Kristofer Hivju Q&A: Actor shares insights on his role as Nivellen in The Witcher Season 2

Kristofer Hivju witcher interview nivellen
Image credit: Eirik Haldberg Johnsen

Season 2 of The Witcher hits Netflix on 17 December, with the streaming company treating fans to glimpses at what’s in store through trailers and teasers.

A new trailer released on 29 October gives more insight into witcher Geralt’s journey for the next season, which will see him continue to battle monsters, reunite with his fellow witchers, and train Princess Cirilla.

Kristofer Hivju, best known to global audiences for his role as Tormund Giantsbane in HBO’s Game of Thrones, also appeared in the trailer.

You’d be forgiven for not immediately recognizing Hivju — after all, his likeness is morphed by a combination of CGI and prosthetics to transform him into his Witcher Season 2 character Nivellen.

Netflix highlighted the character in a first-look clip during the company’s TUDUM event in September.

While you only get a short look at Nivellen, the on-screen chemistry of Henry Cavill’s Geralt and Hivju’s Nivellen is apparent.

The short teaser also shows that there’s more to the character’s jovial demeanour than meets the eye, with him hiding something for his old friend.

While you’ll have to wait until the Season 2 premiere to find out more about Nivellen (if you haven’t read the novels), Hivju gave us more insight into portraying this complex character and his thoughts on The Witcher universe in a Q&A with Memeburn.

Here’s what he had to say…

For your role as Nivellen in The Witcher, what appealed to you about the role and made you decide to take it?

I loved his humour, his craziness, and his emotional range. I feel he jumped between all kinds of colours.

I saw it as a huge challenge to play this beast who has this sore soul and is so secretive with a past that haunts him. So I felt that it was just very complex and I felt that I could give life to him.

How was the look of Nivellen achieved? Was it CGI or prosthetics or a combination of both?

the witcher season 2 nivellen kristofer hivju
Image credit: Netflix

What I love about it, I have a full prosthetic suit. So what you see is what I did, you know? So they made a statue of my full body, and they built the suit to my body.  And then you have a hole with the camera that captures my facial expressions and I think they’ve done it brilliantly.

I feel like my eyes [in the episode] are very similar to my eyes, so that’s being very masterfully done.

I spent a lot of time studying those movements, studying boars and bears, and trying to get into that physical shape and to be able to be free in the suit, you know? So I had a great time doing this role. It felt like I was a puppeteer.

How did you take the character’s past and secrets into account when portraying him?

I think he’s haunted by his past and the deeds he has done. That complexity intrigued me a lot because he’s kind of running from his inner pain by being eccentric and trying to be the perfect host for Geralt and Ciri.

I worked a lot with understanding the depth of his pain, I feel that the essence of the character is what he’s hiding. I felt that spectrum between his darkness and remorse up against his playfulness and gentlemanly manners — it was an interesting paradox.

You’re obviously no stranger to fantasy series. But what was it like being part of The Witcher specifically? What feels familiar and what feels completely new?

Well, I think you have Lord of the Rings, you have Thrones, and now you have The Witcher, which all are different takes on the fantasy genre.

But I think The Witcher is full-on fantasy, there is no limit to what magical elements can appear. And that is pretty unique. I love the show and it’s fantastic to be a part of it.

In the magnitude of the production and how big it is, it’s as big as any Hollywood thing you can find.

But for me, the new thing was to play a character in this prosthetic suit with facial tracking cameras and all those elements. I had like seven people around me at all times as a team to make this suit work.

I felt like I was a puppeteer and a puppet at the same time.

As with Thrones, people started loving the books, and now people watch the show and they go back to the books, so I felt that I had to give justice to the Nivellen that was in the books.

At the same time, Lauren [Schmidt Hissrich, The Witcher showrunner,] has given her take on the character that I really liked.

So I think it’s with honour that I play that role because I know Nivellen is a loved character in the book.

Were there completely new elements you had to tap into to portray Nivellen compared to previous roles?

Kristofer Hivju
Image credit: Asger Mortensen

Every character is different. What I really liked about Nivellen was his emotional spectrum. Part of playing a monster, I felt I had to go pretty deep emotionally to find him.

Any character is something new and that’s what’s exciting about being an actor, you dive into a human being and try to see the world through his eyes.

I think the universe of The Witcher is like a fairy tale, so we have very open limits to explore. We can play big.

Were you previously a fan of the novels or the games, or were you new to The Witcher universe when you took on the role?

It was new to me, but now I’ve read a lot and I’ve just bought the game. So that’s on my list — I’m going to go into that. I can’t wait to play the games. Cause that’s where I know one of the biggest fanbases are.

It’s a universe you can’t get enough of. You can read and you can play, so it’s a perfect fantasy experience.

How does it feel to be part of bringing this fantasy world to new audiences?

It’s great. I know the fanbase has grown and it will keep growing. Next season is coming and we have the anime movie [Nightmare of the Wolf]. So I think this is just gonna keep getting bigger and bigger.

I think this new season is very interesting because in the first season you had to set up the characters, you had to define the past and set up a lot of things to establish the universe.

Now you will follow this functional family on a ride and I think people are going to be happy with the crazy adventure they’re about to join.

How to watch The Witcher Season 2

the witcher season 2 poster with geralt ciri and yennefer

If you want to see Kristofer Hivju bring the character of Nivellen to life, tune into Season 2 of The Witcher from 17 December.

You can stream The Witcher on Netflix.

Season 1 is currently available to stream if you haven’t caught up on the fantasy series yet.

Read more: The Witcher Season 2 gets release date, teaser trailer

Feature image: Eirik Haldberg Johnsen/Supplied by Netflix

Megan Ellis


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