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The Witcher Netflix TV series release date, cast, trailer and budget

First we had the book series, and then we had the games. Now we have a promising Netflix series with a Game of Thrones feel. Fans of Andrzej Sapkowski's world in which witchers hunt monsters and monsters hunt men are getting absolutely spoiled with content about their favorite White Wolf, Geralt of Rivia. You don't have to be a super-fan to get on the Witcher hype train, because this is the best time to climb aboard. The games are good, the books are good — will the show prove to be just as enchanting? We'll soon find out. 

Until the series premieres in late 2019, we have some small tidbits of information to clue us in about what to expect from the Netflix version of Geralt and the gang. Note that while the games made the book series still more popular, this show isn't based on the games. The stories are rooted in the books, giving life to scenes previously only familiar to dedicated fantasy readers. What does that mean? Let's look at what we know.

Who's in The Witcher series?

The Witcher is of course the story of a witcher, Geralt of Rivia, but the story is also about Yennefer and Ciri. Destiny has bound Geralt to these two women, and it seems the series is going to explore these ties just as the books do. Henry Cavill, DC's very own Superman, has taken on the role of Geralt and brought along his most smoldering, soul-piercing looks and his stubbly square jaw. 

Our two leading ladies, stepping into the roles of the sorceress Yennefer and the so-called "witcher girl" Ciri, are both relatively new to the acting business. Yennefer, played by Anya Chalotra, has eyes are the precise shade of violet as described in the books. We don't have smell-o-vision, but we imagine that she does indeed smell of lilac and gooseberries, her signature scent. The first glimpse of Ciri, played by the aptly named Freya Allan, has her looking appropriately elfish in a green cloak that serves to bring out her verdant eyes. These first images, released in anticipation of San Diego Comic Con, have reassured fans of the show's attention to detail in recreating the books.

Henry Cavill as Geralt

The witcher himself, Geralt of Rivia, is arguably the main reason why The Witcher — in either of its current incarnations, games or books — has captured the hearts of fantasy fans everywhere. He's stoic but sarcastic, strong but vulnerable, and — we've got to admit — he's pretty easy on the eyes, even if his own stare is witcher-yellow. Geralt is a great character, and fans naturally hope he's portrayed properly in the Netflix series. 

When Henry Cavill was announced as the live action Geralt, the news was received with mixed emotions. The released screen test, wherein Cavill as Geralt very seriously stares into the camera and drinks a potion as if it's the most vital thing in existence was... riffed on, to put it mildly. The silver wig just didn't seem to fit on our former Superman and people took notice, making memes and worrying about the Netflix series in turn. Would Cavill be able to pull off Geralt's signature white hair? Was he going to play Geralt as all stony silence, no fun? We'll have to wait for the series' release to know for sure, but for the most part, the Cavill controversy as since simmered down.

The Witcher trailer we've all been waiting for

On July 19th, Netflix gave us our first real look at The Witcher, prompting some serious nostalgia for the good old Game of Thrones days with full-armored battle scenes and secret trysts under castles. Many have suggested that The Witcher is going to step up and fill the void that the end of that HBO show created. The trailer shows a land of high fantasy, Geralt walking through it with a stoic determination. He takes on both men and monsters, but despite being the series' namesake, he wasn't necessarily the central focus of the trailer. 

We see Yennefer before she was powerful and purple-eyed in flashback glimpses of her training. There are elves too, less Lord of the Rings and more James Cameron's Avatar with their tribal look as they surround Ciri. Little Ciri goes through a lot in just the trailer: we see her kingdom attacked, her grandmother dying, and a brief look at her tutelage under Yennefer. She will be extraordinary, Geralt is warned... or promised. Geralt is seen fighting more men than monsters, but right at the end is a terrifying tableau: a many-legged behemoth rises from a swamp and the witcher looks on with pitch black eyes. Chills? Chills.

Anya Chalotra as Yennefer

Yennefer is a self-serving sorceress who has a... complicated relationship with Geralt. They're both volatile, they clash in every sense of the word, but can't help but find each other again and again throughout their individual adventures. She's known for her sharp tongue and good looks, all ebony curls and those violently violet eyes. Anya Chalotra, a relative newcomer to the acting scene with just a few credits to her name, has raven dark hair and a comely face perfect for Yennefer. 

As fans have learned, however, Yennefer hasn't always been so beautiful. In the books, Geralt remarks that ugly girls, unable to marry, are usually the ones who turn to magic. He has a private theory that Yennefer was at one time a hunchback. The Netflix adaptation instead seems to have given a young Yennefer a crooked jaw and unremarkable brown eyes. Once she gains power over chaos and taps into the magic of the world, she's transformed into the mysterious magician who smells of lilac and gooseberries. The trailer shows a parallel between her training to become a magician and the older, wiser Yennefer training Ciri to tap into the immense power that she holds.

