One thing that you must know about Kim Bodnia (Killing Eve‘s Konstantin) and Kristofer Hivju (Game Of Thrones‘ Tormund Giantsbane) is that they both have incredible laughs. I already knew this from the last time that I spoke with Kim, and I had a hunch that Kristofer would be pleasant enough, but Zooming with both of them (at the same time) is quite the sensory experience. Between the two of them, they run the spectrum between thunderous booming and gleeful giggling, at times passing the baton back-and-forth while spreading sheer joy. They could bottle this stuff up and sell it for a premium. In short, they are both thoughtful gents and a ton of fun.
Fortunately for millions of fans of Netflix’s The Witcher franchise, Kim and Kristofer join the flagship show for the long-awaited banger of a second season. Henry Cavill’s Geralt of Rivia’s shifting into new territory, and two key characters help to get that ball rolling and maintain momentum. That would be Kim’s Vesemir, the Witcher-mentor and Geralt’s father figure, who enjoyed a canon-bath during his origin story in the recent The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf anime movie. Vesemir is still beloved, and Kim’s a master at putting a twinkle in the eye of a guy who’s also been through a lot of sh*t throughout his monster-hunting career. These days, he’s dealing with heavy stuff, and there’s a whole lot of darkness buried within Nivellen, an old friend who Geralt barely recognizes at first, due to a curse, but who sure as hell is having as much fun as possible.
Likewise, Kim and Kristofer (who both enjoyed decades-long careers in Europe before heading into prestige TV territory in the U.S.) had a blast while navigating through their challenging roles. They’re acutely aware that The Witcher‘s fans have strong feelings about these stories, and they’re not about to drop the ball on their beloved characters. Sure, their techniques differ, and yes, Kristofer loves to sprinkle some chaos into the room, which only added to their thoughtful discussion here. Their combined energies are really something, and their entrance into The Witcher contributes to why you’ll probably love the second monster-hunting season even more than the first one.
I’m a little bummed that you two aren’t in the same place (the pandemic continues) at the moment because man, getting Tormund and Konstantin in the same room would be amazing. You did tangle with COVID at one point, Kristofer. You doing alright these days?
Kristofer Hivju: I’m good! I’m just waiting to get COVID one more time.
Uh, please don’t do that…So, why did Netflix group you two together for interviews?
Kristofer Hivju: Oh, I don’t know? Probably because we’re both from Scandinaaaaavia.
Kim Bodnia: [Laughs]
Kristofer Hivju: No, I think both of the characters are pulling more emotions and getting to dig deeper into Ciri and Geralt. And we are the new kids on the block.
What was that like, stepping in when the other characters already have their routines and dynamics all set up?
Kim Bodnia: It was very lovely. The Witcher world is my adoptive family. First of all, the big fan group is connected to it all, and then, on set, everybody is so integrated and working so well together and feeling like one big family. So it was very easy to join them and, somehow you know, Henry is a very lovely person. He’s a real nerd about The Witcher world, so he’s like a library. You can always sit and listen and [talk] to him about what’s actually going on, so it gives a lot of peacefulness about it all, and everybody’s like that, so it’s very lovely to be a part of.
Well, Henry has played all the games and read all of the books. That’s a huge undertaking. How deep did you guys dive into the lore?
Kim Bodnia: First of all, after that first season, you don’t want to disappoint any fans at all, so how could I not go deep into the stuff? Because I was playing his father, I can’t do that to my son [laughs]. I really had to study, and I really had to come up with something for feeling like I was putting something new into the world of The Witcher. So, I was very happy to confirm that I was living in the forest for 20 years and had been alone with nature, and for him and me, the Witchers are grounded in nature. Everything is about humanity and nature. Through that, I could really come in as Vesemir and get started on this foundation of trust and then traveling inside the emotional stuff. That was incredible.
Kristofer Hivju: I’m not a nerd! I’m not a study.
Hey, you’re used to the Game of Thrones audience, and they’re intense as well.
