A life between fantasy and reality for ‘The Witcher’ star Freya Allan
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Alexandria Reid/Frank Agency
Not everyone can look back and say that they were on the cusp of something huge in their lives at the age of 18. When the tides of adolescence turned to adulthood for Freya Allan, she was thrown into the deep end, very much immediately and almost suddenly.
Off-screen, it was a first for her with the press junkets and fanatic conventions, not only for something of such fantastical proportion, but a first—period. Whereas, almost in parallel on-screen as the crown princess Cirilla or Ciri, she was hurled into the wilderness of the fictional, medieval-inspired landmass, after her home and kingdom of Cintra went up in literal flames, unsure of how the future would unfold.
Fast track some two or three years later, Freya has made her big screen debut with the action/thriller Gunpowder Milkshake, playing the younger version of Karen Gillan’s character. When we spoke to her, she had pretty much just gotten off the plane from Berlin, after wrapping up her next project, Baghead, by first-time director Alberto Corredor.
Leading up to the premiere of the second season for The Witcher, the now 20-year-old returns with brighter eyes, having seen and experienced more of what life has to offer. And once again, rather in correlation to Freya’s real life, Ciri too embarks on a journey of more surety with mentor Geralt of Rivia (played by Henry Cavill) by her side, as they work through the new season, adapted from Andrzej Sapkowski’s books of his beloved series: Blood of Elves and Time of Contempt.
Hey, Freya! I heard you’ve just recently got back to the UK from Berlin, where you were shooting your next project, Baghead.
Hello! Yeah, it’s been very, very intense. So, it’s good to have a few days when I actually get to rest up.
How was Berlin this time of the year?
Oh my God, it was so much fun—that place is crazy! I’m sorry, but it reached a certain point where I was like: you know what, I’m up for some British conservatism now (laughs). People are wild there; absolutely in the best way, and I love it. It’s very different from London. They also have something quite civilized about them, in the sense that they’re not throwing up on the streets. Whereas in England, we just can’t control ourselves, yet somehow, we’re also not as wild in the same sense that people are in Berlin. But anyway, it was very cool! It’s very fun to experience a completely different kind of culture.
How was it for you, when you finally wrapped shooting this project?
I mean, it’s been a really, really good job for me to do, because I’ve been presented with challenges constantly throughout it. It’s a horror/thriller film, so finding the truthful, real moments, and not letting it all be about the fantastical element of it, was also a really fun challenge to actually have. I also met some amazing people while I was on the job. The start of it was a big challenge for the cast, and the other creatives involved, because we were trying to find a rhythm with one another. The director, as well, was a first-time director; this was his first feature film. But the minute we found our way of things with one another, it was nice. So, it coming to an end was a weird sort of thing: I’m relieved that I’ve managed to complete this challenge, but at the same time, it’s also sad to say goodbye to friends that I’ve made.
“It being really raw, and being about the people; it not being reliant on an amazing set or costumes—it just being purely about the story and the truth. The artistic conversations between the director and the actor… that’s my dream to do, and that’s what I enjoy watching now.”
Has it always been like this, whenever you wrap any projects you’ve done so far?
Yeah, I’d say so! I haven’t yet had a job, where I’d wrap filming and I’m like, “thank God that’s over!”—you know what I mean (laughs)? But, for this one in particular, there was that element of relief, because there’ve been a lot of challenging moments, and it’s exhausting on every level. But, ultimately, there’s always that little bit of sadness with wrapping. When we wrapped season two of The Witcher, I completely just burst into tears!
Well, speaking of The Witcher, the new season premiered on Netflix. How are you feeling about that?
I’m really excited, because this season, I actually got given some good content to work with! Last season, I was just running away from people and things (laughs). I mean, episode one was cool, but the rest of it, I didn’t really have any particular scenes that stood out for me. It was a good thing though, because I was so new to it, and half the time, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Also, going through my teenage years with everything changing, it was all quite a lot to deal with then. For season two, I was given a really great storyline, with really great arcs and scenes, and I got to work with some amazing actors. I’m just excited for everyone to actually see Ciri doing something more interesting, and I hope that they will like it.
It’s quite obvious from the get-go that this will be the season when Cirilla grows up, and moves away from the shadow of her grandmother, Queen Calanthe (played by Jodhi May), and finding out who she is, and who she is meant to be—you know, becoming more of her own.
Compared to playing Ciri in the first season, how different was it for you this time around?
I mean, I, as Freya, have grown up so much since then. Like, in terms of experiencing more in my actual life; and also, as an actor, having more of an idea of doing things my way. Just growing up as Freya put me in a new mindset, if that makes sense. I could use the new things that I’d experienced in life into the role. I also had to build stamina, because I was filming every single day, and I hadn’t experienced that for season one. I had to keep up the energy, basically. Other than that, I wouldn’t say I was particularly in any other kind of frame of mind. We picked up pretty much straight after season one. It was just a matter of holding on to the character that I had in me still, and taking her on whatever journey the scripts took her on.
What was it about Ciri that made you say yes to playing her in the first place?
You know what, when I was 14, the movie that for some reason—I don’t know why, it’s so random; but the movie that made me think: “God, it’d be so cool to be an actor,” was Snow White and the Huntsman. It’s obviously that same kind of fantasy setting as The Witcher. So, when this came through, I immediately thought of that movie. Anyway, in all honesty, when you get a role, which when you Google it and see that there’s a huge fan base, you’re not exactly going to be like, “nah, I won’t bother with that (laughs)!” Not to mention, Ciri is a fighter, and I thought that’s really cool! I did get very excited when the audition came through. At that time, doing a fantasy thing was exactly the kind of thing I wanted to do. If I had all the acting choices in the world to choose from, I probably would have made the same decision I made. It was a dream project at that time for sure.
