Last month, a rumored casting call leaked suggesting Netflix’s new adaption of The Witcher would cast a non-white actress as Ciri, adopted daughter of Geralt of Rivia and the sorceress Yennefer. For those who didn’t see it, this rumored casting set off a firestorm. Ciri is described as pale-skinned and ashen-aired in the books and the idea she could be anything else led to showrunner Lauren Hissrich taking a Twitter break. Predictably, a lot of the backlash was quite racist.
Now Ciri has officially been cast. All those people owe Hissrich an apology. Too bad they won’t give her one. Freya Allan has been cast in the central role, a young actress best known for short movies and an appearance in Into the Badlands. Yes, she’s white.
Were there legitimate, storytelling reasons to worry about casting a person of color as Ciri? Yes. I’m absolutely sympathetic to Polish fans who didn’t want to see the series lose its Polish roots. I understand how changing Ciri’s ethnicity could necessitate large-scale changes creating an even worse race problem within the show. Believe me, I get it. I had many of those same worries.
That doesn’t change that the backlash over that casting call was blown way out of proportion and often based on severe racism. What makes it worse was how Witcher fans ignored what Hissrich actually said about casting for the series. She explicitly said she would preserve the Polish roots of the story and never change a character’s ethnicity as part of any attempt to interject her own social politics into the story.
Frankly, Witcher fans should have just waited. They should have held their tongues until Ciri was cast. Even better, they should work on not being so blatantly racist, but that’s a harder battle to win. Right now they owe her an apology. But it appears that instead, they’ve moved on from anger over potential Ciri casting to anger over a black actress being cast as Fringilla. So I guess they just want to be angry.
I hope Witcher fans learned a lesson from all this. But that never tends to be the case in fandom.