Henry Cavill talks about Geralt from Rivia, the genetically enhanced monster slayer in the heart of Andrzej Sapkowski’s witch saga, as he does in Hamlet. One tends to believe him: According to his description, Geralt is emotionally atrophied, but ready to burst. Torn from the concept of fate, he is unwavering in his mission to rid the continent of monsters. He is a loner who feels the pull of romantic and parental love in the course of Sapkowski’s books. Geralt is complicated – and if you’ve spent so much time reading the books and playing CD Projekt Red’s game customizations like Cavill, this is a part worth fighting for.
As the story tells, Cavill threw his long silver wig into the casting ring before showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich wrote a word about her adaptation of The Witcher for Netflix. Hissrich sang over 200 actors to cast her leading role, but “everything came back to Henry,” as she put it at San Diego Comic-Con 2019.
But what makes Cavill the perfect geralt? What is his own connection to the character? The actor hesitates during an interview prior to the show.
“I’m trying … to find out if I want to answer this question.”
Fortunately, he did. Below, Polygon talks to Cavill about exploring Geralt’s dimensions, how he plunges into the role, and what differentiated choices those remaining in the series make in the first eight episodes of Season 1.
Did Geralt seem familiar to you? Did you recognize this character in everyday life? What were your touchstones?
Henry Cavill: It’s funny that you say that because the touchstones were part of me. I really feel a connection to Geralt and who he is and his nature, especially from the books. And after playing the game for many, many, many hours, it was something I connected to. And so it was just a matter of putting a version of me that is a version of Geralt on Lauren’s show.
What parts of you do you see in Geralt?
Geralt always wants to do the right thing. His intention is to do the right thing, to make the right choice and to protect the people who need it. But he is also very willing to do some of the more difficult things that are required. And that can be from my military upbringing where I have that trait. The way he looks at some of the machinations of politics may be in line with my own. I only feel that I belong to the character and that could be due to the fact that I have only lived in the fantasy genre for so long, many of these characters have similar connections to each other and this can often be done through your own psyche or through authors. Geralt seemed very familiar to me from the start.
How did you find Geralt’s sound? His voice is known from the games and Witcher audiobooks, which could be intimidating.
For me it was important to make sure that the character complies with the laws in the books. Due to the nature of the structure of the show … Lauren very courageously accepted this huge IP and applied her own lens to it and brought in her own vision, and it was a lot with the fantastic appearances of the girls, Siri and Yennefer … they created something extraordinary with these characters. And Geralt is at your side. There is a geralt in the books for you and you basically have his inner monologue for most of the first book. This has a lot of complexity and nuances, which is different in the series, since Geralt plays a three-person story.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8LiD3i9DS_c [/ embed]
For me it was about reducing to the essential who Geralt is. The books have complexity and nuances in long conversations, and if I had used my own natural accent it would have worked for me. But due to the nature of the storyline selection and the minor adjustment of those storylines, and the reduced possibility of being exceptional, verbose and nuanced in long conversations, I had to limit myself to one point Geralt’s rocky exterior and directness.
And so it was in the discovery of the voice. The voice really helped me because I could say something so short – and it could be a single word or it could be three words – and it would mean as much as a sentence with that particular voice. And I definitely benefited from Doug Cockle’s performance in the games and lent, which was exceptional. It has an American accent and it had it in a slightly different register. He had a little more of a whisper in the tone. And I wanted to put it on a British [accent] and have a bit more stone and grit in it, so that everything Geralt needs to convey in a few words and not in a whole short story.
Have you been looking for ways to separate Geralt’s senses from a typical human perspective? Game fans will understand witchery skills on an interactive level, but they will also be incorporated into Sapkowski’s source material.
It was very, very important to me to express all of these things in the nuances of the performance. Because he can’t say “I can smell that” or “I can hear that”. And so I added these, these little details and these little pieces throughout my performance. It was important to me that the audience understood that they had abilities that go far beyond a human being and that they were using them all the time, whether I inhale and tried to see if there was a smell in the wind or just hearing something different. It’s all little things. Whether or not they made the cut is another part of the storytelling, but they are all there and that day [the shooting] was absolutely something that I focused on enormously.