This is an excerpt from TV Guide Magazine’s Sci-Fi & Fantasy Special Collector’s Issue, which is available for international pre-order online at SciFi2021.com and available nationwide on newsstands now.
The world of The Witcher first captivated readers in 1986, after author Andrzej Sapkowski submitted a story to the Polish fantasy magazine Fantastyka. Fast-forward 35 years, and his creation has expanded to six novels, 15 short stories, three series of graphic novels, three video games (which have sold more than 50 million copies worldwide) and a few international onscreen adaptations, most notably Netflix’s hit.
For showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, Sapkowski’s books are gospel (so much so that the author is a consultant). Season 2 opens with an adaptation of the short story “A Grain of Truth,” which introduces Geralt’s (Henry Cavill) old friend Nivellen (Game of Thrones vet Kristofer Hivju)—who is hiding a dark secret from his mutant pal—before diving further into the saga with the first book in the series, Blood of Elves.
To prep for the sophomore round, Hissrich asked all the writers to reread Elves and come prepared with the biggest hallmarks of “what people love as fans of the books and, of course, of the games, which are part of the cultural lexicon too,” she says. “For instance, Blood of Elves lacks monsters—there’s just not very many. But we know from the games that people really like to see Geralt battling monsters. So we continued to create new monsters for [Season 2].”
The start of Elves is also missing Yennefer, who vanishes after the Battle of Sodden Hill. But she’s back at the top of Season 2, promises Hissrich. The goal “is taking everything we can from the source material,” she says, “and then looking at where we need to bulk up the story a bit to honor all these characters.”
For leading man Cavill, a self-proclaimed nerd and avid gamer who also devoured the novels, “it’s a dance between the two: living in the [series] while still looking to the books.” And the onetime Superman—a superfan—exclaims: “It’s a privilege [to play Geralt]. I know how much this character means to a lot of people, because he means as much to me.”
The Witcher, Season 2 Premiere, Friday, December 17, Netflix