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Building 'The Witcher'-verse: Showrunner explains strategy behind prequels, spinoffs at Netflix
"We were gonna run out of room to engross ourselves in Sapkowski’s tales."
The Witcher showrunner/executive producer Lauren Schmidt Hissrich recently stated that the hit Netflix series would not surpass the fantasy novels written by Andrzej Sapkowski upon which it is based. However, no one ever said anything about that rule applying to the various spinoff and prequel projects — like Nightmare of the Wolf and Blood Origin — whose goal it is to expand the wider Witcher-Verse. Recently speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Schmidt Hissrich explained the narrative rationale behind all these branching titles.
"As soon as Season 1 was a success, we started talking about how we might want to expand this universe," she explained. "I’ve had these ideas of spinoffs and other stories that we could do, because I knew that on the main Witcher — the mothership — we were gonna run out of room to engross ourselves in Sapkowski’s tales. Immediately I started thinking: how do we pair or spin off certain concepts, certain ideas, so that we don’t have to worry about covering them in exposition-y ways? We can actually blow them up and make them more dramatic."
The showrunner and her team were ready to blow the mythos wide open nearly two years ago when the coronavirus pandemic first began to take shape in March of 2020. As a result, production on Season 2 was shutdown halfway through to completion.
"COVID kind of blew a hole in all of that because we had started thinking about expanding and then suddenly it was like, you know, we’re not gonna be able to premier The Witcher Season 2 for another two years," the writer/producer continued. "And I had this deep concern that no one would care anymore. You know, how do we make sure that viewers want to come back? That after eight episodes, they’d be willing to wait 700 and something days, in order to see a second season. And just probably in the last two weeks, I’ve allowed myself to get excited about it again."
With Season 2 now streaming (along with an exclusive teaser for Blood Origin during the end credits of the finale), fan interest is at an all-time high, which means Netflix shouldn't waste any time in beginning the shoot for Season 3. Fortunately, the third installment — confirmed at the virtual TUDUM livestream event in late September — is already written.
"We will start production, God-willing, with the current state of the world, in 2022," Schmidt Hissrich said, referencing the renewed uncertainty surrounding the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus. "And we’re just continuing rolling on, but the premiere of this season, I think, has become really key to that and people’s excitement around it. That’s what is keeping me going forward right now."
In addition to Nightmare of the Wolf (the anime prequel now streaming) and Blood Origin (the live-action prequel is currently shooting in Europe), we know that Netflix is developing a mysterious family-friendly show set within the confines of the monster-riddled Continent. The announcement drew a certain amount of confusion from audiences who insisted the Witcher universe is dark and violent. Schmidt Hissrich clapped back at the hordes of naysayers on Twitter, writing:
"If I can sit with them and watch a version they love, one they can laugh at, one they feel 'gets them' and their small but meaningful place in the world — but that can also serve as a foundation from which to talk about big topics, racism, sexism, what it means to be a monster? And how we can fight back against those bleak black holes of humanity, so everyone knows there's a place for them? Then I'm in. And yes, I hope this extends the brand viewership. I love The Witcher world. And I want more people to love it, too, no matter their age. Don't you?"