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The Crew Behind The Witcher Talk Making Season 3

7 min read

Lock up your princesses (especially if she's named Ciri) — the villains, monsters, and wannabe heroes of are back to wreak havoc. After saving Ciri from the wrath of the Wild Hunt, Yennefer and Geralt kick off Season 3 by guiding Ciri's skills under their protection, with plenty of new monsters to face and drama to unfurl along the way. FILMHOUNDS sat down with Production Designer Andrew Law, Executive Producers Tomek Baginski and Steve Gaub, and Makeup & Hair Designer Deb Watson to find out more about the show's process. 

 

Season 3 is finally here and everyone's so excited to see it. When you enter work like this, how do you approach something that already has so much external material to work from?

Deb Watson: Good question. So if we look at my whole Witcher journey — because I didn't design season one. So Season One had created material and then there's all the external material. What I do is I immerse myself in all of it. I'm a real freak. Have been since I've been a kid. I've grown up reading fantasy stories, forever, and when I read a story, I have a huge visual imagination. So I'm basically running a movie in my head when I read a book. Even at my age now I still imagine myself as all the different things. So what I like to do is look at all of the visuals, and then put them on one side, read the scripts, imagine the story in my own way, and then get into collaboration with my actors. I find it really important to talk to them about their emotional arc, the journey that they've had already, and the journey we see going forward. I talk to the showrunner about likes and dislikes and then I like to workshop a lot. There's a lot of playtime in our makeup world. A lot of fittings come way, way back from stills from when I was in my very late teens and I learned quite a few mistakes from doing them. You take a photo and then you look back at it and go “Oh, that didn't look as good as I thought it did.” So I take photos, I look at stuff. I'm trying to be having integrity with the source material but also use my own imagination and flair to create a world. Season Three is my third show for the franchise. I'm trying to build on the basis that I started on Season Two and make it richer, better, and more exciting, and work with the storylines to really visually be yummy for the audience.

 

Tomek Baginski/Steve Gaub: It's been very interesting to watch the evolution of the visuals, because you have the evolution of the scripts that then informs what direction is the adaptation going to take and where are you going to lean in a little bit more than the books do and things like that. But also to watch the evolution of the world. And we've been blessed with a consistent, amazing production designer (Andrew Laws) throughout the whole thing. So anytime we're at the beginning of a new season, he's like a kid in a candy store with opportunities to expand the continent and make our own stake as to what the visual of that should be built off of — what has been seen in either read in the books or seen in the games. So it's an exciting opportunity, but a massive, massive undertaking for sure.

 

One of the things I really love are those little details… every second, you could pinpoint or pause and take in about 20 different things you didn't see the first time. Also, there's some really epic action sequences and drama. Are there any rules for making something that's very much its own? It's not grounded in our reality but also it feels quite familiar thanks to that medieval feel.

Andrew Laws: There are no specific rules, but it is you've described it really well. You know that what you don't want to do is alienate an audience. It's always about the storytelling for us. It really always starts with how the story is being told, how we want to see the characters, what is our perspective — are we looking at the characters or are we with the characters? In some cases, we look at how we design the environments. There are observational moments where you're wanting to feel that you're further back from what you're seeing for any number of reasons, and then there are points when you want to be just in sight of where the characters are and you don't want to feel like you're looking at something, you want to feel like you're experiencing it. There are a lot of times when you don't want the environment to be the thing that the audience is challenged by — you want the audience to be drawn into an environment that they understand well enough that the more important aspect of what's happening in that environment is their first port of call. You never want the audience to be distracted by where they are unless a specific character is distracted by that environment because they don't understand it. We've played with that a number of times in different periods in sort of the ritual world. Particularly when we introduce the older worlds there's a lack of familiarity there. But then there are other worlds where there's importance in the audience feeling grounded in something that they understand so that their focus is on what's happening with it.

 

I'm not normally somebody that will sit down and watch a fantasy series, but I love how accessible this feels. It doesn't feel like you're going to be intimidated by fan theories or context, and The Witcher is so naturally funny as well. Do those elements make it easier to create a show like this?

TB/SG: We do constantly strive to keep our character characters grounded in our world. Lauren and the writers do a really good job of starting us off with scripts that are nicely grounded, accessible as you say, and then it's our job through the filming and the editing and whatnot, just to keep that kind of overall tone. It's important to underline that even the books, which were written 30 years ago but even then were going into the topics in a way that's very relatable for a modern audience. The thing that makes this story and those books different from other fantasy stories is that this is really a story about our world, but it's covered with this fantasy backgrounds and those beautiful characters, but most of the conflicts in most of the storylines are ones we can see and meet in our world.

 

Not only do we have two previous seasons of The Witcher, but we've also got spin-offs left, right, and centre. How do you make all of that and your own style cohesive on camera?

DW: Also a really good question. I think for me, it's about looking at honesty or integrity of vision. I looked at Season One and I thought “Great, there's some really good bones there.” But what do I want to put into that? What do I want to see if I am the viewer? I got really involved with the cast coming into Season Two. I had lots of discussions with the returning cast because they had already started on the journey. And for me, it's important that I maintain those constant conversations. I talk to all of the casters, we come into fittings. I'm continually communicating with them as we because obviously, I'm not a one-man show that can do it all. I have a fantastic team of really talented people that work with me. And the creative process is really collaborative with both the actor and the artists. I think that helps keep me cohesive because I have to steer the ship, and I have to make sure that we don't disappear off a rabbit hole and that we stay really true to our look. As long as I am conducting the orchestra, then I've got people on my team. Or they tell me if they think I'm getting too fruity, let's put it that way.

 

Like we've said, you've established this language where we're really in the depths of individual character journeys by this point in the show. Are you pleased with the trajectory that you've gone on with each character, the production, and the concept since you've been working on The Witcher?

AL: Yeah, it's been very exciting. What's fantastic about being involved in a project for such a long period of time is that the world just keeps getting sort of bigger and denser, more complex, and we're able to take the efforts that we put into Season One and Season Two and use that language as a jumping off point. It's very exciting to be able to see things from a different point of view, to be able to see different sides of how characters interact with different environments, and just to create greater depth in language. As we get further into it, our language becomes more sophisticated, it becomes deeper, and becomes more layered. We're able to play with the microcosmic world as opposed to the macrocosmic world, and specifically in Season Three, we start the season with a more intimate portrait of our characters. It's a little bit more about the details — the things on a table, the things on a shelf behind somebody, which we always like to play with. So it continues to always be more exciting and more layered. We in many ways are building this incredibly dense encyclopaedia of Witcher language that we can keep referencing back to so the more we the more we do, the more we have to work with.

 

The Witcher: Season 3 Volume 1 releases globally on on 29th June.