Kristofer Hivju: It’s like what I did with Tormund. I had to understand the fans’ view and how they look at my character, you know? One thing is that the book with his story, it’s A Grain Of Truth, it’s a short novel. And then there are fan drawings, and they have these chat rooms where they discuss what they like about characters and stuff like that, so I tried to dig into what the fans, how they viewed me. It’s like portraying a real person. You have to have respect for how it’s perceived and of course, there’s a difference between the books and the show, as it should be, but the source, the bible, it’s there, so it’s always some inspiration to find.
People have such strong feelings for Nivellen. He goes through nearly every emotion onscreen. How did you channel all of that underneath all of those prosthetics?
Kristofer Hivju: First of all, I tried to really figure out what he was hiding and what he was ashamed off and all the remorse and how that has shaped him for the last, I think fifteen or thirteen years. He’s cursed, and every time he looks at himself in the mirror, he’s reminded of what he’s done. I had to figure that out before I could put on all of the other layers: positivity and charm and wit. It’s about finding the whole. You have to find the darkness to find the light.
To be honest here, I could kind-of see both of you taking on either of these roles (Nivellen and Vesemir) well. What was the casting process like?
Kim Bodnia: I was asked to come in for the journey, so for me, it started there, based on that. As for your question at the beginning, why [Kristofer and I are] together now: with this journey, where you have a character, there is a darkness. To live in the darkness, and my character is on his way to darkness, so maybe that’s the connection on why we are together. And also when I’m facing the darkness, it’s very tough. It’s very complex. Because you could lose your son, you could lose his daughter, so I think the balance is here. We’re together now, and it’s very exciting to hear about his character and my character.
You’re also coming in as Vesemir after he got an anime prequel movie. I’m not sure if that order got swapped because of the pandemic, but that Vesemir was very swaggery and really light at the beginning, and you had to come in with so much more on top of you.
Kim Bodnia: You’re right, and I was also surprised at how much fun Vesemir when he was young, and I only forgot that. It was lovely to see that he had so much fun. But I saw it when you saw it, so we were done shooting for the season, but I was told about it, and I was so happy for that. It was very good.
Very clearly, Kristopher, you spent a lot of time in makeup. Did you have to go through the whole wig thing, Kim?
Kim Bodnia: Yeah, it was very easy because I had the wig, and it was my own beard. The wig fit very easily. For transforming, the makeup was incredible.. I love the art they were doing there because it was so beautifully made. I spent a lot of hours there, and I love it.
I have my reasons for thinking that this season is improved over the first one. How would you guys make that case, too?
Kristofer Hivju: Well, I haven’t seen the second season yet, but the difference is maybe that things happen more chronologically. The first season was jumping in time, so really had to see it twice to understand it.
Oh, I totally had to watch it twice.
Kristofer Hivju: And you should see it twice. Then you really understand how it’s all connected, and I know the fantasy fans love the challenges like that. But I know that the second season is more chronologically set up in that way.
Kim Bodnia: I have seen this season, and it is incredible to watch. I just want to watch more and more and more. Just coming behind all the characters, just to follow their emotional travel, and the journey they have is incredible and beautiful, and you get the knowledge of all the characters. And you get introduced to characters that you haven’t seen before… and particularly with the emotional stuff, it’s going totally crazy. It’s so beautiful, and the monsters are bigger and more crazy, so yeah, you’ll just want more after this season.
Now when this season’s over and you wanna give your characters a break, what would you want them to do?
Kristofer Hivju: Oh, I think Nivellen should go to a spa.
Kim Bodnia: Ha!
Kristofer Hivju: And get a good massage because it’s hard to live in such a big body.
One last question for you both. Going back to your infamous characters elsewhere, if you could plop Tormund and Konstantin into other shows besides Game of Thrones and Killing Eve, where would you want them to visit?
Kristofer Hivju: Which character again?
I mean… Tormund and his obsession with giant women.
Kristofer Hivju: Oh, I’d love to see Tormund in Mad Men.
Hmmmmm, sure. Throw him into the 1960s, what could go wrong?
Kim Bodnia: Yeah, I’d love to see Constantine in, uh…
Kristofer Hivju: Sex And The City!
[Everyone dissolves in laughter.]
Kim: Haha! I can’t compare to that. That would be lovely.
Is that your final answer?
Kim Bodnia: Yeah! It was for me.
This totally went off the rails. It was a pleasure.
‘The Witcher’ returns to Netflix on December 17.