Movies & TV / Columns

The Witcher Star Joey Batey on Playing Jaskier, Working With Henry Cavill, and Joining the Cast for His Lute Skills

December 20, 2019 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
The Witcher - Joey Batey as Jaskier

Author’s Note: This is not a spoiler-heavy interview, but there are discussions about specific moments and parts of the series in the interview below. If you are trying to go into The Witcher completely fresh, please be forewarned.

The Witcher Season 1 debuts on Netflix this week. If you’ve gotten a chance to watch the show, then you will have become well acquainted with featured player, Joey Batey (The White Queen, Knightfall), who portrays the role of the bard, Jaskier. Jaskier is a pivotal role in the story as a man who becomes the unwitting friend and chronicler to one Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill). While Geralt isn’t one to naturally have close friends, fans already know how special the bond between these two characters is and will eventually become in the new live-action Netflix show.

Having watched the first five episodes, I can say Joey Batey is easily the breakout star of The Witcher Batey came onto the show as an experienced singer, musician, actor and lute player. That’s quite appropriate because Jaskier is a master of the lute in The Witcher, so the show puts this multi-talented thespian’s skills to good use. For fans who are yet to watch Season 1 of The Witcher, or have not yet seen the work of Joey Batey as Jaskier, the show has already released one of his songs from the series, “Toss A Coin To Your Witcher,” which is available below.

Earlier this week, I got the chance to sit down and speak to Batey in an exclusive interview to talk about his casting, playing off of Henry Cavill, and the important role the bards play in the realm of The Continent as storytellers.

Jeffrey Harris: Joey, dare I say it, you are the breakout star of this season, of this show. I think you are the show stealer, maybe even the show stopper. What do you have to say to that?

Joey Batey: All I can say is thank you. That’s really kind. I’m really excited to be doing it. It’s a really, really wonderful production to be a part of. It’s a huge . But I honestly think that there’s way more talent in everyone else. I just get up and play the lute. I’m nothing special. I promise you.

Jeffrey Harris: Joey, you’re a triple threat. You have the voice of an angel. Do you think you are the only one who could’ve played this role in The Witcher? Because watching the show, I can’t imagine anyone else in the role of Jaskier.

Joey Batey: That’s really kind. I think lots of people could’ve played it. I think the reason that I remember clearly, I only had one meeting for it. And I’m pretty sure they cast me because I could play the lute. I think anything else that I brought to the role was in the casting director’s eyes an absolute bonus.

Jeffrey Harris: This friendship with Geralt and Jaskier. It’s a very wonderful relationship. These are very important characters to me, but getting to watch it unfold in motion like this was very special for me. I really feel like you captured how male friendship can be a beautiful thing. You captured that special bond these characters have. What I wrote initially was that Jaskier is not the friend that Geralt wants, but he’s the friend that Geralt needs. What do you think about the special bond these characters have?

Joey Batey: You touched upon male friendships there, and I really — it was something that was very, very important to me early on in the character creation process. I found that — I think one of things for Jaskier, I used to write on my mirror, when I’d go on set, the keywords that were really important to me and that were really important for these scenes. And the one that came up every single day was loyalty. And I think that’s Jaskier’s superpower in many respects. He doesn’t have the magic or the swords or any of the huge things that go on in this show. He is just a guy, but at the end of the day is still standing there. I think in 2019, hopefully, if we can represent a male friendship like that, an honest one, one full of love, I don’t think men say the word love and tell each other they love each other as much as they should. And I think Jaskier and Geralt do that every single day by being there for each other through the very darkest days of The Continent.

Jeffrey Harris: Sprinkling bath salts can be a lot of fun (AN: Episode 4). How many times did you have to sprinkle bath salts and how many different ways?

Joey Batey: I sprinkled perfectly every single time, Jeffrey. I’m a goddamn professional! *Laughs* That was a really fun scene to shoot. The director of that episode allowed me to just make the set my own and pick things up and throw things around. And that was the first day that Henry [Cavill] and I — that was quite early on in the shoot for us. And that was the first day that Henry and I really kind of clocked each other and understood what it really meant to be friends and the journey that these two characters would go on. Henry and I get on really well together. We have a laugh together, but that was the first time we could go visit something really profound between them, a quietness and understanding that maybe goes unspoken but is very much there.

Jeffrey Harris: Those are the type of acting moments that I love for because there was all that unspoken emotion there. But everything you did in that scene, it looks like you knew exactly what you were doing. And Jaskier knows how to put bath salts in a bath.

Joey Batey: He has a love for the finer things in life, I’m sure that Jaskier is a fan of a good bath. And Geralt, most certainly, has not had one in quite some time, so that’s a scene in which Jaskier is very much in his element, yeah. And on that day, we were ad-libbing some of those lines from an improvisational poem that Jaskier has started to come out. And Henry gives back as much as I give him. If I change lines, he’ll change them back. He’ll throw as much back in my face as I’m throwing at him, and that was one of the first days where we understood each not only as characters but actors as well.

Jeffrey Harris: I was very overwhelmed by Jaskier’s ballads because they are another crucial part of Jaskier’s character. Ballads are so important because in this time, ballads are how people tell their stories. They are stories for the people, and Jaskier is the creator of these stories. So, he has a very crucial role in that respect. Can you speak on the ballads and their importance to the story?

Joey Batey: Absolutely. I completely agree, Jeffrey, that you have that insight. In this concept, the concept of The Continent, Jaskier is a storyteller that fills 100 different roles. For many, it’s entertainment. For some, it’s news. It’s literally like watching CNN; like what is happening down the road? What is happening in Nilfgaard? Who are the heroes of our realm. At times, he is a walking Reddit thread; like The Continent equivalent of Twitter. These are the bards that people rely on to understand the cultural context in which they live. And that for me was a huge challenge for me to get my head around. So, that’s a joy to explore in the show, understanding how some songs can be fun and silly, and then at other times have great power in shaping the cultural makeup of the world around them.

Jeffrey Harris: When you get to see a line on the page like, “Respect doesn’t make history,” and you get to be the character who says that line — I mean that line is so deep and has so many meanings — because after everything Geralt and Jaskier had been through at that point, and I felt like we were on an amazing journey. I think this show is a game-changer, but how did you view that material?

Joey Batey: That one line, which comes up in Episode 2, is it “Truth doesn’t make history?” Or whatever the line is, it’s the originator in this Continent of “fake news.” Literally, it’s him kind of going, “Well, you can tell the truth, or we can eat tonight because if I tell a good story, then [we can eat tonight]–” That’s really early on in Jaskier’s journey. Young, and he’s just going day to day. He’s literally getting scraps of bread from the floor. This is the only way he can — there’s that understanding of yes, you can tell a story, but what do the people of The Continent need right now? Do they need the truth, or do they need hope? And I think Jaskier more than anything understands that hope is needed in a world where you think everything is going wrong, and also, darkness is coming.

Jeffrey Harris: Will we have you at Comic-Con next year? We have a second season confirmed, and I’m sure the fans in San Diego at Comic-Con would love to see you if Netflix brings the show again next year.

Joey Batey: I would love to see them. That would be an absolute treat. If I’m honest, I’m focused a tad on getting Season 2 done. And then, I tell you what, if I’m not invited by Netflix, I’ll just buy a ticket myself and come along.

Note to Netflix, looks like Joey Batey is keen to go to San Diego Comic-Con next year to meet the fans of The Witcher franchise. Let’s make it happen! Thank you to Joey Batey for taking the time to speak with us. The Witcher Season 1 is streaming now on Netflix. The show was already picked up for a second season last month ahead of the first season launch.