Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Why Tissaia From The Witcher Looks So Familiar

Netflix's long-awaited and highly anticipated adaptation of Andrzej Sapkowski's Witcher novels may have been led by one of Hollywood's most recognizable leading men, Henry Cavill. But showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich assembled a slew of early career and smaller-profile stars like Ciri actress Freya Allan and Yennefer's Anya Chalotra to help fill out the rest of her magical ensemble.

Among them is MyAnna Buring, who plays the stony and controlling Tissaia de Vries, one of a handful of sorcerers with a seat among a council of powerful mages. She was the one who found Yennefer of Vengerberg and, for better or for worse, subjected the unsuspecting young woman to the painful training necessary to become a mage. While she and Yenner are often at odds, in the end — spoiler alert — Buring's Tissaia makes a major sacrifice to help save the Northern Kingdom, Geralt, and Yennefer from being taken by the Nilfgardian army at the Battle of Sodden Hill.

Tissaia is far from the Swedish-born and U.K.-based actress's first major role, or even her first foray into a popular franchise. The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art graduate's career began in the mid-2000s and has spanned not just genres, but mediums, including television, film, theater, and video games. It's no surprise that while watching The Witcher you may have found her familiar, even if you didn't remember exactly where you knew her from. To help you put a finger on it, here are a few places you might have seen (or heard) MyAnna Buring.

MyAnna Buring's first feature film was 2006's The Descent

Buring is no stranger to the horror genre, with roles in features like Grindhouse, Devil's Playground, and the 2006 remake of The Omen. But before she left her mark on any of those terror-inducing titles, she made her big-screen debut in writer-director Neil Marshall's The Descent. Premiering in the U.S. at the Sundance Film Festival, the 2005 British horror film centers around six women, including Buring's character Sam, who decide to vacation in a cabin in the Appalachian Mountains. The group's plan to go on a spelunking adventure through the North Carolina cave system is squashed after a narrow passage collapses, trapping the women inside an unmapped cavern. Their attempt to find a way out becomes a fight for their lives after they encounter a series of deadly, pale humanoid creatures who hunt based on sound.

Buring's character Sam is a friend to the leading characters, and her caution helps keep her alive through most of the film before she ends up taking down one of the monsters as one last act. The film, which was a critical and financial success, was praised for its rare centering of women in a genre that, at the time, almost never featured an all-female cast. It performed well enough that it got a sequel, and though the fate of Buring's character is sealed in the 2006 original, she does make an appearance in 2009's The Descent: Part 2 through a series of flashbacks. While Buring's first big-screen role had her descending into darkness, it would serve as her major rise into the entertainment spotlight, and led to her taking on more dramatically challenging and high-profile parts.

MyAnna Buring sunk her teeth into the role of Tanya in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn

Throughout her cinematic career, the future Witcher actress kept busy with leading parts in low-budget or independent films. One major exception to this trend is a supporting role in one of the biggest film franchises in movie history: The Twilight Saga. Before this, MyAnna Buring's career had regularly seen her fighting off demons and monsters. But her appearance in both Breaking Dawn Part 1 and Part 2 as Canadian vampire Tanya Denali offered a noticeable and welcomed change of pace. Buring convincingly brings the graceful Denali coven leader, one of the longest-appearing side characters in Stephanie Meyers' novels, to life on screen.

Unlike the books, Buring's portrayal of Tanya, a deeply emotional and flirtatious vampire with an eye for Edward Cullen (Batman's Robert Pattinson), is limited only to the Breaking Dawn films. Nevertheless, her appearance as the blond-headed, golden-eyed "vegetarian" member of the undead still managed to excite and please most fans who familiarized themselves with the character while reading Twilight and its sequels. As a character directly impacted by the rise of immortal children and the swift reckoning dealt by the story's vampire royalty, the Volturi, Buring's Tanya and her sisters helped provide Breaking Dawn's ultimate stakes with some necessary emotional levity. While Tanya played a key role in changing the world of the Cullens and other vampires under the Volturi's rule, the actress admitted to Red Carpet TV News that the part also changed her own world in terms of the work she was able to do since then.

