Henry Cavill Is A Walking Witcher Encyclopedia, Says Freya Allan
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Featured Image Credit: Netflix
Actor Freya Allan is one of the most recognisable faces in the fantasy genre right now thanks to her turn as Ciri in Netflix’s The Witcher. Whereas the child surprise spent much of season one finding her feet and keeping her head down, the upcoming second season of the show promises a much more hands-on role for the character.
We sat down for a chat with Freya to delve into Ciri’s mindset in the highly anticipated season two, what it was like performing her stunts on the show, and chatting to Henry Cavill about video games in their on-set downtime.
For full disclosure, we have seen the first six episodes of Netflix’s The Witcher Season 2, but this interview is spoiler free.
GAMINGbible: Season two of The Witcher is more of a coming of age story for Ciri - how was it different playing her this time around, as opposed to season one?
Freya Allan: Well, in season one she had no idea of the world really. She was a sheltered princess essentially, who was then completely thrown into it. So she’s more aware of what the actual world really is beyond a castle. She's just experiencing the brutality of The Continent for the first time, and then in season two she's going in with that perspective on life, which is a far less rosy one. Playing her in season two was different in terms of the fact that I was given a far more juicy storyline and arc, and far more to play with. I think season two has far more of what people are anticipating for Ciri. She's fighting, she's training, she wants to be a witcher - so it's exciting.
GB: You mention having a more rounded role to dig into. People who have read the books know that Ciri’s arc goes quite a long way. With that in mind, were you drawing on any inspirations from other characters, or tapping into that mindset of “Okay, now I'm a warrior in training.”
FA: I got into acting when I was 14 (Freya is now 20), and for some reason this one movie really inspired me. I think the whole fantasy world of Snow White And The Huntsman, with Chris Hemsworth and Kristen Stewart, actually drew me in. I remember before the audition process [for The Witcher], me and my mum were watching that movie, and I felt like there was a parallel to [Snow White’s] character in a way, and I remember being inspired by that. And there's also something about the Huntsman that’s almost similar to Geralt.
GB: That's interesting to hear. So do you watch quite a lot of fantasy stuff in your downtime?
FA: Maybe it's because I'm so involved in a fantasy show that I’m more interested in watching things that are quite the opposite, like very real human stories. But when I was a bit younger, I absolutely adored fantasy worlds and I still do. I love Game of Thrones, for example. As a kid I was constantly playing make believe that I had, like, a pet unicorn, which is very appropriate for Ciri’s storyline!
GB: There's a lot more fighting in this series, how did you go about training for that?
FA: A month before filming started, I started learning the basic sword work which allows me to do more complex choreography, and I was getting my body geared up for having to do those scenes. There were quite a few stunts involved with the obstacle course (a sequence in the show, set at the Witcher stronghold of Kaer Morhen), which was so exciting. I loved getting to do it and I was very into the training. I've waited a whole season to be able to do this, so when it came down to it, I was like, “Yeah, get me in training, absolutely.” I was in there from the morning ‘til the evening sometimes, I just loved it.
GB: What kind of stuff did you have to do for it? The obstacle course at Kaer Morhen is pretty intense.
FA: When the obstacle course had been built, we had like a day or two where we got to do the different parts of it. The main thing that we practised was the fall - the many falls, actually. Now seeing it edited back, I get knocked off that thing God knows how many times! I was thinking, “Well, they didn't tell me they were gonna knock me off that many times.” I think I'd be bloody dead by then! But anyway, Ciri’s got magical powers, so we'll make that excuse. But that was fun to do. Basically, I was on a wire and they'd be like, “Three, two, one, action!” And then you had to allow yourself to go. The stunt guy was also attached to a wire and he had the camera and so we would fall together. That was so fun. And it was hard, because you have to get the timing right - we had to be falling at the same time. So yeah, I did get knocked off that thing quite a few times. But I loved it, the adrenaline you feel and when the snow machines are going, and you've got the first AD shouting over the microphone, it's so much, like, hype.
GB: Were you keen to do your own stunts?
FA: Yeah, but I didn’t do absolutely everything because if I injured myself, it's not just me who's affected. The whole crew is affected. Nobody can work and everything's pushed back, and I think that's a bit of a nightmare. So, I wanted to avoid that. I basically said I would do everything I possibly can do, unless there's quite a high risk of me hurting myself. So yeah, I tried. I did pretty much everything. There was just one fall, where it involved no wires, which I couldn't do.
GB: In this series, you have a lot more screen time with Henry Cavill. How was it working on set with him? Because you didn't have that much time on set together in series one, I imagine. But this series is a lot more about Geralt and Ciri being together.
FA: Yeah, it was cool. It was weird being so separate from the rest of the main cast in season one. Having only that one scene at the end, it felt like they all got to know each other really well. And I didn’t really, it was mainly just me and Wilson (Mbomio) who plays Dara. So I was really excited that I was gonna get to work with Henry. I really enjoyed building our characters' relationship. We became a real team, which was really nice. And he bought a really nice protective nature to the set, and we definitely looked out for one another.
GB: Did he try and get you into any nerdy stuff? Like PC gaming?
FA: Oh, my God. We had a moment of chatting about it. I'd ask him, “What did you do on your break?” And I was expecting something like, you know, about friends or something. But no, he was talking about gaming! Then I think he very quickly realised that I'm not the person to talk to about gaming. But he's an absolute Witcher expert. We'd be doing a scene and he'll say “I think it should include this line, because this line is from the books.” He's definitely a nerd, but he definitely owns that, which is cool. It's very cool having someone who is, basically, like a Witcher bible.
GB: So none of that rubbed off on you? You didn't walk away from any of those conversations thinking, “I'm gonna play some games now”?
FA: Not particularly, no. But you know what? I might give it a go. Because I think [The Witcher 3] does look like a sick game. I've seen clips online on YouTube and it looks pretty cool. I think it'd be quite fun to play Ciri as well. You can play as Ciri in The Witcher 3, right?
GB: Yeah, yeah, you can.
FA: Okay I should do it. That'd be kind of cool. Or is it somewhat self-absorbed to just be sat there playing as yourself? You know what, I'm gonna do it. I'm gonna do it at some point. I really will. I should.
GB: Season two feels like it's on a much bigger scale than season one. How many of the sets were practical? Were there any that you just walked on and said “Wow, okay. Yeah, this is a full production. I’m in a castle.”
FA: Yeah it happens every time on this show. The amount of budget they had for sets was incredible. I presume, anyway, because they look incredible. Kaer Morhen was literally like the whole bloody thing! You walk in and there's the hall, and then you walk through - it's all connected - you walk through a corridor and then you get to the lab, and then you walk through another corridor and you get to the armory, and then you walk through another corridor and you get to the various different rooms, like Ciri’s room, Vesemir’s room. The scale of it is just incredible, and the detail as well. There's so much detail on everything. It completely transports you to a whole other realm having that, so we’re very lucky.
GB: In the books, Ciri goes on quite a journey that isn't necessarily all discussed within the text itself. Would you be interested in potentially exploring some of Ciri’s life outside of her journey with Geralt in a spinoff series?
FA: Maybe. I'm not entirely sure. I feel like I'm expecting that if we do future seasons, she's gonna leave Geralt anyway. So I think that's going to be something that's included in The Witcher but we'll have to see. We'll have to see about the idea of that.
Netflix’s The Witcher Season Two will premiere on, you guessed it, Netflix on December 17th, 2021. We also spoke to Joey Batey, who plays Jaskier in the series about the music that influences him, and who he reckons would be the modern-day version of the character.