Kim Bodnia plays father figure to Henry Cavill in The Witcher 2

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Kim Bodnia plays father figure to Henry Cavill in The Witcher 2

Henry Cavill finds a father figure in Danish actor Kim Bodnia in The Witcher Season 2, which is arriving on Netflix on Dec. 17.

The British lead star of the epic fantasy-drama has spoken fondly in interviews, including with The STAR, about working with Bodnia who plays Vesemir, the oldest-living witcher and beloved mentor to Cavill’s Geralt of Rivia character.

To international audiences, Bodnia is perhaps best-known via his two other popular TV dramas, BBC’s Killing Eve and Netflix’s The Letter for the King.

In a virtual interview, the veteran star said he was very happy to accept the offer to join the Witcherverse. The inclusion of Vesemir in Part 2 of the TV adaptation of the novels by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski has been widely speculated and anticipated by fans of the books as well as the games. As pundits would have it, the cult following made Season 1 a “guaranteed success” even before its global release. (Currently, it is Netflix’s third most-watched English series after Bridgerton Season 1 and Stranger Things 3.) The fanbase includes Bodnia’s sons and Cavill himself, a certified fanboy long before he was cast in the title role of the solitary monster-slayer for hire in the series.

Meanwhile, Cavill previously praised Bodnia for bringing something special to his Vesemir role.

“That was so lovely of him. Henry Cavill is a lovely person,” Bodnia told The STAR. “I mean the traveling he’s doing, his mindset was so suitable for the talk we just had about the peacefulness in you, the traveling inside your character, inside your world, and trying to find out what nature means to you. Through all these elements, we came up with a lovely chemistry of trust and understanding of how humanity and nature come alive.”

Bodnia also noted how showrunner Lauren Hissrich enlisted him for his “emotional skills”. “I was actually hired to get involved with Henry as this father figure, in the emotional stuff, because they were talking about you’re not allowed to show feelings so much as Witchers. Henry wanted to do that. So, I was like a father trying to open up a son’s pain and be like, ‘Of course, you have pain. Of course, you don’t understand why you have this intuitive way of living. But you have to believe in yourself even if you don’t have the answers.’ Through all that as a father figure, learning from and listening to his son was a very important thing for us to have together.”

Here are more excerpts from our exclusive Zoom chat with Bodnia.

On his first reaction to the offer to be part of The Witcher:

“First of all, I was very happy to get the offer and because my son has been playing the game since it came out. When I told my sons I got an offer for Vesemir, I saw their eyes, it was like wow! I couldn’t say no. When you see your kids’ eyes like that, you have to say probably yes. I had no chance, it was pure love.”

On doing something new and different for the series:

“Thank you for asking that. Because, you know, I think everything I’m doing is for learning for myself and being a better person. I do all the time learning from what I’m doing.

“And I love this world. I have been a big fan of manga since I grew up and your stories from Asia. Children’s stories about how important nature is integrated into your life and in your personalities. And that’s what this is about for me to play Vesemir.

“And I always love to live in the forest myself, work in Arctic circles, live with nature and see how it will affect you as a person. And to go through that again and again, in mindset, as we did with Vesemir, it was perfect. It was so learnable and it was like a healing process to have the knowledge about how important respect for nature is. So, that was incredible.”

On the challenges of filming amid a pandemic:

“I will tell you that it was tough because I have never been away from my family for more than two months. This period was eight months! But thank God we have all these equipment like FaceTime and all that. That helps. But it also gave us a bubble of love with the family. We were 1,000 people working on set at the studio (in the UK) and everybody respected Netflix offering us to do this in a pandemic time where everybody else had locked down. They gave us a chance to work and everybody who needed money for families, food and kids. And if I was going out, took a trip and got COVID, we had to close down.

“So, my responsibility of not doing that and taking care of all family members of Witcher was so huge and nice to feel that it was so respected and everybody did that. That also helped my family understand that sometimes you have to sacrifice yourself and your feelings to do something bigger for the whole world. All that helped a lot to survive in that period.

“I’m a very strong person. To be alone for a long while because I’m training, it was not that that was killing me. I’m very happy to be focused and not have too much disturbance when I’m working. That was perfect for me. It was very silent. But it was tough, family-wise, with my kids and my wife.”

On how his being a father influenced his approach to the role:

“That’s what we try to put in, our personal stuff into the characters. That’s how we build it up. You know, kids would do what you say and then, wouldn’t do what you say. Geralt is the same. He’s actually doing what he wants to do but because of an intuitive way of thinking and I like that. I want my kids to have the same freedom of believing in yourself, and what you understand, but not understand but you’re going on that road because it feels so right for you and something magic is going on.

“I really like that also for my own kids to believe that magic is bigger than your knowledge because knowledge is something that we learn from what we have experienced or what we read or what we see. But this is something deeper in your soul. And I like that. So, I use that as a mentor for my part, as a ‘father’ to Geralt. And also because I like feelings and senses. I really adore senses. I also used that with Geralt to open up his senses and feelings.”

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