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The Witcher Netflix TV series: cast, release date and everything we know

The Witcher Netflix
(Image credit: Netflix)

The Witcher is coming to streaming platform Netflix as an eight-episode TV drama in December, starring Henry Cavill as Geralt. 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. Just a month before the show's debut, Netflix has already renewed it for a second season, so hopes are high.

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 20th, 2019 is the official release date for The Witcher Netflix series announced in its new official trailer.

Here's the final trailer for The Witcher on Netflix

The final pre-season trailer for The Witcher tosses out any explanation of Geralt or the other Witchers. Here we get a setup for the show's plot that puts Ciri at center stage as the impetus for the war between Nilfgaard and the Northern Kingdoms. Lots of people want Cirilla dead and Geralt becomes her begrudging protector.

If you'd like to see all the goods, here's the first teaser trailer and the first main trailer focused on Geralt.

Henry Cavill breaks down what makes Geralt so cool

Henry says what we're all thinking in this Witcher featurette. Geralt is a stoic bastard with a genuinely good soul (though he'd never tell you that). He's the classic ronin/mysterious wanderer type that just wants to do his job and move on, though his moral compass often lands him in trouble. I'm glad that's something the show's creative forces and Cavill himself are emphasizing with the show's lead-up.

Here are the episode titles for the first season of The Witcher

Here's the list of episode titles, followed by the poem formed by their descriptions. 

  • The End's Beginning
  • Four Marks
  • Betrayer Moon
  • Of Banquets, Bastards and Burials
  • Bottled Appetites
  • Rare Species
  • Before a Fall
  • Much More

A monster slain, a butcher named
We look at a sorceress's earlier days
A picky eater, a family shamed
The Law of Surprise is how one repays
A fateful meeting, a bard is maimed
The hunt for a dragon is underway
A return to before a kingdom is flamed
The Witcher Family as you all like to say

Netflix has already renewed The Witcher for a second season

That's right, the show isn't even out yet and it has already been renewed for a second season by Netflix. That's not entirely unusual in the TV world, but it does show a certain amount of confidence from Netflix that it's got a winner.

The latest Witcher on Netflix images depict Geralt in an armor-less showdown

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The Witcher official photos and stills of Geralt, Ciri and Yennefer

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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 Netflix showrunner already has seven seasons mapped out

The Witcher series showrunner Lauren Hissrich is optimistic for the success of the show, and says she already has six more season mapped out if all goes well. "We don’t have a second season yet—God willing we will—but right now it’s just about, ‘How do you set up stories that really capture audiences for years at a time?’" Hissrich said. "The worst thing we could do is put all of our energies just into season one, and not be thinking about where these characters can grow to.” 

If the show does return for more seasons, there's a lot of material to pull from: six novels, two short story collections, and three video games with a wealth of excellent stories.

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."

The Witcher short stories will be adapted out of order

Fans of the books know that The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny are not linear stories, but a collection of short stories. In an interview with Gamespot, Hissrich talked about how the show will adapt the stories into a season-long narrative.

"To me, there are challenges, and there are opportunities. And this, to me, was such a great opportunity," she said. "You have all of these short stories presented in the first couple of books, in The Last Wish and in Sword of Destiny. There is no narrative thread between them, so Geralt doesn't grow and change that much between the stories, because that's not how they were originally written."

In the show, Geralt will how natural growth throughout the season. The stories fans already know might also be presented out of order or be remixed to fit the show, so don't be too surprised by changes. Stories will still be recognizable, but they should feel like their own distinct thing.

Netflix's take on The Witcher will lean into horror territory

Although there's still plenty of magic and fantastical elements in The Witcher stories, Geralt, Ciri, and Yenefer's adventures still have a big focus on monstrous people and gnarly monsters. The Netflix adaptation, "leans more towards horror," visual effects supervisor Julian Parry told SFX magazine

"I definitely think it leans more towards horror. We’re definitely taking the fantasy out. I can honestly say we’re not fantastical. I mean, it’s fantastical but in a grounded horror sense," Parry said. "For example, with Striga [a woman cursed to live as a monster], that’s one gnarly-looking thing. That’s very unpleasant!"

The Witcher on Netflix certainly still has fantasy elements of elves, Witcher signs, and magic, but it sounds like the show's visual direction will be making the world as dark and scary as its monster-slaying protagonists.

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

It turns out Cavill actually sought out The Witcher after finding out it was being produced.

"I played the games—they released a game called Witcher 3 about five years ago now. Played that game to death," he told Jimmy Kimmel. "Then I heard it was coming out—I met the showrunner, and that's when I learned there were books. Read the books and realized that I was missing out on a whole world of the stuff. Because I'd been into the fantasy genre since I was a kid—since before I could read, my dad was reading me fantasy books."

Here are the showrunner's descriptions of several Witcher characters for the show

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

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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...

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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.

Where was The Witcher Netflix first season 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 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. 

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(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

An animated Witcher series could also be in the works

As noticed by Witcher news source Redanian Intelligence, a reliable leaker has shared the apparent existence of an animated Netflix Witcher show. "They were casting for an animated series set in the world of The Witcher and featuring some side characters a while back. The plan was to make this available on Netflix sometime between season 1 and 2. No idea whether or not this is still happening," reads the post on Recapped, a NSFW blog that originally revealed the casting of Henry Cavill as Geralt.

Netflix has been expanding more and more into animation in recent years, so this wouldn't be out of left field for the service. As Redanian Intelligence also points out, German actress Helena Klaus previously listed voice over work for the Witcher on her CV. The pieces are all there for this to be true, but take it all with a grain of salt.