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The Witcher Controversy Isn't The First High-Stakes Moment For Casting Director Sophie Holland

If you're a fan of Netflix's "The Witcher," odds are that you've heard the news by now: Henry Cavill is stepping down as our beloved Geralt. But don't worry, Geralt's story will continue in Season 4 — and Australian actor Liam Hemsworth will replace Cavill as the iconic monster hunter.

But how, exactly, did Liam get the part? Thousands of fans are asking that question on social media right now as they try to make sense of this major change. It's not as bad of a fit as some disappointed fans think it is, though. Hemsworth did a good job playing love interest turned dark, ruthless rebel Gale Hawthorne in all four "Hunger Games" movies. And here's a fun fact many fans may not know about Liam's career: he came very close to being cast as Thor instead of his brother, Chris. Chris bombed his first audition, while Liam actually made it into the top five — but at the last minute, the director decided that he looked a little too young and wanted someone older. This gave Chris the opportunity to audition again, and he finally landed the role (via People).

The current casting director for "The Witcher" series is Sophie Holland. She is one of the head honchos in charge of deciding to cast Liam. But if you think this move is just a superficial Hollywood grab at a big name with a pretty face, you might want to dig a little bit deeper because there's more going on behind the scenes than most fans realize.

Sophie Holland has a decade of experience casting talented people in roles they were meant for

Interestingly, adding Liam to Season 4 of "The Witcher" isn't Sophie Holland's first interaction with the Hemsworths. She's worked in the casting industry since 2012, according to her IMDb page, and she was a junior member of the casting department for "Thor: The Dark World." Granted, she was tasked with casting the children in the movie, so the odds that she worked directly with Chris Hemsworth are slight. But since her humble beginnings, she has worked as a casting assistant on the popular show "Outlander," and acted as a full-fledged casting director for other hits like "Vampire Academy," "Shadow and Bone," and, of course, both "The Witcher" and "The Witcher: Blood Origin."

Despondent "Witcher" fans should know that Holland is more than just your dime-a-dozen Hollywood casting agent whose main goal is "Finding pretty actors who [can] do an American accent." Those are her words from an interview she did in 2020 with Casting Networks. In that interview, she tells a heartwarming story about casting for "The Kill Team" and using real Afghan immigrants from North London in the film. They graciously invited her and her husband to their home, performed a Pashto poetry reading, and made a home-cooked meal of traditional Afghan cuisine. It was a deep and moving experience for her, and she felt that "It was the first time I realized that as casting directors, we get to tell human stories that other people want to hear, that help them relate to things going on. I think it was at that moment that I fell in love with casting."

She felt a lot of pressure trying to find the right actors for The Witcher because of the dedicated fanbase

Sophie Holland takes her job very seriously — as you would expect of any dedicated professional — and she put a lot of effort into making sure that the actors she cast for "The Witcher" would satisfy fans of the books and the video games. In that same Casting Networks interview, she remembers feeling "Enormous pressure ... creating an entire world for such a massive show is pressure enough, and then there are just so many fans of the source material. You want them to know that you love the world as much as they do." Holland later added that she hopes fans can see that she's trying to honor the source material in the best way she knows how.

And she has many legitimate reasons for feeling pressured. Early on in production, it got leaked that showrunners wanted to cast a BAME actress (which stands for Black, Asian, and minority ethnic) in the role of Ciri (via Digital Spy). In the video games, CD Projekt RED decided to give her a Caucasian complexion and white hair. But as this Reddit thread demonstrates, there is some debate about what her ethnicity is in the books. Fans, however, felt that using that technicality to change her ethnicity in the show was a bridge too far. It got so virulent on social media that showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich took a Twitter hiatus. Sadly, it looks as though Holland may be the next target for disgruntled fans on social media.

Despite social media backlash, she's standing by her decision and urging fans to give Liam a chance

To say it in the shortest and nicest way possible: fans are not happy about Henry Cavill leaving "The Witcher" and being recast. Some are being quite civil about it, like this exchange between Holland from her professional Twitter account and Twitter user/Witcher fan @banannibal. The latter expressed gratitude for her fantastic casting work, sadness over Cavill leaving, and profess that they're not trying to be negative toward Liam. Holland graciously responded with, "Change can be really scary. We like what we know. It's comforting. I LOVE HC [Henry Cavill] But, I think [and I hope you're open to the journey] there might be space for things to be even better. I believe there's a very real opportunity for that to be the case here. LH [Liam Hemsworth] is 🔥."

In that announcement tweet alone, there seems to be a mix of fans supporting her decision, people making trite jokes about offering to audition for the part, and your typical Twitter users whose word choice and tone slant in a negative direction. In what is most likely a wise and strategic move, Holland has not responded to any of the outright negative comments. At the end of the day, though, what's done is done. The decision has been made. And if a dedicated casting professional who has a decade of experience in the industry thinks that an established actor will be a good fit for a role, there's at least a small chance that people who are skeptical of this change may be pleasantly surprised by the finished product.