Freya Allan and Anya Chalotra on playing Ciri and Yennefer, respectively, in Netflix’s The Witcher

Freya Allen and Anya Chalotra The Witcher

The Witcher is now available on Netflix, and it stars Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia, Anya Chalotra as Yennefer of Vengerberg, and Freya Allan as Ciri. The fantasy series is set in the Continent, a fictional land filled with humans, sorceresses, elves, dwarves, and monsters. Yennefer and Ciri are both powerful characters, and in the show, viewers will get to see their origin stories as they navigate the dangerous world. Nerd Reactor had the chance to chat with Chalotra and Allan about their respective roles and the world of The Witcher.

Nerd Reactor: Before the show, were you fans of The Witcher?

Freya Allan: No. I’d never heard of it, so I couldn’t be a fan.

Anya Chalotra: I didn’t know anything about the Witcher.

Nerd Reactor: After being cast, did you research it a bit?

Freya Allan: Yeah. When I got the audition, I googled Ciri and I saw some images of her. Actually, before my audition, I went into the bookshop, and I read a few pages of the book to see what it was like. I’d seen clips online of the games.

Anya Chalotra: Yeah, I think it was when I got the part. That’s when I really started to immerse myself in the material, like the novels. And yeah, because that’s what we were basing it from.

Nerd Reactor: With the novel, was there anything that grabbed your attention?

Anya Chalotra: I just think the world of it, especially with the short stories, because there’s so many. The pace is quite fast. It was just brilliant. [Andrzej Sapkowski] created such a brilliant world. I was excited to see how we were going to portray it on screen. Yeah, Netflix was the perfect
platform to do that with our ambition.

Nerd Reactor: For the audition, what do you channel for your role as Yennefer and Ciri?

Anya Chalotra: Rage. I play Yennefer from like a 14-year-old to when she’s in her 70s.

Freya Allan: You look good for a 70-year-old.

Anya Chalotra: But as you know from the book, she transforms and she stays in a 20-year-old’s body. For me, I didn’t have many things to help me with that change. So it was just a certain breath I had to draw, and I had to change my breath. There were so many things I drew from in my life, so many women that I took from in my life.

Freya Allan: For me, loss. It’s just the thing that’s most present for Ciri throughout the entire season. She loses everybody she loves within one night.

Nerd Reactor: Spoilers! [laughs]

Freya Allan: Oh god, you actually gave me a heart attack.

Anya Chalotra: That word.

Freya Allan: And so I mean yeah, it was hard because I haven’t experienced the amount of loss she experienced in my life. I really had to get in a kind of mental state to make sure that I was getting it as right as possible, even though I’ve never experienced it myself.

Nerd Reactor: Your characters have a huge arc. Your origin stories have a lot of craziness happening. Your characters have a crappy origin, and you are learning about yourselves and get to become badasses.

Freya Allan: I think I have a pretty nice origin, actually. [Laughs] I mean, I lived in a castle and then I got dumped and just got covered in mud every day. People are wanting to capture me. But no, I know what you mean. At the start, [Ciri’s] so innocent and naive and she has that curiosity, but the people around her aren’t letting her learn about the brutality of the world. Then she’s thrown into the world and she has to learn to adapt, and she has to develop herself and build a bit of a shell. For acting anyway, I definitely felt she changed from being very innocent. Then she’s got that stubborn kind of feisty side to her as well, and then she’s thrown into this world. She’s very vulnerable. She’s very weak, but she learns and then you start to see that there’s a sort of cold essence to her. Suddenly you definitely see in her eyes that there’s something cold that started to come into her because of how much she’s seen. It’s her coping mechanism. It’s the only way she can feel she can deal with it. So I guess she builds a bit of a harder shell towards the end.

Anya Chalotra: Yeah, same with Jennifer. Similarly, she gets thrown into the unknown. And because of that, I think when you just get chucked into something, you have to learn very quickly. I believe she is the ultimate survivor. She discovers where her power lies and that her weakness and strength come in hand in hand. And that definitely sets her apart from everyone else.

Nerd Reactor: Your characters have their own unique powers. Was it fun to do the power that you have?

Freya Allan: For me whenever my character has powers, it’s literally just her screaming. I mean, it was cool, but it was painful. And I remember one night I had to scream. They weren’t doing my shot, so I was just doing these massive screams for other people’s shots. By the time it got to mine, I was like, “Oh my god, I just can’t do it anymore here.” [laughs] But yours is going to look a little bit more badass. Mine’s just screaming.

Anya Chalotra: Yeah, I feel like similarly with Ciri for the screaming, I had that for the beginning of her journey. She didn’t know how as a 14-year-old to cope with what was happening outside her, like what she was creating. Then she learns to hone her power, and that was pretty cool as an actor, to do a bit of magic and learn. Funnily enough, it wasn’t as creative as I thought it would be. It was more like what looks good and what doesn’t coming out of my hand. “Does this look like I’m doing this?” It wasn’t like, “I’m feeling it.” Usually, when I felt it, it looked absolute crap. [laughs]

Nerd Reactor: What was an example of that?

Anya Chalotra: I would be giving my everything, and [the director] would be like, “No, it doesn’t look like you’re doing anything.”

I was like, “Oh, okay, what about this?” My mind was probably blank at that moment and actually, it looked good.

Freya Allan: What I love about Ciri’s powers is that they come about when she has nothing left. She just screams and that’s all she has left in her. Then it just comes out and it was such an amazing way for her to have discovered it. She doesn’t get it when she’s a princess, and she’s got this perfect life. She’s safe. She gets it when she really needs it.

Nerd Reactor: For the show, do you get to spend a lot of time together on the set?

Anya Chalotra: No. We don’t meet in the first season.

Freya Allan: Spoiler. [laughs] We weren’t on set [together] ever. But offset, we went and ate.

Anya Chalotra: What’s going to draw us together anyway is the fact that we are the women of the show. I think we were both very excited to meet each other and Henry as well and obviously every other cast member on the set. We knew about the bond that the three have as characters. It’s hard work, but you make an effort to be friends.

Nerd Reactor: Have you played [The Witcher] video games?

Anya Chalotra: I have played the video games, but not all of it. I’ve got a video of myself that was filmed by my flatmate at the time when I got the part. It was the opening sequence and my mouth just dropped. But no, I haven’t really. It’s my brother and his friends who have immersed themselves in the games. But yeah, like I said, we drew from the source material, the novels.

You can listen to the interview below:

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John Nguyen
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