(Warning: This post contains spoilers for “The Witcher” Episodes 101-103.)
Anya Chalotra’s Yennefer of Vengerberg is the bewitching sorceress who keeps Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill) on his toes throughout the first season of Netflix’s “The Witcher.” But as is revealed in her origin story in Episodes 2 and 3, the mage with the killer powers and killer body came from much more humble beginnings: she is a quarter-elf farm girl who is shamed for having a hunchback and deformed jaw and is sold off to Tissaia by her stepfather as a teen.
And while she’s still the same Yennefer on the inside — for better or worse — Chalotra was playing two very different characters on the outside before her big transformation at the end of Episode, which turns her into the woman Geralt will eventually meet decades in the future. (Remember: The show is playing with timelines.)
“This is the greatest acting change I’ve ever had,” Chalotra told TheWrap. “I’m in my twenties and I play from a 14-year-old girl to someone in their 70s and then their 80s, post-transformation. So before, I had the help of a back prosthetic and I had the jaw misalignment, so I had a mouthguard in my mouth. And all those things helped me and my movement. I was looking at the floor a lot. And I had a smaller voice when I spoke and I didn’t look anyone in the eye. And then after transformation, I had the help of costumes and a corset and I felt a lot stronger.”
Yennefer’s big change comes after she has been trained by Tissaia for years in the ways of sorcery and controlling chaos. But for the witch, the cost of that transformation — the inability to birth a child — isn’t known from the start, though she agrees to the sacrifice moments before the enchantment procedure when she’s told by the “artist” remaking her body that “to be reborn, you will bear no more.”
He then rips her womb from her body and sets it aflame before straightening her back and jaw, turning her the beautiful sorceress she always wanted to be, all while she screams in agony.
Chalotra calls Yennefer’s choice a “brutal” one that will begin to “haunt her” as the season goes on, even though she got what she wanted and managed to finagle her way into becoming the king of Aedirn’s mage over Fringilla.
“She made a split-second decision, thinking about power and beauty and not realizing what it would mean to her later. And I think she’ll spend the rest of her days trying to find a way around what was taken.”
“The Witcher” Season 1 is streaming now on Netflix.