‘The Witcher: Blood Origin’ Is TV’s Latest Big Fantasy Prequel | Big Indy News
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‘The Witcher: Blood Origin’ Is TV’s Latest Big Fantasy Prequel

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Producers of hit series have long used spinoffs to keep the stories going (and the ad and subscription dollars flowing). In our I.P.-obsessed era of pop culture universes, the desire to preserve — and ideally expand — popular TV franchises has only intensified. And more often than not these days, going forward means looking backward.

This year, the biggest new series have been prequels, with “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” and “House of the Dragon” being set long before the events of “The Lord of the Rings” and “Game of Thrones.” “Andor” is a prequel for a movie, “Rogue One,” that was itself a prequel for other “Star Wars” films. This month “Yellowstone” added “1923,” another prequel to join last year’s “1883.”

Now on Sunday comes “The Witcher: Blood Origin,” a Netflix mini-series that takes place 1,200 years before Geralt of Rivia started slaying ill-minded creatures and thoughtfully pushing back his signature white mane in “The Witcher,” which premiered in 2019 and returns next summer for its third season.

Based on stories by the Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski, the franchise is named after monster hunters, of which Geralt is the most famous. It is set on a continent (conveniently named the Continent) where witchers rub elbows with elves and dwarves, powerful sorceresses and power-hungry nobility.

A spinoff was probably inevitable for a title that has conquered every platform it has encountered: The streaming adaptation of “The Witcher” followed popular game and comic book versions, and it has become one of Netflix’s most-watched shows ever.

For the creator and showrunner of “Blood Origin,” Declan de Barra, the initial motivation was the opportunity to expand on clues or allusions in Sapkowski’s books, including by introducing new characters. Foremost was a desire to focus on the Continent when it was dominated by elves.

“My favorite part of the books was identifying with the elvish story,” de Barra, 51, said in a video conversation. “You could see that they were a post-colonized sort of species, they could barely reproduce and they’re pre-agrarian, but yet they have this mythology that’s sort of hinted out in the background. What happened before? What was their Rome before the fall?”

As a writer and co-executive producer for “The Witcher,” de Barra had begun mapping out what he thought happened before the Conjunction of the Spheres — the cataclysm that allowed both humans and monsters to travel from their own worlds to the Continent. So when the original series’ creator, Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, asked him to draw up a spinoff concept, de Barra was ready. For his story engine, he picked one of the oldest and most tested: A group of mismatched individuals must team up to save their world, in this case from rampaging overlords and one demented wizard.

“I just imagined a group of people who would hate each other if they turn up at a party, and put them in the crucible together,” he said. “People who are all different and have reason to have beef with each other but have to work together.”

This being the “Witcher” franchise, some of them also find reasons to have sex with one another. And yes, there is just as much jarringly modern profanity in “Blood Origin” as in the main show, along with the goofy irreverence that sets the franchise apart. (Last year’s special, “The Witcher: Fireplace,” is an hourlong shot of a crackling fire.)

“What’s great about Declan is that he’s very energetic and he has a very raucous, naughty sense of humor — and he brings that to ‘Blood Origin,’” Lenny Henry, who plays the plotting Chief Sage Balor, said in a video chat. “So you get all the heightened Shakespearean arias from some of the characters and then you get that low side.”

Balor plays a crucial role in the “Blood Origin” universe, setting in motion a series of events that will ripple through time and space. Among the characters most affected are Éile (Sophia Brown) and Fjall (Laurence O’Fuarain), two warriors from rival clans who end up fighting on the same side as part of the main superteam. (How super? The mighty Michelle Yeoh is a key part of it.)

In a way, Éile is “The Witcher” in a nutshell: a fierce fighter who both comments on and drives the action with song — this is, after all, the rare fantasy series that has spawned a cult hit, with “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher” from Season 1. This is an essential element for the Ireland-born de Barra, who used to front a hard-rocking band and who is the co-writer of several numbers for both streaming “Witcher” properties.

“My favorite songs are ones that end really short,” he said by way of explaining the decision to cut the prequel down from its planned six episodes to four. He also draws connections between epic Celtic ballads and Éile’s tunes, including “The Black Rose” — a direct reference to the 16th-century Irish song “Róisín Dubh.”

