The Witcher is coming to streaming platform Netflix as an eight-episode TV drama in late 2019, starring Henry Cavill as Geralt. We've got our first big trailer for the series, spotted some funny looking armor on set, and seen the full cast gathered together at San Diego Comic-Con 2019. We even got a look at the most important Witcher character: Geralt's horse Roach.
The Netflix series is based on the Polish novels by Andrzej Sapkowski, much like the CD Projekt Red RPG series that we're so keen on here at PC Gamer. It's had a showrunner in place for a while now—Daredevil and The Defenders writer Lauren Schmidt Hissrich—and we've learned loads about the series through Twitter, including character descriptions. We've captured all of that below.
If you were curious about the show's credibility, Sapkowski is working on the Netflix series as a creative consultant.
“I’m thrilled that Netflix will be doing an adaptation of my stories, staying true to the source material and the themes that I have spent over thirty years writing,” he said in a press release. “I’m excited about our efforts together, as well as the team assembled to shepherd these characters to life.”
Below, find what we know about The Witcher on Netflix's release date, cast info and more. You'll also see some set photos from the filming in Budapest.
What is the release date for The Witcher on Netflix?
December 17th, 2019 is the release date leaked by the Facebook account for Netflix in the Netherlands. The post (now deleted) listed the number of days until the release of several new Netflix series. The Witcher was listed as 97 days from the date of the post on September 11th.
This date hasn't been officially confirmed, but lines up with our previous news from an earnings call reporting that The Witcher series will release sometime in the last three months of 2019.
Here's the first trailer for The Witcher on Netflix
At San Diego Comic-Con, Netflix released the first teaser trailer for The Witcher. Geralt speaks! And broods. And swings a sword. There's also a lot of talk about destiny and some dramatic shots of Ciri and Yennefer.
The tagline for the series is "The worst monsters are the ones we create."
The Witcher on Netflix official photos and stills of Geralt, Ciri and Yennefer
Netflix released some official stills of The Witcher cast in anticipation of its Comic-Con unveiling. You'll see them above, and they showcase Geralt (Henry Cavill), Yennefer (Anya Cholatra), and Ciri (Freya Allan).
The Witcher on Netflix will not adapt the games, only the books
At least, that's all showrunner Lauren Hissrich is willing to commit to right now. Adapting the books is the extent of her current aspirations, according to a report by The Wrap.
"Extreme long vision is no, we will not start adapting the games," Hissrich replied. "I can only attack one season at a time, I'm so excited for this one, the rest kind of makes my mind explode right now. If someone says 'what happens in Season 7,' sure I have thoughts. Fingers crossed, we get there."
Hissrich also took to Twitter recently, patiently explaining to one user the show's choice to cast more diverse actors. She cites a few reasons, among them the need to appeal to a global audience, the effect that the United States' relationship with racism has on media made here, and, most importantly, a desire to hold true to the spirit of the books more than the letter. "The Witcher is REALLY interesting when it comes to depicting racism because it’s about species, not skin color," Hissrich says. "What makes characters 'other' is the shape of their ears, height, etc. In the books, no one pays attention to skin color. In the series... no one does either."
What is the story of The Witcher Netflix series?
If you head on over to The Witcher on Netflix right now, there's already a placeholder synopsis to tempt you into pre-adding the show to your list.
While the Netflix blurb—"The witcher, Geralt, a mutated monster hunter, struggles to find his place in a world where people often prove more wicked than beasts"—doesn't give away much, an official synopsis revealed by executive producers Sean Daniel and Jason Brown tells us a little more, indicating that the show follows an unconventional family that "comes together to fight for truth in a dangerous world."
Oscar-nominated filmmaker Tomek Baginski and Jarek Sawko of Polish visual effects studio Platige Image said in a statement: "There is a moral and intellectual depth in these books which goes beyond genre. It is a story about today and today’s challenges, hidden under a fantasy cover. It is a story about us, about the monster and hero inside of all our hearts."
Hissrich recently gave an interview to Entertainment Weekly that provides a few insights into what we can expect from this version of Geralt's story.
The show will be its own adaptation of Sapkowski's books, which Hissrich says will explore events prior to the game trilogy. Based on what Hissrich says most drew her to the books, it sounds like the relationship between Geralt, Ciri, and Yennefer will be a main through line. "If you take all the other fantasy elements away, you take the magic and story and violence and sex away, you still have three characters who are this broken disjointed family who really need each other even though they don’t want to admit it."
As for antagonists for our three protagonists, Hissrich says there won't be one main big bad for the series. The show will be more invested in seeing the moral shades of gray so prevalent in Geralt's world. "The characters you’re rooting for in the beginning may not be the characters you’re rooting for in the end. And characters you hate and seem absolutely evil are motivated by something that’s really relatable and human and emotional." That likely means we'll see both the good and bad sides of characters like Regis, who as a vampire is a monster in his own right.
So that's the sex scenes confirmed, then… although it remains to be seen if we'll get to see some sexy times on a unicorn.
Henry Cavill is a big fan of The Witcher
In Hissrich's interview with Entertainment Weekly, we find out that regardless of what you think of Cavill as Geralt of Rivia, he's a huge fan who expressed interest in the role before casting had even begun. "Henry is a huge fan of this property. He’s read all of the books. He’s played all the games. I met him at the very beginning of the process. He said, 'I would love to play this character,'" Hissrich says.
