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SYFY WIRE The Witcher

'The Witcher' showrunner reveals how 'Labyrinth' and Marvel Comics influenced Netflix's fantasy hit

The first two seasons of The Witcher are now streaming on Netflix.

By Josh Weiss
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You'd think that Game of Thrones — a large-scale fantasy production that changed the landscape of television forevermore — might serve as the basic blueprint for Netflix's adaptation of The Witcher. Not so! During a chat with The New York Times, series showrunner and executive producer Lauren Schmidt Hissrich revealed a number of core creative influences, and Westeros was not among them.

In fact, The Witcher owes more to the work of puppet master Jim Henson than it does to the literary prowess of George R.R. Martin. Don't believe us? We'll pass the baton off to Schmidt Hissrich, who cited 1986's Labyrinth, a dark fantasy musical directed by Henson (it was written by Monty Python vet Terry Jones and produced by Star Wars creator George Lucas), as one of her biggest inspirations.

“You have live action, you have songs, you have fun, and you also have these creatures, and they all feel of the same world,” she explained to the Times. “For The Witcher, we struggled at first with, ‘How do you have people take a story seriously when there are monsters flying left and right?’ I loved how Labyrinth wrapped all these things together."

When it came to exploring the main monster-hunting character of Geralt of Rivia (played by Man of Steel's Henry Cavill), Schmidt Hissrich looked at Marvel's Elektra: Bloodlines comic book arc written by W. Haden Blackman and illustrated by Mike Del Mundo. The showrunner already had a great deal of experience with that specific corner of the Marvel Universe after writing the episode of Netflix's acclaimed Daredevil series that first introduced Élodie Yung's portrayal of Elektra Natchios.

“Visually, she goes from being a dancer to being an assassin and all of those ribbons become the blood,” she continued with regards to the comic storyline. “It’s a character who is forced to let all other parts of their identity fall away, to become this one thing, an assassin. Geralt is a witcher and we see what happens when that facade has to start to break down.”

And then, of course, you've got all the unsettling elements, thanks to a sprawling world teeming with nasty beasts and malevolent entities. That's where Robert Eggers' Puritan-based horror film, The Witch, came into play. How can you not? They pretty much share the same name.

“The idea of telling a horror story by what you don’t see deeply informed how we approach things," Schmidt Hissrich added. In addition, the team wanted to mold Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) in the vein of The Witch's protagonist, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy). “Thomasin is going for acceptance of who she is in Puritan New England, and independence and power against societal restraints,” the producer said. “Their journeys are really interesting to me, and also, more generally, the blurring of good and evil. Temptation versus resistance: That theme from The Witch directly informs Yennefer’s story this season."

The first two seasons of The Witcher are now streaming on Netflix.