Freya Allan as Ciri

Freya Allan looks like she could be a forest elf. That makes her perfect for Ciri, who is one of the Elder Blood — that is, the blood of elves. As with Yennefer, the production paid close attention to her coloring: ashen hair and green eyes are Ciri's signature look. The girl is Geralt's ward, having had her kingdom raided and razed by Nilfgaard. A princess known as the Lion Cub of Cintra, she's believed to be dead, but she actually made a miraculous escape the night that Cintra burned. Geralt eventually found her, the two are bound by fate, a promise having been made between Ciri's late parents and the witcher himself. 

The young actress doesn't have a whole lot of on-screen experience, but that just gives her more in common with her character. She's inexperienced in the world, having been shut away for years in Kaer Morhen, the witchers' winter keep. The trailer seems to imply that the Netflix series will cover material from the first few books, with Ciri venturing out into the world and into the hands of Yennefer, her teacher for all things magic. They don't exactly get along at first, but their shared affections for Geralt unite them.

The Witcher's budget is big enough for monsters

Netflix pretty much has the power to do anything they want, budget-wise. With everyone and their grandmother subscribed to the streaming platform, their original shows are apparently given fairly hefty budgets when it comes to production. The Witcher will consist of eight episodes — that's eight hours of fantasy magic and mayhem — and the producers have promised that each and every episode will be "epic in scale."

Showrunner Lauren Hissrich reassured Witcher fans via Twitter that the show wasn't going to look cheap. "TV budgets are big. They are," she wrote. "We'll be using money as wisely as we can, to do as much as we can. (Monsters included — and still very much in hot discussion)." Hissrich also mentioned that she wasn't going to try to pack in too much plot in these eight episodes, so as to allow for relationships and characters to grow naturally. You know what that means? More seasons. While we don't have any concrete numbers regarding The Witcher's budget, Netflix seems to have granted the show enough cash for to lay the foundation for a special experience.

Which Witcher story?

There are eight books in The Witcher series. We highly doubt that each episode will try to cram an entire novel into an hour, so we're left to wonder which stories have been chosen for this (hopefully just the first) season on Netflix. The books take their time, allowing readers to get to know Geralt and his world of monsters. Taking a look at the named characters in the cast, some of the plot seems to have been pulled from the prequel book, The Last Wish. This book is made up of short adventures, like Geralt taking on the horrible, no good trickster sylvan Torque, who just so happens to be smuggling goods to the elven leader Filavandrel

The trailer shows scenes ripped straight from the following book, Blood of Elves. In the first volume of Geralt's story, this installment finds him raising Ciri in Kaer Morhen, but eventually takes her out and into the world at the sorceress Triss' prodding. This is where Yennefer comes in, and Ciri exchanges her witcher training — all sword fighting and pirouettes — for a focus on magic.

The author won't be watching

Andrzej Sapkowski, the pen behind Geralt, isn't a big fan of the various adaptations of his books. He's not bitter — just busy. He has said that he never played the games based on his books, not because he didn't like them, but because he's a writer and he's got writing to do. Apparently, he has applied this same attitude to the Netflix adaptation and has been utterly hands-off with the production. 

"In all adaptations, be it the first or the last, I am never involved in its development," Sapkowski said in an interview with Portugese website JPN. "From my point of view, the book is the book and adaptation is adaptation." Showrunner Lauren Hissrich has assured fans that the Netflix adaptation has the author's seal of approval, however. Perhaps in an effort to prove that she really knows her stuff, Hissrich's Twitter has been a veritable treasure trove of maybe-spoilers, cryptically answering fans' questions with winks and nudges as to what our first season with Geralt will entail. She has continually referred back to the books as the solid basis on which The Witcher's Netflix adaptation has been written.

The Witcher release date: when can we hop in the tub with Geralt?

On Halloween, Netflix announced The Witcher's official release date: December 20th. Alongside this announcement was a trailer packed with action, magic, and bathtubs. Fans of the games are likely well aware of how much Geralt likes to get clean after getting dirty. The Halloween trailer shows him getting rather blood-soaked, cutting down enemies in alleys, forests, and ballrooms. 

We also get to Geralt meeting Yennefer at some kind of masquerade ball, where he charms her with his signature sass. While fans were at first worried that Henry Cavill's Geralt might be somber, he has several appropriately sarcastic lines throughout the trailer. Yennefer has heard of witchers, calling them monster hunters made from magic — she expected them to have fangs or horns. Geralt smirks, "I had them filed down."

On a more serious note, we see more of Ciri. As Geralt's Destiny with a capital D, she must find him in the middle of a tumultuous war. In the trailer we glimpse several big battles that would make Game of Thrones blanche: fiery trebuchets and mounted cavalries clashing. This season, the first of many, is sure to be action-packed and appropriately sassy, just like the books that inspired it.