“I wanted her to be writing rebel songs for the people,” de Barra said. “I knew there would be nods to Irish mythology as well as Eastern European mythology, because Sapkowski does that himself with some of his places and people, like Skellige Islands and stuff like that.

“He has a potpourri of all sort of European mythology and he pulls the stories and puts them together and bakes his own cake,” de Barra added. “So I felt very comfortable doing that.”

Offscreen, Brown, who is Black, has been at the center of the kinds of caustic discussions, regarding race and how it relates to source material, that have occurred within other fantasy fandoms. (You might recall how the sight of Black elves in “The Rings of Power” threw some viewers into a tizzy.)

“If something new is coming into a space, people are always going to think ‘Oh, that’s not right,’” Brown said. “I got some difficulty when the casting came out, but I’m not new to the industry, and I’ve worked very hard to be here, so it didn’t waver my knowing I was meant to be there.”

Henry — who is also Black and who played the harfoot Sadoc Burrows in “The Rings of Power” — chose to laugh at it all. “What you have to say to those guys is, ‘You will believe an Upside Down where there’s a big weird creature made out of corned beef threatening children, but you won’t believe a Black elf?’” he said. “It’s all pretend — anybody can be what they want to be.”

Angst about Éile’s function in the “Witcher” mythos is also related to what some fans have decried as drastic departures from the books and video games in the original series. These complaints have grown louder online since Henry Cavill, who plays Geralt and who has been an outspoken fan of the Sapkowski stories, announced, with little explanation, that he is leaving the show after the upcoming season.

De Barra said any adapter of the “Witcher” stories is “never going to be able to satisfy everybody,” explaining that dedicated fans of the books and the games will all have their own differing views of what the characters and the world should look like.

“No two people are ever going to agree on it,” he said. “The core that was important for me was just telling a story that I believed in and that could work on its own whilst honoring the books.”

The TV shows integrate Sapkowski’s vision and broaden it, and this dual approach is particularly apparent in “Blood Origin.” As the title suggests, we meet some familiar characters and there are plot developments that will bear fruit generations later, in the timeline of the main series. But de Barra cautions viewers against drawing too many conclusions.

For example, in one scene a seer — who is well known among “Witcher” fans — says one of Éile’s descendants will be very important in the future, but the show doesn’t indicate whom it will be.

“We can’t spell it out, not now, but it will be spelled out later,” de Barra said. “Most people are saying. …” He trailed off. “Anyway, I’ll leave it for now.”

Such comments will be cryptic for those new to the “Witcher” universe, but they should not worry: While some plot points will be endlessly dissected on “Witcher” subreddits, “Blood Origin” stands on its own. “I hope we can introduce many new fans to the show and then they can pour into the marquee series and fall in love with fantasy,” Brown said.

“I’ve watched things when I was younger that made me want to be an actor and made me want to escape and see the world in different ways,” she continued. “So I hope people can see the world differently through seeing our worlds.”



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This Off-the-Shoulder Sequin Top Is Perfect for New Year’s Eve — On Sale Now!

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Us Weekly has affiliate partnerships so we may receive compensation for some links to products and services.

Our closet is like a New Year’s Eve graveyard, filled with the sequined skeletons of past holiday outfits we’ve since discarded. That’s the thing about New Year’s — it often feels like a waste of money for just a few hours of fun. Rather than splurge on a sparkly dress you’ll only wear once, we recommend buying a staple piece you can style over and over again. Our top choice? This off-the-shoulder shirt that’s currently on sale from Amazon.

Adorned with sequins and available in 12 different colors, this trendy top features a flattering silhouette that complements all figures. The drapey style shows off a little skin while still covering trouble areas on arms, and the relaxed fit skims curves nicely. You can mix and match this statement shirt with a variety of bottoms, from high-waisted pants to a mini skirt. Since the options are endless, you’re getting more bang for your buck.

Read on to find out why this sequin shirt is a New Year’s Eve necessity!

Get the Anna-Kaci Women’s Short Sleeve One Shoulder Sequin Top for just $36 (originally $45) at Amazon! Please note, prices are accurate at the date of publication, December 23, 2022, but are subject to change.

