Joey Batey on That Meta Reference to Incoherent Timelines in 'The Witcher'

When The Witcher was first released in 2019 one of the main criticisms fans had for the show was its confusing timelines.

The stories of lead characters Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill), Princess Ciri (Freya Allan) and Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra) all happened at different periods in The Continent's history.

Yennefer's story took place thousands of years before Princess Ciri escaped the clutches of Nilfgaardian soldiers when they took over Cintra, for example, while Geralt's adventures were set in multiple different timelines.

While the three did converge at the end of the first season some criticized the show for being incoherent. The complaints are the inspiration for some fun comments in season 2.

In the new season, which was released on December 17, Joey Batey's Jaskier gets into a tense argument with the guard of a ship after the latter found fault with his songs, referring to how he sang about "multiple characters" and how it was hard to know when each story took place.

The pair launch into a tense argument over it, with Jaskier taking particular offense that someone who isn't a musician would lambast his creativity. The scene is clearly a meta-reference to the aforementioned complaints from viewers.

Batey spoke with Newsweek about the amusing scene, admitting that it was a dig at criticisms "leveled at the show."

"Some of that scene, most of that scene is Lauren [Schmidt Hissrich, the showrunner] saying, 'You know what, let's have some fun,'" Batey said.

"Mr. [Andrzej] Sapkowski does this in the books, he does have that [sense] of theatricality within the text anyway. It's very, very difficult to translate that to screen without literally breaking that fourth wall and looking directly into the camera.

"Jaskier has this ability, well, Jaskier constantly sees himself as the protagonist in his own story anyway, and so he throughout season 1 would constantly come out with demarcating narrative beats, just because that's how he makes sense of the world through storytelling.

"So, when I saw that [meta reference] I was all for it. That [scene], again, was shot at about 3 o'clock in the morning, and I spent quite a lot of those takes ad-libbing with Al, the amazing actor who came in to play that guard, and frequently yelling over to Lauren 'too much?' And she'd go 'yes' or 'no,' or 'do that one again.'

"And, so, every time I do scenes like that Lauren is so open to collaboration, then I go: 'Here's an offering, here's a couple of ad-libs, here's some improvisation, just reel me in when when I've gone too far.'

"And that was one of the scenes when I was allowed to go a little too far!"

Joey Batey regularly ad-libs Jaskier's lines

Batey went on to discuss how often he ad-libs on set, admitting he does so "a fair amount" but will only do it with co-stars who are willing to go off-script.

He reflected: "[I do] a fair amount, not all of it will make it to the cut, I tell you this! I do like to keep it free and easy in scenes, depending on the people with whom I'm working.

"Some people need the script, and they want that script, and don't deviate, and I, obviously, would respect that.

"But, pretty much everyone knows how I work now on set, and, so, when I turn up and I do start to change things and move things [they know], it's about translating British humor into essentially American writing and it's really, really fun.

"The amount that goes into the actual cut is always up for grabs, but you can probably rest assured that anything involving mice is entirely me, because no one's gonna sit there go writing lines for mice, you know?

"Those sorts of things that pop up you can start to spot [as] a sort of little Joey thing, and sometimes it makes it in. I mean, one day, there'll be a blooper reel of all of my terrible jokes. I think [fans] will suddenly realise how bad I am at it!"

The Witcher Seasons 1 and 2 are available to watch on Netflix globally now.

The Witcher
Joey Batey as Jaskier in "The Witcher" Season 2, which was released on Friday, December 17. The actor spoke to Newsweek about a scene in which his character argues with another over incoherent storylines, a meta reference to criticisms of the show. Susie Allnut/Netflix