As an expensive adaptation of a beloved fantasy novel series, The Witcher was always going to draw comparisons to Game Of Thrones.
But rather than trying to distance The Witcher from the hugely popular HBO show, which finally came to an end this summer with its divisive eighth season, its showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich openly admits that she was heavily inspired by Game Of Thrones.
“I was a fan of a lot of fantasy on television,” she tells Metro. “Especially Game Of Thrones.”
That’s exactly why Hissrich studied it so meticulously during her adaptation of The Witcher, which is based upon Andrzej Sapkowski’s series of novels and short stories that follow monster hunter Geralt Of Rivia, played by Henry Cavill, as he tries to find peace in a world where people are often more dangerous than the creatures.
“What I really started to dig into was what fantasy is and what people want from it,” Hissrich explains. “What I learned is that it isn’t actually about escapism and being transported to another world. It is about imagining you in that world and the journey you would take alongside the characters.”
“That is what I misunderstood about fantasy and what Game Of Thrones really helped me with. I owe that show a debt of gratitude, because it blew open the door and said the genre was for everyone. Not just nerds. Anyone can find themselves in it. That’s what fantasy can be for people right now.”
Hissrich didn’t spend too much time analyzing Game Of Thrones, though, as Sapkowski’s “source material,” especially his overt use of monsters and magic, immediately set The Witcher apart from other fantasy stories.
But rather than simply using magic “as an easy way out of bad situations,” Hissrich wanted to show just how much it costs and impairs the characters, which meant being judicious with how much she incorporated it.
Hissrich’s detailed approach to The Witcher makes it all the more surprising that she originally turned down the opportunity to be its showrunner.
Despite immediately being a huge fan of the stories and the character of Geralt Hissrich said no because she “had never written fantasy before and thought someone entrenched in the genre should be in charge instead.”
But her vision of a broken family reluctantly coming together, mixed with monsters, magic, battles, sex and various other elements of high fantasy, chimed so strongly with Netflix that they kept on offering Hissrich the position.
“I really wanted them to know that this was about three people finding each other in the world. That really resonated with Netflix, because that’s what you want to find in fantasy. You want a story that viewers and fans can relate to. That’s exactly what Sapkowski wanted, too. So to be able to give these books their due on screen is so exciting.”
All eight episodes of The Witcher’s first season will be released onto Netflix on December 20.