The Anna-Kaci Women’s Short Sleeve One Shoulder Sequin Top is perfect for a New Year’s Eve party! The unofficial dress code of the holiday is sequins, so you’ll fit right in. Bonus: this top is surprisingly comfortable.

We also love the versatility of this sparkly shirt. As everyone else around you is freezing in frocks, you can choose to complete your ensemble with warm pants or a blazer on top. Pair this shirt with faux leather pants in the winter or shorts in the summer! Stick with a solid shade, or go all out with a multicolored or ombré option.

Get the Anna-Kaci Women’s Short Sleeve One Shoulder Sequin Top for just $36 (originally $45) at Amazon! Please note, prices are accurate at the date of publication, December 23, 2022, but are subject to change.

Take this sparkly shirt from a holiday party to a concert! Stand out on any special occasion in this fun top that will earn you all the compliments. As one shopper said, “This shirt was perfect for attending a bling Christmas party. It fit well and shined brightly. It’s perfect for events.” Another customer gushed, “This shirt is everything! Comfy, flattering and makes this boxy girl have a waist!” And if you’re worried about this top feeling less than luxe, just read this rave review: “Many sequined tops and dresses look more like a costume to me, but this one doesn’t. I ordered for a concert but feel like it is something I will also wear on other occasions.”

On New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, rock this one-shoulder sequin shirt, on sale now at Amazon!

See It! Get the Anna-Kaci Women’s Short Sleeve One Shoulder Sequin Top for just $36 (originally $45) at Amazon! Please note, prices are accurate at the date of publication, December 23, 2022, but are subject to change.

Not your style? Shop more from Anna-Kaci here and explore more tops here! Don’t forget to check out all of Amazon’s Daily Deals for more great finds!

Looking for other New Year’s outfit ideas? Check out more picks below:

This post is brought to you by Us Weekly’s Shop With Us team. The Shop With Us team aims to highlight products and services our readers might find interesting and useful, such as wedding-guest outfits, purses, plus-size swimsuits, women’s sneakers, bridal shapewear, and perfect gift ideas for everyone in your life. Product and service selection, however, is in no way intended to constitute an endorsement by either Us Weekly or of any celebrity mentioned in the post.

The Shop With Us team may receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. In addition, Us Weekly receives compensation from the manufacturer of the products we write about when you click on a link and then purchase the product featured in an article. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product or service is featured or recommended. Shop With Us operates independently from the advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback at ShopWithUs@usmagazine.com. Happy shopping!

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‘Babylon’ stars Margot Robbie, Jean Smart fear deepfakes: ‘Year 3000 porn’

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Jean Smart and Margot Robbie aren’t so fond of advanced technology in Hollywood.

During promotion for the film “Babylon” — which documents the rise and fall of characters in 1920s Hollywood — the cast of the movie was asked what they believe will be the next big shift in Tinseltown.

In Entertainment Weekly’s “Around the Table” video series, almost all the actors who joined — including Robbie, Smart, Brad Pitt, Diego Calva, Jovan Adepo and Li Jun Li — agreed they were concerned about deepfakes.

Deepfakes use artificial intelligence to manipulate videos and replace the likeness of one person with another.

Margot Robbie and Diego Calva in “Babylon.”
Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures via AP

“Are they just going to take our faces, and we won’t even be going to work anymore?” Robbie, 32, said.

“So creepy,” Pitt, 59, chimed in.

Smart echoed the concern but pointed out that their likeness can be used even after they’re gone.

“Or after you’re dead, they’ll go, ‘Oh, let’s put Margot Robbie in that movie’ — a hundred years from now, having her doing God knows what. And your estate will have to sue them. It’ll be horrible, Margot,” the 71-year-old actress said.

Margot Robbie, left, and Li Jun Li in "Babylon."
Margot Robbie and Li Jun Li in “Babylon.”
Paramount Pictures via AP

The “Hacks” star continued saying that she’s troubled by seeing Marilyn Monroe in TV commercials and Fred Astaire in Coke commercials due to the technology in Hollywood — and said she will not be OK with her likeness being used after she’s dead.

