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The Witcher actor Anya Chalotra: Yennefer refuses to be a fantasy stereotype

Anya Chalotra, a British actor of Indian origin, plays Yennefer of Vengerberg in Netflix’s fantasy series The Witcher.

Written by Kshitij Rawat | New Delhi | December 18, 2019 7:56:09 am
anya chalotra the witcher interview Anya Chalotra was born to an Indian father and an English mother.

Anya Chalotra, a British actor of Indian origin, plays Yennefer of Vengerberg, a powerful sorceress with a dark past, in Netflix’s upcoming fantasy series The Witcher. The series is created by Lauren Schmidt Hissrich and is based on Polish fantasy author Andrzej Sapkowski’s works, which also inspired a popular RPG video-game series. Anya’s character is one of the three leads, the other two being Geralt of Rivia and Ciri essayed by Henry Cavill and Freya Allan.

Known for The ABC Murders and Wanderlust, Anya spoke to ahead of the show’s premiere on December 20.

Excerpts from the conversation:

What was your reaction when you were offered the role?

I got a call in London. It said I got a part in The Witcher. I was like, ‘No way!’ I was really shocked and could not believe it. I had landed this role in a production this big with Netflix. I was very, very excited.

How would you describe your character? How does she differ from the games and novels? What drew you into her?

I think the only difference from the games and novels in this series is that we developed Yennefer’s backstory. There are hints and glimpses of Yennefer’s backstory in the novels on which we’ve based our series on, but we never fully explore the depth of that journey going back to her childhood. In the series, we look at how she gains her powers, and her transformation.

I didn’t know anything about the Witcher before I auditioned. So initially what drew me to the character was the brief given to me. I knew Lauren (creator Lauren Schmidt Hissrich) was heading this and had plans to actually develop the storylines. And then when I started reading, I became more excited about playing Yennefer.

Have you read the books?

I haven’t read all of them yet. I started reading and then it was a very quick turnaround — I was doing theatre in London and the day after I flew to Budapest to begin filming. And whatever job I am doing at the time, I try to remain focused on that role. So I did start reading, but then I got the script and found it really difficult because Yennefer is so far ahead in the books. I was getting so confused and I thought, ‘I can’t do this right now.’ The pace at which we were working meant that I could just focus on the script. So for those eight months, it was my Bible. I would read it all the time.

So the script was enough to help you get the hang of the character?

Yeah. Also, I read the short stories by then. And that is what season 1 is based on.

There is often a sort of pressure when you play a popular literary character. There is some apprehension that you won’t be able to do justice to this character. So did you have that apprehension?

Oh, I always had that. (laughs) So when I got the part, I chose from the attention I was getting from the fans, both negative and positive. First, I was shocked at the number of fans. That attention made me overthink, so I decided to close down my Instagram and Twitter account. I am not very active on them anyway. But I closed them down, so there would be no temptation. I care about fans more than they think. And I focused my attention on Yennefer’s journey. I knew if I did that, I would feel comfortable whatever this TV show became. I was focused on the thing that mattered – her story. And hopefully, the fans will love it.

What was your favourite part of the show?

The locations were beautiful. Canary Islands! And living in Budapest for eight months was incredible. But my favourite part was the people I worked with, and the relationships that I made. It has all changed me for the better. Eight months with a cast and crew is a long time. I had not done anything on a scale this big. Learning how to navigate this world and finding my process as an actor. It was all really exciting.

And how was Henry (Cavill) to work with?

Lovely. He is very approachable and humble. And he is so enthusiastic about the games. He has played them. He is a huge fan. I could go to him for anything.

Even before the show was announced, he was like, “I wish somebody would cast me as Geralt.”

There you go. What more could you want in a Geralt?

How would you describe the relationship between Geralt and Yennefer?

Complicated. They are linked by destiny. Yennefer is so independent and likes to be in control and finds herself drawn to him (Geralt) and needing him. That is something Yennefer does not like at all (laughs).

Also Read | The Witcher: The fantasy world of this Netflix series explained

She is indeed a very unique character

She is unapologetic and refuses to be a fantasy stereotype.

Netflix series The Witcher begins streaming from December 20.

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