The Witcher on Netflix characters we know about
As discussed, we know that Yennefer, Ciri, Roach, and Triss will be joining Geralt, along with Regis the vampire and Emhyr var Emreis.
We got our first look at Geralt and Roach together this week, seen above. Since this is just one still photo, we don't get to see many of Roach's abilities here—she's not standing on top of a roof or hiding in a goat pen. But the show is in post-production now, so it's likely they're adding stuff like that in as we speak.
Dandelion will also be making an appearance, although for the show he'll be referred to as Jaskier, his original name from the novel series.
“The characters are original, funny and constantly surprising and we can’t wait to bring them to life at Netflix," said producers Tomek Baginski and Jarek Sawko when the series was announced.
Hissrich has even taken to describing each character via a series of tweets from a while back. Brace yourselves—there's a lot of detail here. We've removed the dashes between words from Hissrich's original tweets below for ease of reading. Click on the above for their original context.
- Geralt is described as stoic, circumspect, balanced and fierce, and, in Hissrich's words: "soft and squishy in a tiny place in his heart that he'll never reveal until maybe the end and even then it will just be a hint."
- Yennefer, meanwhile, is fiery, proud, shrewd and contradictory, plus: "seeking to fill a family-sized hole in her heart even though she resents it and swears she's just fine on her own but she is not and we love her for being both independent and vulnerable."
- Ciri is described as resilient, relentless, brazen and growing, and, according to Hissrich: "she's going to change the world and what the hell is she supposed to do except be scared and be bold and learn and adapt and find a family who can walk by her side no matter what and maybe just maybe teach her the meaning of love."
- Roach is apparently "ladylike; faithful; extrasensory; steady". Roach is a horse.
- Jakier is extravagant, caddish, loose-lipped. Plus: "Hides behind the exterior of an idiot when in actuality he is the keeper of Geralt’s realities (even if he exaggerates his own heroics) AND the truths of the world which means he’s far more important than we realize…"
- Triss Merigold is "Spunky; Idealistic; Insecure; Conflicted; Young and naive and lacking the confidence of sorceresses which means she is ripe for manipulation but when she finally transcends the crap she has a chance to be loved as herself and not as 'the third-wheel with Yen'".
- Cahir is "Conflicted; Charismatic; Haunted; Pure of heart".
That's not everyone—this is a big cast. Check out character descriptions for Regis, Vilgefortz, Ephyr, Milva, Leo Bonhart and Borch Three Jackdaws/Villentretenmerth deeper into Hissrich's Twitter thread, starting here. "This is a starting point, mostly because—how could characters ever be boiled down to five words (even with hyphens?)" Hissrich told fans on Twitter. "Also, the characters change and develop so much over the series that a summary can never be 100% accurate. Geralt starts off stoic. He doesn't end that way."
Young Geralt has been cast
Eagle-eyed fans have spotted that first-time actor Tristan Ruggeri will portray Young Geralt in the eighth episode of the series. If you're familiar with Geralt's childhood in the books, you can probably guess what Reggeri's scenes will portray. We'll likely see what it's like to grow up in the Witcher School of the Wolf, and might even catch a glimpse of the Trial of the Grasses: the test that subjects Witcher students to mutations that either enhance or kill them.
Witching isn't a charmed life, is the point.
Tub Geralt just might make his way into the show...
Showrunner Lauren Hissrich may be focusing on the books as inspiration for Netflix's The Witcher, but apparently the door is still open for nods to the excellent Witcher games. Hissrich told io9 at San Diego Comic-Con that yes, "There is a bathtub. I won’t tell you who’s in the bathtub, but there is a bathtub."
Tub Geralt is a force for good, so if there's a bathtub and a very buff Henry Cavill isn't in it, I don't know what we're doing here.
Major filming has wrapped for Season 1 of The Witcher series on Netflix
It looks like all major filming for The Witcher Netflix series has been completed. According to the blog Redanian Intelligence, the crew enjoyed a wrap party at the end of April and key staff members have been trickling out of the production site in Budapest since.
This doesn't necessarily mean every bit of filming is complete. Another Redanian Intelligence report claims that the series is undergoing some reshoots after the recasting of a major character. From here, the show enters post-production, where it will hopefully be finished in time for its late 2019 release.
First look at Henry Cavill in costume as Geralt in The Witcher series on Netflix
Get your first look at Henry Cavill in The Witcher! pic.twitter.com/1O2eWS1MkPOctober 31, 2018
When we got our first look at Henry Cavill as Geralt in the make-up test Netflix released above, we were... a little torn. With a beard he might look okay, but removed from the context of a fantasy world, he looked a little like Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII, or someone cosplaying as slightly-older Legolas. We've come around to the idea based on all the more recent set pictures and marketing shots but the first internet reactions to Cavill as a Witcher live on in our hearts.
Where is The Witcher Netflix series filmed?
Eastern Europe, naturally.
"WE'LL BE SHOOTING IN EASTERN EUROPE. Yes!" tweeted Hissrich. "This show couldn't exist anyplace else. Period." Budapest is at least one of the locations—that's where filming has started.
While the show follows the novels more closely than the accompanying game series, we know that CD Projekt Red's cinematic director, Tomas Baginski—who directed the opening cinematics in all three Witcher games—is penciled in to direct as least one episode, so it'll be interesting to see if the show will be influenced by the style and motifs of its accompanying game series.