Why Does Hollywood...?

So The Witcher is replacing Henry Cavill with Liam Hemsworth; has anything like this happened before? -Katy H.

For those unfamiliar with The Witcher situation, Netflix had a one-two punch of press that caused hand-wringing among its fans. First, Beau DeMayo, a former writer for the show and new showrunner for X-Men ’97, claimed that some of the other writers and producers weren’t true Witcher fans and that they actively disliked the novels and video games. In response, The Internet has garnered a petition of 150,000 signatures demanding these writers be fired.

Lauren Hissrich, current showrunner of The Witcher, explained that she hired both fans and non-fans for the room, so as to see both perspectives. Having talked to dozens of TV writers myself about making fan-cherished properties, Hissrich’s approach seems fair and wise. Unsurprisingly, a current writer of The Witcher has rebutted DeMayo’s claim, stating that DeMayo was unceremoniously dismissed due to emotional and physical abuse he perpetuated on set. My advice, then, to people who find themselves in a situation like DeMayo’s in the future would be to not start a Witcher hunt if people toss you coins.


The second article announced Henry Cavill’s return to his role as Superman. With DC Comics going through so much upheaval after their extended universe under Zach Snyder’s watch, many, including Cavill, assumed everyone would be recast. DC Film’s new boss, however, is James Gunn, a big fan of Cavill’s portrayal. Cavill, therefore, was offered to reprise the role.

The Witcher, meanwhile, shoots their episodes across Europe, does their special effects shots in Georgia, then sends their VFX and post work to Los Angeles. The result is a show that must be filmed over a year in advance of release! As such, season three of The Witcher has already wrapped. If were Cavill to do a fourth season, he would need to commit to a two-year contract extension. Basically, he had to choose one role or the other.

Hence, one of Netflix’s most popular shows changed its lead actor to Liam Hemmsworth, Thor’s younger brother and co-star of The Hunger Games movies. The two obviously look, sound, and act differently, so fans, from casual to hardcore, are concerned by this news. Thankfully, this isn’t necessarily the death knell alarmist fans think it is. Though recasting has an uneven history of success, it’s worked before–and recently.



Ten years ago, Mark Ruffalo replaced Edward Norton as The Hulk/Bruce Banner in The Avengers. Originally, Norton was attached to multiple Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) appearances, but after intense disagreements with The Incredible Hulk‘s director, as well as the character’s underperforming solo film, Marvel decided to cut bait early and recast. In a roundabout way, Incredible Hulk‘s middling box office meant Mark Ruffalo’s portrayal served as many viewers’ first introduction to the Green Machine. Obviously, Ruffalo’s interpretation has served Marvel well, as he’s now played the character for a decade.


A sadder recent instance is Starz’s Spartacus. Andy Whitfield, the electric star of the production, was diagnosed with Lymphoma and passed away during season two’s production in 2011. To meet episode quota, Starz recast the role with Liam McIntyre. The show continued with its new lead for a second and third season, so a recast didn’t fatally wound the show. 

Sitcoms follow the same pattern, with shows like Roseanne and Boy Meets World recasting a large supporting role with little consequence. Improbably, 30 Rock garnered even more acclaim when they recast Tracy Jordan’s wife, replacing her with Sherri Shepherd. The switch allowed for delightful reality-show spoof episodes, and Shepherd spiced up every scene she was in. In a similar vein, Cheers admirably weathered two cast-member exits, bringing on Woody Harrelson after “Coach” Ernie Pantusso died and Kirstie Alley after Shelley Long left.


Not every show, however, can fill a void so easily. The Office and Parks & Recreation, upon losing Steve Carrell and Rob Lowe, respectively, suffered in both viewership and episode quality. This is likely due to each star’s charm and charisma. Put in this light, The Witcher recasting seems concerning. While Hemmsworth seems game for the role, he’ll have to find his own angle into the character because Cavill’s star power drew viewers to the show in the first place.

After all, it’s not like they could just follow a new Witcher, setting the story in the same world. That’s never worked for a fantasy/sci-fi show before…

I haven't even mentioned James Bond...


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