From the infamous moment Jaskier asked Henry Cavill’s jacked and forlorn monster hunter Geralt how often he allows strangers to “rub chamomile” onto his “lovely bottom”, ‘Geraskier’ has become the most shipped couple in The Witcher universe. (The scene was gay as hell, c’mon now.) While this so-called romance hasn’t become a reality (yet?!), the forthcoming third season sees the crooning bard – played by Joey Batey – explore his sexuality for the first time with Hugh Skinner’s “purposeless, bored and drunk” new character, Prince Radovid.
In a mediaeval world swarming with basilisks, dopplers, chernobogs and other barbaric blood-thirsty beasts, it’s about damn time queer characters had their moment. Of this historic new relationship, Batey tells GAY TIMES: “If storylines like this can help in the smallest possible way, particularly for the younger demographic that tends to watch this show, then it will honestly become one of the greatest honours of my life.”
Skinner, who is best known for roles in films such as Les Misérables and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, says it’s a “privilege” for him, as a gay actor, to play an LGBTQ+ character in a show with as “much reach” as The Witcher.
In this interview, the two stars discuss the season three journey of their respective characters, how they ensured Jaskier and Radovid weren’t reduced to “stereotypes” and their plans to “battle” the inevitable influx of homophobic backlash to The Witcher’s long-awaited queer-era.
GAY TIMES: Joey, tell me about Jaskier and his journey season because he seems a little bit reluctant to get back into the swing of things?
Joey: He pretends to be reluctant, but Jaskier deep down loves being involved in anything. He does go on a bit of a journey this season. We get to see some of his romantic and political connections, and we see him try and commit to a moral path. Whether it works or it doesn’t, at least he’s been quite front-footed for the first time, particularly, in this family dynamic, and trying to work out where he lands. It ends up as being the role of slightly weird, but affable uncle after a while.
GAY TIMES: Hugh, congratulations on making your debut in The Witcher as Prince Radovid. Talk to me about him because he has a very – I’ll say – interesting presence…
Hugh: He is the king of Redania, King Vizimir’s younger brother. He’s purposeless, bored and drunk. He gets embroiled, politically, with the court and as part of that, he meets Jaskier. He’s excited to meet him, he’s heard the songs! Then, he’s captivated.
GAY TIMES: Joey, what were your initial thoughts on this new romance?
Joey: I was actually approached by Lauren [Schmidt Hissrich] before the scripts were even written and she told me about her intentions with the character and the romance. In the show I’ve been interested in exploring other sides to him and also keen to get a bit more queer representation on the screen. So, I was very excited and a little apprehensive, if I’m honest, because I wanted to ensure that this was done sensitively and carefully; that it wasn’t, in any way, becoming stereotyped. That took an awful lot of conversations with Lauren and endless essays of emails to try and figure out exactly how to do this, how to have queer characters in a fantasy world and not reduce them to stereotypes or let them become tokenistic. I applaud Lauren for that collaborative spirit.
GAY TIMES: You’ve been bombarded over the years about Jaskier’s potential fruity feelings towards Geralt, so how does it feel for your character to finally be canonically queer?
Joey: He’s canonically queer in the TV show, which is a departure from the books and the games, as far as I know. It was wonderful to see a panromantic or pansexual person in such a flagship show such as this. There are shows that do explore sexuality and equally valued sexualities and identities but, from my reading, this is the first major one in a fantasy show. A big part of our conversations were working out, ‘What is the history of LGBTQ+ relationships within this world of dragons and other things?’ And so, that’s an ongoing conversation that I’m so excited to, not only share with the world in season three but with season four and five onwards, find out where Jaskier ends up.
GAY TIMES: There’s a hell of a lot of chemistry in their first scene. What can you both tease about this romance? Without spoiling, of course…
Joey: Hugh, you might be able to tell me off if this is wrong, but there’s something star-crossed about these two. There is a deep connection there, but the turmoil, war and politics of this world are pretty intent on pulling them away from each other.
Hugh: Radovid’s so wayward that he’s not entirely… It’s sort of that old Shakespearean way with a Bard or a fool. I think Jaskier talks to him more honestly than anyone else does.
Joey: They certainly see each other for who they are.
Hugh: It’s so hard to know what you’re allowed to say! I haven’t done much of this before so I’m on tenterhooks.
Joey: You’re doing great, sweetie!
GAY TIMES: I’m so intrigued to see how this develops because they both have such strong personalities.
Hugh: It also ties in with the whole political situation as well.
GAY TIMES: What more can you tell me about this “political situation”?
Joey: Throughout seasons one and two, there’s been hints at people behind-the-scenes attempting to control, not only the kings of the continent, but also the sorcerers and that starts to blend and merge. New powers are stepping up and others are scrambling to keep their influence over other people. I think Jaskier and Radovid have, even in their minor roles, somehow ended up in the absolute thick of it. I don’t know if this is wrong Hugh, you tell me, but I think they find themselves way more important than they’ve ever been?
Hugh: Yeah, both of them!
GAY TIMES: Over the past few years, fans have demanded queer representation. How do you think they will respond to this new romance?
Hugh: I wouldn’t want to predict how anyone might respond to it, but all I can say, as a gay guy myself, is it was a thrilling opportunity to play an LGBTQ+ character in a show of this genre and with this much reach. It’s just been so exciting and a real privilege. In terms of how anyone responds to it, I have no idea!
Joey: To be honest, our job is to work as hard as we possibly can and it’s not up to us if the fandom responds to it or not, really. It’s about trying to tell the stories that we want to tell. If you can hit your head on the pillow at night and say to yourself that you tried, and you tried hard, then everything else is a little easier to deal with. If storylines like this can help in the smallest possible way, particularly for the younger demographic that tends to watch this show, then it will honestly become one of the greatest honours of my life.
GAY TIMES: There will be a few homophobic haters out there, people who think a queer storyline is outlandish in a world of basilisks, dopplers and chernobogs. We saw this recently with The Last of Us. Is this something you’re anticipating or are you not entertaining all of that anti-LGBTQ+ tomfoolery?
Joey: In this fandom, there is a very vocal negative space. That vocal negative space is actually the minority, I think. The thing that I’m most concerned about and will do my best to counteract is when discourse becomes bigotry. Then, I don’t know what I’d do with myself. I think I’d log onto Twitter and battle them all off myself. There is going to be inevitable backlash but what we’re doing is worth it.
The Witcher premieres 29 June on Netflix.