She went from vampires to maids on Downton Abbey

In the past, many actors have either found a career in television or film, with little crossover unless they wanted to make the difficult (though lucrative) leap between the small and big screen. In the current age of film and TV production, though, premium cable and streaming have significantly changed how that creative intersection happens. Buring was doing it long before it was trendy, with one-off appearances in popular British TV shows like Doctor Who and Agatha Christie's Marple between roles in horror or crime dramas like Kill List and Hyena. While she's built a substantial TV resume over the years, her five-episode arc on the popular ITV and PBS British historical drama Downton Abbey really helped launch her career as a small-screen star.

First appearing in the 2012 Christmas special, Buring briefly joined the cast of Downton Abbey's fourth season in the role of maid Edna Braithwaite, spending most of her time avoiding her professional duties in pursuit of the recently widowed Downton estate manager Tom Branson. An ambitious and forward member of the downstairs crew, Edna ignores social and professional protocols in her attempts to woo Branson. Buring plays up her character's shameless and sometimes questionable behavior without ever being over the top, reinforcing how Edna is a young and headstrong woman, though perhaps not suited for life as a maid. Buring's portrayal of a young woman who toes the line between personal desire and class stratification is a short but compelling watch. It also serves as a nice addition to Buring's diverse array of roles.

MyAnna Buring actually made her Witcher debut in one of the video games

When Lauren Schmidt Hissrich settled on her cast for The Witcher, it was clear from the beginning that star Henry Cavill was a fan of the universe, particularly the popular CD Projekt Red games based on author Andrzej Sapkowski's books. But he wasn't the only actor in the Netflix series who knew The Witcher's sprawling world of monsters and magic before the series debuted in December of 2019. In fact, MyAnna Buring had already played a part in the adventures of Geralt of Rivia with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Blood and Wine.

In the English version of the game, Buring voiced the character of Anna Henrietta, the ruling duchess of Toussaint. The beloved and sole leader of the small autonomous duchy famous for its wines, Anna is associated with around five quests in the game and a character storyline that romantically connects her to someone already introduced in the Netflix series: Jaskier. In the game, as in the books, Anna and the Bard have a brief affair while her husband, the harsh Duke Raymund, is away. Despite her discretions, the people of Toussaint love her, and the couple's dalliance serves as a key part of her Wild Hunt character arc. 

Buring following her sweet and melodic vocal performance as the duchess with her darker turn as Tissaia de Vries doesn't just illustrate her ability to portray wildly different characters — it also spotlights how she can fully embody them, whether it's for live-action or voice work. 

She had a leading role as "Long" Susan Heart in all four seasons of BBC's Ripper Street

MyAnna Buring has made a name for herself among UK television watchers in recent years with several major comedic, dramatic, and genre roles. In 2015 alone, Buring was cast in three shows, including crime-thriller Prey as a female prisoner named Jules Hope, who gets her police transport caught up in a kidnapping. She also appeared in the historical drama Banished alongside The Good Liar and Being Human star Russell Tovey, as well as the fourth season of Dag, a Norwegian comedy series about a marriage counselor who hates spending time with people. But one of her most significant small screen parts was a 34-episode run as "Long" Susan Heart, alongside Succession star Matthew Macfadyen and Harry Potter's Matthew Lewis.

Buring portrays the daughter of a shipping magnate who marries her husband in secret before fleeing to Whitechapel, London. Buring's character is eventually in a similar position as her Witcher one, leading a group of women — though, in the BBC series, it's as the mistress of a brothel and not as a trainer of sorceresses. Her charming but calculating character navigates a sea of hurdles, from motherhood and execution to murder cases and an expanding business empire. It's one of Buring's strongest performances and most prominent roles to date, with Long Susan serving as yet another example of the actress's penchant for taking on complicated and often dichotomous female leads. 

This role on BBC's Ripper Street was not only pivotal to confirming Buring's talent but certainly helped her land and deliver on her powerful and complicated Witcher character.