Netflix's The Witcher Season 2 cast interview: Henry Cavill wants to talk more
Netflix's The Witcher Season 2 cast interview: Henry Cavill wants to talk more
Note: This feature was first published on 7 December 2021.
Off to Kaer Morhen we go.
Netflix’s The Witcher Season 2 launches in just a few weeks, a whole two years after the show's debut. Fans have waited a long time to see where Geralt and Ciri go after finally meeting in The Witcher’s Season 1 finale, and now we finally have an answer: Kaer Morhen! As Geralt journeys with his Child Surprise to the witcher stronghold, Yennefer seems to be dealing with her own problems after the Battle of Sodden. In typical Witcher fashion, lots of monsters are sprinkled into the trio’s adventures too.
Season 2 of The Witcher already looks bigger and more sure of itself than Season 1, taking its characters on epic journeys that might even surprise fans of Andrzej Sapkowski’s books, which the show is based on. We recently had the opportunity to chat with Henry Cavill (Geralt), Joey Batey (Jaskier) and Kim Bodnia (Vesemir) about Season 2’s musical numbers, playing a witcher dad and what it felt like to step into Kaer Morhen for the very first time.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Were you a fan of The Witcher games or even the books before the show, and did that influence how you portrayed Vesemir in the series?
Kim Bodnia: It was a pleasure to see how he is always behind Geralt and supporting him. I took a lot from that, in the way he walked and you always felt his fatherly features. So yes, I stole a lot from these small videos from the game. It was lovely to see them. It's so well produced. I was actually sitting beside my son when he was playing the game and it was lovely to see.
Geralt and Jaskier shared this amazing Shrek-and-Donkey relationship in Season 1, so how was it returning to that in Season 2 and building on Jaskier acting almost like a spurned lover?
Joey Batey: It was really interesting to see what happens when a friendship breaks down, with a character who has thus far been defined by his friendship with Geralt. We get to see him for the first time carving out his own path, we get to see him becoming independent, standing on his own two feet, and through that discover the kind of person he is, or the kind of person he wants to be. He gets to tell his own story, as opposed to telling the stories of others and his witcher friend. He's taken a really brave step in trying to do something good in the world. He’s been an opportunist in life, and now he's slightly deciding, perhaps thanks to his friendship with Geralt, to be a hero in his own small way.
Vesemir isn’t just a father figure to Geralt, but most of the witchers we see at Kaer Morhen. What did you do to prepare for the role of this witcher patriarch?
Kim Bodnia: Vesemir is a very grounded person. I was studying the skills he has in the games because, you know, it's not a secret that while Henry loves the books, he really is a gamer. I really needed to help him to live in that world, so I was studying a lot. For me it was very important that we connected. We became like a couple that understood each other so well, so we had good chemistry.
Have you seen anything from The Witcher’s animated movie Nightmare of the Wolf, and did that influence your performance as Vesemir at all?
Kim Bodnia: I have nothing to do with that movie, but I loved it. When you saw it, I saw it, and I was so happy for it. I love manga, the art style has always been one of my favorites. It was funny and lovely to see what Vesemir was like when he was younger. That was funny. I mean, I (Vesemir) almost forgot that I had so much fun. It was lovely to see that energy and the voice actor (Theo James) really got the humor and drama - the balance was brilliant. The music is fantastic. Unfortunately, because it’s so good, I had nothing to do with it.
Jaskier is Geralt’s best friend, and Vesemir is basically his dad. What is your character’s relationship with the witcher like in Season 2?
Kim Bodnia: Well, I created Geralt as a witcher. So yes, it feels like a father and son relationship. You know, kids never do what you say. [Geralt is] a tough man to deal with, but I love him and this man loves him. He is also our hope for the future, because we don’t create any more witchers. We have to listen and learn from each other, because… you know, Vesemir is the oldest - and so am I, in real life.
Joey Batey: But not at heart.
Kim Bodnia: Not in my brain.
Joey Batey [bursts out laughing]: No, not in your brain.
Kim Bodnia: When we first meet, Geralt doesn’t quite know what - but he believes in something deeply. That’s what we have together, is finding out what that is.
Joey Batey: Jaskier is trying to battle this darkening Continent without his best friend, and I don’t remember filming any scenes with Henry So I don't know if they do end up being friends again, but we'll have to find out. You have to watch it.
Writer’s note: Netflix did end up spoiling the surprise in the Season 2 trailer anyway.
Toss a Coin to your Witcher is a certified banger -
Joey Batey [laughing]: Who certified it?
It’s certified by me! Knowing that and going into Season 2 for another musical number, was there any pressure in living up to Jaskier’s first hit single?
Joey Batey: No, not at all. We were with Joe Trapanese, our composer for Season 2, when we were working on the music. Throughout Season 2, we didn't want to try and capture that lightning in a bottle again. We purposely went in a new musical direction, a direction that served the characters’ narrative arc and was a reflection of the darkening Continent around them. That's what good artists do, is that they hold up these mirrors to the world around them so that we can analyze, examine and understand.
I think that was the musical journey that we tried to go on. It might not be as catchy or as much of a… certified banger, as you so eloquently put it. But it meant a lot to me as an actor performing last year that I could create something that was a bit more emotionally raw and showed a little more vulnerability to the character and which was really, really challenging, but I think equally as rewarding.
What has been your favourite monster to take on in The Witcher universe thus far, whether it’s in the series or CD Projekt Red’s games?
