INTERVIEW: Anya Chalotra & Freya Allen Talk The Witcher Season 1

witcher interviews anya chalotra freya allen

The Witcher, Netflix’s upcoming fantasy series based on the novels by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, drops on the streaming behemoth December 20th. For those who have played or heard of the game, it may seem like a testosterone-driven rampage of blood and sex. But as the trailers have proven, the women of The Witcher are just as important as Henry Cavill’s Geralt of Rivia.

The two women in question are Anya Chalotra and Freya Allen, who play Yennefer of Vengerberg and Ciri of Cintra respectively. One a sorceress who must grow into her unimaginable power and the other a young princess running towards her destiny after a tragedy, they both interest with Geralt in their own fascinating ways. But showrunner Lauren Hissrich wanted to make sure their stories were their own rather than an extension of his, and the first season largely reflects that. With An Accent had the opportunity to sit down with the actresses to discuss their character arcs and relationships.

What did you guys do to prepare for the role and the world of The Witcher once you got cast?yennefer in the witcher

Anya Chalotra: I knew that it was adapted from the source material. So, I read the short stories whilst I was filming. And then everything else, I wanted to come from the scripts that we had. Because we’re focusing on the Yennefer’s backstory at the beginning of the season, and that’s something that we only have hints and glimpses of in the novels. Whatever we were creating, it was original. From then on, what was important was the conversations that I was having with Lauren and every cast member about what each scene was about.

I read the script again and again, and every time I read the script, I found something new, asked more questions about Yennefer, and wrote them all down. Then it started to become second nature to think and respond as Yennefer, because of the pace at which we were working and how much I was filming.

Freya Allen: To me, it was kind of the opposite. I didn’t want to prepare too much at all, because it was obvious right from the audition, that there was such a parallel between Ciri and I. In our natures and also what we’re going through in our lives. Ciri goes from one life, and then suddenly it’s completely changed and she’s having to cope with a new environment. She’s having to adapt and develop and learn. And I felt like I was almost going through the exact thing, because I had just been doing exams and been at school, and then suddenly I was having to do a job. I didn’t want to ruin that by looking into things too much, because I felt like it was very natural; the link between me and the character.

But I did read Blood of Elves, which was really nice to get a kind of essence of who she was from the source material. Other than that, it was just looking at the scripts and then just going on set and doing it.

We hear so much about the bond of destiny between Geralt and Ciri in The Witcher. Why do you think that that destiny is so important, and why does it draw them together?

ciri in the witcherFreya Allen: They are technically bound by the destiny. But for Ciri, she’s not just driven by the fact that he’s her destiny. For that destiny to take place, she has to make the choices for that to happen. She’s driven by the fact that she wants family; she wants someone who can guide her; she wants someone who can love her in that way. She sees him as her next family, and I think that’s a huge part of her drive through the season.

Meanwhile, Yennefer and Geralt aren’t necessarily written in the stars, but they are obviously and immediately drawn to each other as well. Why do you think that Yennefer sees in him?

Anya Chalotra: I think it begins as a very animalistic relationship, and there’s a huge pull to him. It’s very magnetic and sexual lustful, but it’s also complicated. She finds herself drawn to him and needing him, and she doesn’t want to need anyone. She’s very independent. And I think that’s why it becomes so complicated. I think she’s intrigued and curious about him, because he doesn’t give her what every other man has given her. And that’s what sets her off balance, and whilst doing that makes him more intriguing.

Geralt aside, you both have your own personal stories and perspectives that The Witcher centers. How much do you think that Lauren as showrunner influenced that balance?anya chalotra in the witcher

Freya Allen: Yeah, I think one of the main reasons she doesn’t want to bring all of us together at first is because she wants audiences to see each of our stories and really get to see the characters for who they are. You see the characters and people and environments around them that have shaped who they are before bringing us together, so that we have our own stories that are independent of Geralt’s story. I think that was really important for Lauren, making sure that we had that so people can see who our characters are without being connected to Geralt.

What would you say is your character’s primal desire at the start of the first season of The Witcher?

Freya Allen: For me, I know for sure. She wants to be exactly like [her grandmother,] Calanthe. She wants to fight; she wants to be a leader; she wants to be involved with the discussions that everyone around her is having. She’s very curious, and she just wants to be involved. She doesn’t want to be left behind or sent to the side; she wants to be a part of everything.

Anya Chalotra: For Yennefer, it’s connection, a true connection, a deep connection. And unconditional love.

How far would you say your character gets to travel down the path to her final form this season? As in, how close do we get to Ciri the warrior girl or Yennefer the infamous sorceress?

freya allen in the witcherFreya Allen: I think what I love about this season is that you see such a vulnerable side to her. She’s just a little girl who’s lost in this world and doesn’t know what to what to do. But then towards the end, as she’s adapting and as she learning, all things she’s experiencing; you begin to see that she’s building a bit of a shell. You start to see an essence of coldness within her, and which I think is a natural result of everything that she’s seen. Imagine if you’ve seen all those things that she’s seen and experienced, then that would start to happen.

I think she still has a long way to go, but this season is going to totally change who she becomes later.

Anya Chalotra: Oh, Yennefer comes a hell of a long way. In the first season, we see her go from 14 to her late 70s. And she hasn’t just come a long way in terms of age, but she has many experiences along that journey. We see her discovering her powers, what those powers means to her, where they lie. She learns what sets her apart from everyone else, which latches on to very quickly and uses to her advantage.

Then she realizes that she doesn’t want to be what society wants her to be, and she wants change. She wants change within the institution of Aretuza. Her goals and desires change, but she’s always yearning for that true connection and unconditional love.

Freya Allen: Yeah, I think you definitely do get to see the Yennefer everyone knows in this season. Compared to me, because with Ciri you’re not going to quite get there yet. Do you know what I mean?

The Witcher arrives December 20th on Netflix. Check back then for a more in-depth interview covering actual episodes, as well as an interview with showrunner Lauren Hissrich.