Warning: Spoilers ahead. The fantasy world of The Witcher now has an origin story, and it’s led by a passionate female warrior. The Witcher: Blood Origin answers several questions about how the world of mages, elves, humans, and monsters came to be, while also introducing a group of warriors shepherded by a bard named Éile, known best as the Lark. Played by British actress Sophia Brown, she proves to be the fierce heart of the new prequel Netflix miniseries.
Here, Brown, who imbued Éile with a fearless determination and righteous voice, chats with Marie Claire about building the character, what it was like filming with Michelle Yeoh and Laurence O'Fuarain, and what could be in store for Éile after the fighting stops.
Marie Claire: Were you a fan of fantasy shows growing up? Were you a fan of The Witcher before you got cast?
Sophia Brown: I watched a lot of fantasy growing up, maybe more so because of my dad and my brother. My brother used to play video games and he used to watch films. My dad loves horror and thrillers and fantasy, so he would always like to watch a lot of Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, that sort of stuff. I was new to The Witcher, in terms of the game, when I started [filming]. I'd seen the marquee series' first season before auditioning because it was just everywhere—it was kind of hard to miss. I had a friend who was also in it, so by the time I auditioned for it and got the part, I was aware of the world I was entering.
MC: How did the role come to you? What was it like auditioning?
SB: I actually had decided to stop acting [before I auditioned]. At the time, it was my final decision…and then literally within the space of eight hours of walking away from it, this audition came through; my agent really thought it was something that I could do. I was a bit annoyed that she sent it to me. Within the space of 48 hours, I made the decision to make it my last audition. I sent the email to her saying, ‘I feel like I'll live to regret it, so this will be my last.’ That snowballed into then meeting Laurence [O’Fuarain], who was already cast [as Fjall], and having a chemistry read with him; then meeting the producers; then it was an offer. It was a surreal process and is a surreal thing to digest.
It's been amazing because there's been a lot of synchronicity on the job, and it's been like a real rebirth for me creatively as an artist. I personally think the message of getting this job is to run with it and create so much more stuff from this moment, whether it's in acting or writing or producing. But I feel really enriched from doing it.
MC: When you were building the character of Éile, did you find that you had any similarities with her? Where did you draw inspiration from?
SB: She loves very hard and she's very passionate, and I definitely relate to that. I think a lot of people will be able to relate with her in a sense that she's just trying to find herself… I was at a point [when getting cast] where I was trying to do that creatively [and] spiritually, and I feel that Éile shares those quests. She's strong, but she's also really soft, and she's really radical—there's so much that I felt I could pour into her. And also [the show is] a real fantasy, make-believe world. I could just really drop into it and heighten certain things and really become this warrior, but then also really break and surrender to moments that maybe I myself have not been able to in my personal or professional life.
MC: How much training did you do for the fight sequences? Did your ballet, jazz, and contemporary dance experience go into your training for fights?
SB: It helped so much because fight sequences are choreographed sequences, and being able to use my dancer brain—OK, it's this move, that move, this move and layering it—was so much fun. Then my actor brain was able to layer so much character on top. It was so joyful that two of the things that I've loved and have done in my life were coming together.
I think we started training in May 2021, and then there were two months of conditioning, getting our stamina up, and figuring out how our fight styles would be. Éile and Fjall and Scian are from different clans, so we wanted to make sure we were articulating the difference in characters right down to the movement and how we fought... Laurence and I got very obsessed with the clans to where they feel like our families.
MC: I would've loved to see Éile's mom.
SB: It'd be so cool. My dad actually came on set once and he was one of the kings in one of the clans. He unfortunately wasn't the king in my clan because that [role] was already cast and taken, but it was an amazing day to be on set with him and to show him my world and what we'd been creating. It did make me think, What would Éile's parents be like, and how would that be captured?
MC: Were there any fun memories you can remember from filming?
SB: It was such a blindingly rich journey to be working, in particular, with Laurence and Michelle [Yeoh]. I learned so much from them and every single day that we had together was hilarious. Michelle really just ripped the shit out of [Editor's note: British slang for "lovingly teased"] Laurence all the time. We were a team and every interaction was just pure joy and so much fun.
If I was to pick something out, it would probably be the bank fight. That was a really special fight to learn, and then on the day of shooting it, we just kind of remained in this energy... It was a good two days of high energy and laughing and just working together, battling against these people, and it just felt amazing.
MC: The original songs from the miniseries are beautiful. How did you prepare for playing a revolutionary singer like the Lark?
SB: My main thing was I wanted to figure out Éile's voice. That tied so heavily in with the character: Who is Éile? How does she speak? What are her values, and what does she stand for? Once I'd figured out who she was, the voice that I was going to use came with that naturally. Ultimately, Éile is a storyteller and a messenger. I wanted it to just feel very natural rather than overly considered. It's all a heart song, really.
MC: I really loved that even though Éile’s very driven by vengeance, at the center, she's just a natural leader who speaks up for what is right.
SB: When I read the episodes and the [audition] sides, we were really going through COVID, and a lot of people's situations and voices had been squashed in so many different ways. There was a lot that happened in 2019 and 2020 and going into 2021… It was really cathartic to be able to shout and say ‘we want this’ and really fight for it. It felt like I was really exercising a lot of energy that needed to be released.
MC: When you were presented the role, did you know everything that was going to happen up front: Fjall being the first Witcher and Éile and Fjall's connection?
SB: I didn't clock that Fjall was going to be the prototype Witcher until we were in the prep period, really. I think Laurence had the material a bit earlier than I did, and so he had known what was going on. I was definitely late to the party, and then when I found that out I was like, ‘Oh damn, that's a massive thing for Laurence and for us to play.’ There are such loyal fans in this universe and joining it, I'm only getting a window into that. So to be able to have the material where we are at the birth of this world, essentially, is pretty epic.
MC: There are only four episodes in the miniseries, but what do you imagine would be Éile's path forward, after the finale?
SB: There's so much to explore. I think Éile being a mother will be a deeper and even more incredible journey to explore… because now she really has created her own little clan, and it's a different way of moving through this new continent.
MC: What is your next dream role?
SB: It's so hard to say because sometimes scripts will land on your desk and you might not have ever even thought about it. But then you think, What a beautiful idea; I would devour that part and would love to play it. I'd love to work with some amazing directors like Guillermo del Toro, Ken Loach, Paolo Sorrentino and do some interesting, different films and work with some amazing actors… I'd love to work with my friends and people like Daniel Kaluuya and Lashana Lynch. The list is endless. I wouldn't be able to say what next, but I'd just love to continue to build characters and play people and just keep on playing and acting.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Quinci LeGardye is a Contributing Culture Editor who covers TV, movies, Korean entertainment, books, and pop culture. When she isn’t writing or checking Twitter, she’s probably watching the latest K-drama or giving a concert performance in her car.
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