Henry Cavill, the British actor whose most famous role is that of Superman, visited Manila last week to promote his latest project, a Netflix fantasy drama series, called The Witcher. The show runner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich joined the lead actor in their first visit to Manila.
The story, based on the book series of the same name, revolves around a beast hunter, a “witcher” named Geralt of Rivia (Cavill), who was destined to protect a princess. Set in a fictional place called the Continent, the series tackles the internal and external struggles of the anti-politics Geralt, as he encounters monsters, elves, dwarves, and other magical characters. Within the Continent are warring kingdoms and families, torn apart by centuries of enmity, corruption, greed, and struggle for power.
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With elements such as supernatural beings, divided kingdoms, loyalty to family, and plenty of sword fights, The Witcher is expected to fill the void that Game of Thrones left when it ended last May.
While followers of the books—and the video game adaptation—are awaiting for its December 20 premier, its lead star is already garnering renewed popularity.
Cavill is dropping his superhero cape and putting on, instead, a black armor-suit, milk-white hair, and dark eyes (amber, in the series) to play the role of the crestfallen hero.
The physical demands of the project may not be new to the six-foot-one actor considering his past screen personas, but he made this one more challenging by doing all the stunts himself.
“Because of the athleticism of Geralt’s fighting style, there’s a lot of explosive movements—and a lot of uneven ground,” Cavill told the Philippine press at a fan event Thursday. “You’re not fighting in a gym. You’re fighting on a slope with coals, dusty floors—or it’s raining. Whatever the case may be. And so you have to make sure that everything is protected. And you have to build the right muscle groups, which can protect things like knee joints, hips, and shoulders.”
The team had to shoot in different countries to try to stay as loyal to the description in the books as possible: Budapest, Hungary; Vienna, Austria; The Canary Islands, Spain, to name a few.
But Cavill was more than willing to take the challenge. During the press conference, he told the story of how resolute he was in getting a part in The Witcher. When he heard Netflix was making a show about the book series, the fantasy genre and video gaming aficionado immediately called his agent to, at least, get him to the audition room.
“This is really, really important to me,” he recalls telling them. When he didn’t hear anything for a week, he picked up his phone again. His agents confirmed the project was indeed happening, and Cavill asked them to keep calling until they find out more about it.
“And so I called them back every three days,” he says, laughing at the memory. “They must have said, ‘Look, you’ve got to meet this guy. Otherwise, he’s gonna turn up at the door. And that would be embarrassing.’”
Around seven weeks later, while Cavill was on vacation, he got a call asking him to audition for the role of Geralt. He cancelled his holiday, flew to New York, and the rest is history.
Hissrick, who has written scripts for TV series such as The West Wing and The Umbrella Academy, says she realized later on that Cavill was indeed meant for the role: “As I continued writing those scripts, I always had Henry’s voice in my head…When we met again, we just immediately kicked off a great relationship.”
The show runner’s biggest challenge, she says, was to put eight novels—3,000 pages’ worth of stories—into eight episodes for the first season. It took 178 days to shoot the entire season, with around 300 crew members at any given day.
All the hard work paid off: The series already earned an early season 2 renewal. Winter—sorry, The Witcher has arrived.
The Witcher premieres December 20, on Netflix.
Photographs by Chris Clemente