Like you mentioned, The Witcher has quite a huge fan base with the books and games. Are you a fan of any other big franchises out there?
Game of Thrones; Yeah, I love it. I love The Hunger Games as well. As a kid, I loved Narnia. Yeah, I’d say those are my top three franchises.
“I just remember him on those days being so sweet, and so supportive, and so kind. It’s moments like that which I really appreciated. Having that energy, and him being very kind and aware that I’m finding it freaky as hell then, was really, really lovely and sweet.”
They’re all quite fantasy based.
Yeah, it is! I was an only child up until I was 12, so I spent all my free time just imagining that I had a pet unicorn, or that there were fairies. Growing up, I was obsessed with them, so that explains why those are probably the top three franchises that I’ve properly watched and gone through. I still think they’re amazing to watch; it’s escapism. But, that’s not really what I’m that interested in at the moment, in terms of watching shows for directing and acting.
What are you into now?
I think now, and this is what I really want to be able to do in my spare time, or the time that I’m not on The Witcher—it’s just real stories, you know what I mean? It being really raw, and being about the people; it not being reliant on an amazing set or costumes — it just being purely about the story and the truth. The artistic conversations between the director and the actor… that’s my dream to do, and that’s what I enjoy watching now.
Particularly in this new season of The Witcher, I gather that you worked with Henry Cavill a lot. His character, Geralt of Rivia, goes on to become a mentor to Ciri as she trains to be a witcher herself.
How has Henry been a mentor to you in real life, when it comes to your acting career?
I remember when we went to the San Diego Comic Con (SDCC), it was my first time ever doing any kind of press publicity stuff. I was basically thrown straight into the deep end, and I was like a rabbit caught in the headlights. If you look back at the interviews, I was literally not saying anything (laughs)! But I remember him being so sweet, supportive, and kind on those days. It’s moments like that which I really appreciated. You know, he’s experienced it so much with Superman; all these major interviews with the media, not to mention, the crazy fans that come with it. So, having that energy, and him being very kind and aware that I’m finding it freaky as hell then, was really, really lovely and sweet. I really appreciated that.
He’s a proper Witcher fan, coming into the show. Did he give you any pointers while filming, like, “Oh no, Ciri wouldn’t do that. She’d do this instead.”
Oh no! Rule number 1 for an actor: you don’t tell another actor what they can or cannot do (laughs). I think if he did that, I’d be like, “excuse me!” I mean, there were definitely many moments in season two, when we were struggling with certain scenes, as to not feeling quite right about them. I’d say that we both supported each other in those moments. If we had problems, we’d help each other solve them and figure them out. It was more along those lines than anything else.
Were there any particular pearls of wisdom from Henry?
We definitely had discussions about certain things in the industry. I don’t think we’ve had any really big conversations. That being said, when you’re growing up in this industry, it’s good to know that you’ve got someone like Henry, who speaks up or holds on to their opinions. I’ve always thought I would have done the same anyway, but it still is nice to see a demonstration of that. It gives your mind what sounds like permission to be able to voice your opinion as well.
One of the prominent themes in The Witcher has to do with destiny; like how between Geralt and Ciri, she is destined to be with Geralt, as much as he is destined to have her in his life.
What about you? Do you believe in destiny?
I don’t think I believe in destiny necessarily. For example, this film I just finished shooting, when it came along, there were no other projects going on. I love traveling, and it was always like, I’ve got to do this, why would I not, it’s two months in Berlin! But, I was very upset about the idea of leaving home; because of COVID and everything, I’d become a bit latched on to home. I got there, and felt completely homesick. But, it ended up being the best two months, meeting people that are going to be in my life, hopefully forever. So, if I hadn’t done it, I wouldn’t have met all these people, and I wouldn’t have been impacted in the way I have been. When something comes along like that, in which it’s so obvious it’s a path you take; not only because there’s literally no other route at that point, but also that something’s going to come with it, and it did. Whatever that is, I don’t know what you’d call that, but I think it’s pretty cool that everything has an after effect to the things in life.
“If you let that anchor you down too much, push you down with those facts and figures, you might end up wondering what the fuck is the point of anything. So, you’ve got to live in your own fantasy that you’re going to make it, because otherwise, your energy just completely lags.”
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Growing up, did you ever think that you’re destined to become an actress?
I mean, to say I’m “destined”, that makes me sound a bit like a crazy person (laughs). I wouldn’t necessarily say destiny, but I definitely was very determined when I started acting at 14. I wasn’t interested in doing anything else; I wasn’t interested in getting drunk with my mates, I wasn’t interested in boys—I was just completely dedicated to being an actor. I remember meeting people who, when you tell them you want to be an actor, would constantly tell me things like, “You do realize it only worked out for a certain percentage of people out there?” When you’re hearing this constantly fed into your ear, you just want them all to shut up. While it’s true information, I just completely pushed it away, which I think helped in a way. If you let that anchor you down too much, push you down with those facts and figures, you might end up wondering what the fuck is the point of anything. So, you’ve got to live in your own fantasy that you’re going to make it, because otherwise, your energy just completely lags.
You sound more like a person who makes your own fate, instead of being told or told to believe what you’re meant to do.
So, you’ve worked with some big names already so far, like Henry Cavill, and Karen Gillan in Gunpowder Milkshake.
Do you have a bucket list of actors you’d like to work with in the future?
Matthew McConaughey, I think will be amazing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched that scene in Wolf of Wall Street; the one with him and Leonardo DiCaprio. That scene will never not satisfy me (laughs). I just love it!
Well, thank you again, for speaking to us about The Witcher, and all the best for the new season, as well as your upcoming movie, Baghead.
Thanks very much!