After such a long time there must have been a big celebration when they finally wrapped, I suggest. “It wasn’t just one bottle of Prosecco at the end. There were many on the final day!” You didn’t even need the glass at that stage, I jest. “Yeah, f**k it,” Anya laughs.
The Witcher storylines are unbelievably complex, with multiple worlds coming together with their own set of characters, so surely there were moments during this long shooting period where Anya – like many viewers, myself included – was puzzled about WTF is going on? “Oh yeah! I am constantly thinking, ‘what the f**k is going on here, babes?!’ You literally have to take things moment to moment because otherwise you get so into all the detail and it just makes you feel anxious about the flipping performance. No one’s going to know if you don’t obsess about details that hopefully the fans obsess about and huge respect for them, they teach me so many things. I don’t have the brain space!”
The fandom for the series which draws on the books by Polish author, Andrzej Sapkowski and the video game adaptation that garnered mass appeal does indeed have a Marvel meets Game of Thrones levels of obsession.“It’s huge and it still baffles me,” Anya says, revealing she was first made aware of it even before she stepped onto set. “They figured out my casting even though it hadn’t come out by someone following someone else (on social media). That was mind blowing. I didn’t realise how big it was. I didn’t know of The Witcher before I auditioned. Then I realised how busy it was in terms of a character journey. I didn’t know how much of a life I’d have to bring to life!”
One of the things Anya has brought powerfully to life, during season one and into season two, is Yennefer’s struggle with her fertility and pangs for children as she tries to undo the spell that left her infertile. “Although The Witcher seems so much harsher than our world it’s not, the monsters are just under covers here, it’s all happening behind closed doors,” Anya asserts. “I love that parallel relationship between our world and this world. That fertility journey, having to cope with life and finding hope where she can, shows how brave and bold she is just like so many women today. So many women have had to start again. They have to find their purpose again. The power’s been stripped from them completely, someone’s left them and they have got to start again.”
I wonder, in a career that is notorious for rejection and no’s how Anya herself, picks herself up and starts again in an amongst such credits as starring in the Agatha Christie BBC drama, ABC Murders and Wanderlust, centred around a therapist played by Toni Collette. “I’ve got so many no’s – so many! But I never really take them personally,” she says. “I’ve always known that there’s something out there for me. Whatever that means. There’s something that’s going to happen next. All I’m really bothered about is being good to the people that I love and then everything else slots into place. I work hard, that is something that my family gave me. The no’s always make you stronger.”
As we descend into a joint rendition of Destiny’s Child’s No, No, No. I ask about the lessons Anya’s family has imparted to her. “My dad gave me a lecture every morning about who I was, since I was a little girl,” Anya responds, reflecting on her childhood growing up in a small village in Staffordshire with father of Indian descent, Madan, her English mother, April, and as the middle sibling alongside elder sister, Raeeya and younger brother, Arun. “On the way to school there would be a lecture about who I was, what kind of woman I was and although that’s kind of intense at the time – I think about it a lot. I have a big family and I always knew where I was from and always knew who was going to be around me my whole life. I always had that so I didn’t necessarily look for anything else other than what was in me.”
“I was heavily raised by my Indian culture,” Anya continues. “Coming to a Western world was a big deal for my dad, my dad’s family and for me now but not so much then, I just wanted to fit in. Me desperately wanting to fit in made my dad reassure me that I didn’t necessarily need to. It was purely who I was.”
Is Anya the representation on screen she needed when she was growing up? “Absolutely,” she answers instantly. “I really looked up to performances that were flawed, too. That was something that I could relate to because it made me feel better about myself.”
As our time is about to wrap up we turn our attention to season three. What does she want to see not only Yennefer but her newly empowered self take on next? “Everything that happens in the book where she gets to develop a mother-daughter relationship with Ciri. She also calms down a bit and she realises she is enough.” Anya, just like Yennefer is, more than enough and she got her own unique power, too.
The Witcher season one and two are available on Netflix now.