Henry Cavill: I’ve always thought the Royal Griffin from the games, was pretty fantastic. As far as the show goes…I've got to be a little careful about what I talk about here because I don't want to spoil anything, but as far as the visuals go, I feel like the Striga fight was a really good one. I think Alex Garcia [Lopez] did an amazing job of capturing that. And aside from that, I think my favorite monsters to have killed in the show were in Blaviken.
Geralt versus Superman. Who wins?
Henry Cavill: Tough one. Having played Superman and therefore having an intimate knowledge of his weaknesses, I would appeal to his moral side. I would appeal to his good side. And that is the only way that Geralt could actually beat Superman. Physically one-on-one, if Superman really wants to beat or kill Geralt, Geralt doesn't stand a chance. Same goes for Batman, he doesn't stand a chance. But if Superman has his good side appealed to, you might get the advantage on him.
Stepping into the shoes of Geralt again for Season 2, what has changed about how you prepare for the role compared to Season 1?
Henry Cavill: As far as the preparation goes, coming into this, I wanted the character to have a closer relationship to the character in the books, I wanted him to be more book accurate. And so it was more to do with making sure and campaigning for him to sound more intellectual, more philosophical, and to have an emotional side as well, rather than just be a grumpy snowman. Every day I was pushing this stuff as far as prep goes.
Geralt finds himself in new territory this season, as Ciri’s guardian. He’s been fairly gruff and unfriendly in the past, it’s safe to say, but now he has to teach and protect. What changes are we going to see in Geralt because of this?
Henry Cavill: It's very interesting you say that, because Geralt’s instincts are actually to protect. As we see from the story he tells Roach in the first season, about the first monster he killed actually being a man. He was protecting someone who was being assaulted. It's in his nature to protect. So when it comes to Ciri becoming a part of his life, it’s more like unlocking walls he’s built to protect himself over the years. He seems to, regardless of these walls, always get himself in trouble because he's trying to help people. Teaching is slightly different, and it's more to do with him getting to grips with the nature of someone who's been through a traumatic experience.
What has filming this season during the pandemic been like?
Henry Cavill: I’ve learned that being able to see people's faces is really important. Especially on set, we work very long hours, and they can be quite grueling at times. And there's a human connection there when you see people's faces, and when not only they're wearing a mask, but they're wearing a visor as well. So you can't quite see their eyes. And you can't quite have that regular conversation where you're reading someone's reactions, and so you can have that connection. For me, the biggest lesson learned is about human connection and being able to understand the signs that people give, which aren't verbal.
Do you think there are any similarities between yourself and Geralt?
Henry Cavill: Yes, yes, I do. Both of us have lived the life of a loner and a nomad, really. We've sort of been hopping from place to place. I have a select group of friends and four brothers who are at home who have their own lives. I have friends in different places in the same way that Geralt does. He's always on the path. He's always traveling. He may stop by an old village or town, and meet old friends because he either happened to pass them by or killed a monster, or helped out before. Geralt and I kind of have a similar relationship with the world in that way. We're always on the move and in different places. We have different groups of friends.
What do you think are Geralt’s best and worst traits?
Henry Cavill: That’s a tricky one to answer, because I'm still evolving my version of Geralt as it goes. At the present he can be a little uncommunicative. And I'm obviously working on that. He is a natural protector. Despite what he's been through, he still has this desire to protect and he's had the world throw stones at him, figuratively and literally, and yet he still goes out of his way to look after people and I think that's an admirable quality to say the least.
What’s the one action sequence you’re proudest of in this show, and how long did it take to put together?
Henry Cavill: How long it takes to shoot a fight scene all depends on the scene, the choreography, the time allowed, how well everyone is doing, how well I'm performing, how other stunt performers are performing and how well we're capturing the footage. It depends on so many variables. I would say the one I'm most proud of is a fight. I think it's Episode Six or Seven, which I had a torn hamstring for. That was the scariest one because once you tear a hamstring, the chance of it being torn again is really high. And if I had torn it that quickly after tearing in the first place, and the tear was really rather bad, then it could have been the end of my actual career. So that one is probably the one I was happiest to survive.
The Witcher has already been renewed for a third season, so what are you looking forward to in Geralt’s future?
Henry Cavill: My hope for The Witcher is always the same. I absolutely love the books, and speaking for myself, would love to see a book Geralt represented as accurately as possible onscreen. For me, that’s the thing I'm most keen on seeing, is really really drawing from Sapkowski’s extraordinary work and bringing that nuance and three-dimensional character into the show.
You’re a big PC gamer. Do you ever plan to start streaming games in the future?
Henry Cavill: Right now, gaming is still such a private thing for me. I get to switch off from it. When I’m out of the house, I’m in front of the cameras and if I'm at work, I'm in front of the cameras. So it's really lovely to have that switch off, where I can just just get stuck into a game and enjoy it and not be worried about how I'm presenting or anything like that. It's a real release for me. So at the moment, I have no plans to do any streaming, but you never know.
Between the costumes and the Kaer Morhen sets, what was it like to physically inhabit the world of a book series you’re already such a huge fan of?
Henry Cavill: [Production designer] Andrew Laws and his team did an absolutely amazing job in creating all the sets. Kaer Morhen in particular - there's something about being on a set like that, which is so huge, where you can really immerse yourself in that world and believe you are there. I take my hat off to Andrew and his team, and everyone who built those sets because it takes extraordinary skill. And it's something which is easy to look past as a casual viewer, because you're just transported to that world. And if you're not transported, then you start to notice things and the very fact that you don't notice things is extraordinary. And so for me as a performer, it's lovely to be in that environment and it does help.
The Witcher Season 2 starts streaming on Netflix on 17 December, 2021.