“Unless my kids are getting rich off it. Of course. In that case, then it’s all right,” Smart quipped.

But there’s one thing that is absolutely off the table for Smart’s likeness.

“I don’t want to be in a year-3000 porn,” she added.

Jean Smart in "Babylon."
Jean Smart said she will not be OK with her likeness being used after she’s dead.
Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures via AP

Meanwhile, some celebrities are already using deepfakes for projects.

Back in September, it was reported that an AI platform created a “digital twin” of Bruce Willis, who was diagnosed with aphasia — a brain disorder that affects his ability to communicate, which will allow him to appear on screen after his retirement from acting.

The “Die Hard” actor’s deepfake already made its debut in August 2021 when his face was “grafted” onto Konstantin Solovyov for a commercial for MegaFon, a Russian telecommunications company.

His estate has the final say on what’s created with his face.

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Erika Jayne is spotted in LA as she sports a pale blue sweatsuit and sunglasses during shopping trip

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Make-up free Erika Jayne shops for expensive Christmas gifts at luxury store Hermès in LA – amid the RHOBH star’s money woes

Erika Jayne went without makeup as she shopped in Los Angeles days before Christmas.

The fashionista was low-key as she wore a pair of oversized glossy black rectangle-shaped sunglasses. 

The 51-year-old Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star – who has been battling money woes ever since her ex husband was declared bankrupt – was dressed expensively in a pale blue Alexander Wang sweatsuit and sneakers.

Bare face: Erika Jayne went without makeup as she shopped in Los Angeles days before Christmas

The platinum blonde beauty wore her locks bone straight, styled in an undefined part as they cascaded over her shoulders.

She looked cozy in her crew neck top and matching loose-fitting sweats, which she coordinated with pale pink and blue sneakers. 

Erika carried an Hermès bag on her arm as she carried a small, bottled water with pristinely manicured hands.

She was out and about by herself as she fit in some retail therapy two days before Christmas.

Under the radar: The fashionista was low-key as she wore a pair of oversized glossy black rectangle-shaped sunglasses

Under the radar: The fashionista was low-key as she wore a pair of oversized glossy black rectangle-shaped sunglasses

Last weekend Erika got into the holiday spirit as she attended a Christmas party with friend and costar Lisa Rinna.

Both women flaunted their long, toned legs as they wore dresses to the event hosted by friend Sanela Diana Jenkins.

Jayne took to Instagram to share a snapshot from the gathering in which she and Lisa kicked their legs up.

‘This was the BEST Christmas party EVER!!!’ she wrote in the caption as the photo showed her in a luxe white fur coat.

Season's greetings: Last weekend Erika got into the holiday spirit as she attended a Christmas party with friend and costar Lisa Rinna

Season’s greetings: Last weekend Erika got into the holiday spirit as she attended a Christmas party with friend and costar Lisa Rinna

The fashion-forward socialite donned a pair of pointy-toe metallic purple heels as she sat in a chair designed to look like a sleigh.

Rinna was equally stylish in a cream blazer dress with a black satin collar and gold accoutrements set in a pattern.

She added a pair of knee-high black leather boots and carried a metallic gold clutch.

Erika finished her caption with a shoutout to Lisa as she wrote: ‘thanks for babysitting me and telling me what happened at the party.’

Looking great: The two gal pals were also spotted together earlier this month as they attended the 2022 People's Choice Awards with their Bravo TV castmates

Looking great: The two gal pals were also spotted together earlier this month as they attended the 2022 People’s Choice Awards with their Bravo TV castmates

The two gal pals were also spotted together earlier this month as they attended the 2022 People’s Choice Awards with their Bravo TV castmates. 

For her part, Erika wore a long, mock neck bodycon dress with a trendy, nude silhouette graphic design.

Rinna, who’s feuding with Kathy Hilton amid the RHOBH hiatus, donned a long black dress with a plunging neckline. 

Engaging with her 2.5 million followers on Instagram, Jayne shared photos and wrote in a caption: ‘I had fun last night.’

Hot! Erika wore a long, mock neck bodycon dress with a trendy, nude silhouette graphic design

Hot! Erika wore a long, mock neck bodycon dress with a trendy, nude silhouette graphic design

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