Henry Cavill on pushing for changes in The Witcher 2, meeting Pinoy fans

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Henry Cavill on pushing for changes in The Witcher 2, meeting Pinoy fans
Adapted from the novels and short stories by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, Season 2 follows Geralt of Rivia (Cavill) as he tracks down monsters in a fantasy realm called the Continent.
Photos courtesy of Netflix

MANILA, Philippines — British actor Henry Cavill is returning as the lead star in the second season of Netflix’s epic fantasy series The Witcher.

Adapted from the novels by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, Season 2 follows the superhuman monster-slayer for hire, Geralt of Rivia (Cavill), as he tracks down beasts in Witcherverse, also known as the Continent.

According to Top10.netflix.com, The Witcher’s debut season claimed the third spot (after Bridgerton: Season 1 and Stranger Things: Season 3) among the most-watched English shows on Netflix, based on the number of viewing hours in the first 28 days on the streaming platform.

Season 1 was also enjoyed by over 76 million people within its first month of release, said a Reuters report citing Netflix’s 2019 earnings.

During the Tudum virtual fan event last September, it was announced that The Witcher was renewed for a third season. Showrunner Lauren Hissrich had said that writing was nearly complete.

Cavill was already a long-time and hardcore fan of the books and videogame version even before being cast in the series. Despite being “Superman” and a certified leading man, he was willing to audition against hundreds of other hopefuls and fight over the chance to be part of Season 1, which media back then touted as a guaranteed success even before it premiered.

In an exclusive virtual interview with The STAR last week, Cavill further reflected on the global reception to Season 1 and the pressure he felt, if any, going into Season 2, which officially arrives on Netflix on Dec. 17.

“When it came to the release of Season 1, because I’m a fan of both the games and the books, I knew it had a large built-in fan base, and so, I wasn’t totally surprised by its success,” he said.

“As far as it goes for Season 2, is that added pressure? I mean, I’ve had the good fortune to work on some large IPs throughout my career. And I try not to view it as pressure. I try to view it more as an opportunity,” he added.

Adapted from the novels and short stories by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, Season 2 follows Geralt of Rivia (Cavill) as he tracks down monsters in a fantasy realm called the Continent.
Photos courtesy of Netflix

The 38-year-old is, of course, best-known for playing Superman in the DC Extended Universe superhero films. On Netflix, he’s also the famous detective Sherlock Holmes in films about his character’s sister, Enola Holmes.

For The Witcher 2, he was more concerned about staying true to the books. “I wanted to try and bring as much of the book’s Geralt into Season 2 as possible, and as much as the vision, the plot and storylines would allow.”

That’s why, according to the actor, the biggest challenge for him was finding a common ground between what showrunners wanted and what he wanted to see in the series as a fan.

“The toughest part for me was finding that balance between the showrunners’ vision and my love for the books, and trying to bring that Geralt to the showrunners’ vision. It’s about treading a fine line there. It’s the showrunners’ story and so it’s an adaptation. The tricky bit for me was finding Geralt from the books’ place within that and being able to serve both as much as I could.”

When queried more about the development of his character in the new season, Cavill said he sought specific changes to Geralt, including having more dialogue. “The things that I pushed for, it was not necessarily just more dialogue. It was bringing a more book-accurate Geralt to the screen. Because as I’m sure you know in the books, Geralt is an amateur philosopher. He’s an intellectual. He’s wise and thoughtful. Yes, he’s at times morose, morbid and snarky. But it’s important for me to have the character be three-dimensional,” he explained.

“And it’s tricky to do, as I was saying earlier, because there’s a certain vision and there’s a certain set, storyline and plot. And so, it was about me trying to find Geralt’s place within that. All of my asks and requests were along the lines of just being faithful to the source material.”

Cavill also teased what to expect from the new character, Vesemir, played by Killing Eve actor Kim Bodnia. The appearance of the oldest-existing Witcher and father figure to Geralt has been highly-anticipated by fans.

“I really wanted to show that there is a three-dimensional nature to these characters. And it’s not just one tonal and always in conflict. In fact, there was an affection between these men (Witchers) who live up in the mountains. There’s a softness to them and a soulfulness because they do live long and very, very hard lives, and to survive these long lives takes an awful lot and that would lead to a certain amount of introspection. When they have each other and they’re the only constant in their lives, then there’s going to be a strong emotional bond between them even if they don’t necessarily get along. But Vesemir and Geralt do get along; they’re extremely close.”

He praised Bodnia as a co-star. “Working with Kim was so wonderful because we had the opportunity to build something genuinely emotional and soft… We got to do this relationship between us. It’s something we both really wanted to explore.”

Meanwhile, when Cavill came to the Philippines for The Witcher 1 fan meet in December 2019, he said back then how important it was for him to execute all the stunt work, which involved “a lot of pirouettes, a lot of explosive movement and a lot of uneven ground.” During Season 2 filming, however, he sustained an injury that “enormously reduced” the stunts he had to do as it wasn’t just safe anymore.

“Of course, I still got the fights I needed to do. But some of the other stuff, I had to take a step back from because I wasn’t even allowed to be on my feet for longer than five hours a day, let alone be doing anything too explosive.

“Doing fight scenes alone was risky enough. But it has been important for me, as always, to make sure that the audience knows that there is no need for a suspension of disbelief. It can actually be when people see Geralt in action, it’s Geralt in action and not someone else.”

Though he has already recovered, Cavill admitted that he did fear his injury would end his action career. “To a degree, I was very concerned, yes. The problem with hamstring tears is that they have potential to come back if you don’t spend time off your feet healing them properly. They can return and when they return, they become more likely to tear again in the future. With a busy TV schedule, it’s very difficult to stay on or be on my feet for five hours at a time. And with the production always asking me, you know, ‘Can you do more? Can we do more?’ it was that fine line between wanting to help out as much as possible, especially with my fellow actors, and actually looking after your career.”

The STAR also reminded Cavill about the unforgettable fan meet he gave his Filipino fans. Attendees could fondly look back at how he spent about two hours interacting with fans and signing autographs for them.

Recalling the “fan service” at the Manila meet-and-greet, Cavill said: “I’m generally, in my real life, a very private person. And so, I like to maintain that privacy and as much normalcy as I can. But when it comes to these fan events and premieres, (they’re) actually an opportunity to meet everyone. It’s these people who have often waited for hours and hours and hours just to get a spot at a railing.

“It’s really important for me that I get to talk to them and I get to give them something back. Because there’s so much dedication there and so much commitment, and I want people to know that I am dedicated to them, too, and committed to them as well. And so, spending a few hours on the carpet is a pleasure. And I’d rather be doing that than anything else on a press tour.”

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