating. Just one question, you stated that a lot of the filming was done in the dark and the rain. Does that mean that a lot of the episodes are dark, as in lighting? I have to admit I find that extremely irritating because it's very difficult to see what's going on! Perhaps you could just clarify this for me..

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