Joey Batey is savoring this little break. The 32-year-old actor, just about ready for Season 2 of Netflix’s megahit The Witcher to premiere, has had a busy few months. Not only did he spend a good bit of time in fantasy land alongside a monster-fighting Henry Cavill, but—much like his character, the earworm-manufacturing Jaskier—he works as a musician and music producer. So he’s been busy playing and listening back to the same songs over and over and over again.
Batey has seen his world pick back up since shooting The Witcher; over this past summer he traveled to Canada to film a project for the first time since the pandemic hit, and he’s currently filming a new, non-Witcher project for Netflix. “It’s been surprisingly busy,” he says with a laugh. “We all kind of went from sitting around in our pants for 18 months, and now it’s like the world is playing catch-up. It’s really fun, but I’m pretty much exhausted all the time now.”
With The Witcher Season 2 on the horizon, though, it’s full Witcher mode, and he plays an important role. While Cavill’s brooding Geralt of Rivia gets most of the show’s biggest fight scenes (and anchors much of the action), it’s Jaskier who’s around to make sure the show doesn’t ever get too serious.
When it comes to style, Batey doesn’t relate to the character too much (“Jaskier is way more extroverted than I am,” he says. “He’s way more colorful.”) but he did manage to get his way when it comes to Jaskier’s season 2 attire—a long, swishy coat. Batey consulted with the show’s costume designer, Lucinda Wright, and together the paid came up with a new look for the character: one that even helped Batey crack out of his own shell a little bit. “I threw in my two cents,” he explains. “I mean, she created this completely bonkers, rock ‘n’ roll look that I’m actually a bit of a fan of. It was really joyous to slip into something that was a bit more extroverted.”
We talked to Batey in a bit more depth about his personal style, giving gifts around the holidays, and making Henry Cavill crack up on the set of The Witcher.
What was the experience on Season 2 of The Witcher like?
In an odd sort of way, not a lot changed for me. Yeah, I’d go to my local grocery store and people would start singing songs to me from the show. But then the pandemic hit, and I didn’t really see anyone, and I was just in my apartment for most of that time.
Shooting the show was really challenging, but I’m so grateful and very lucky to have been working at all. I think we were the only show shooting in the UK, and it was thanks to our amazing Covid protocol team that we were able to shoot safely. But it was a little strange.
There were moments when you see your colleague on the set, and as soon as the scene is wrapped, or the camera is turning around, you’re kind of whisked off to your own little corner, so that you’re constantly isolating throughout the day anyway. So, it did feel a little bit distant. We were all constantly WhatsApping each other from next door, just being like ‘Hey, what are you up to?’
I don’t think any of us were expecting the show to last that long. I mean, it was a year and a half or two years to shoot, including post and pre-production. So, it felt like a bit of a marathon, but hopefully one that’s going to be worth it—a little bit darker, a little bit stranger.
Do you have a favorite memory of working with Henry Cavill this time around?
[LAUGHING] I think I’m a bad influence on him sometimes. I like to take the script for a walk, and the problem is that if I make him laugh, he does get his revenge. He’s so professional, and so hard working, no one really sees how hard he works. His schedule is insane, and he’s basically a professional athlete on top of being a consummately brilliant actor.
So, there are moments—which I think are actually in the cut—where you can see him turning away from the camera, so we can’t see his face. And he’s Geralt, and then he’ll just turn to me, and suddenly he’s Henry, and will pull a dumb face and try to make me laugh.
There’s a number of moments where you’ll probably see me trying to keep it together, but it was really nice to go see the gang, really, after such a long time, and see how these characters are growing and progressing. I think it’s going to be worth the wait.
Is there a song in Season 2 that’s anywhere close to as catchy as “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher”?
I don’t know about ‘catchy.’ Joe Trapanese, our wonderful composer for Season 2, and I worked on the songs throughout the pandemic. This is like the difficult second album. He’s gone a little bit more rock ‘n roll. It’s about storytelling, but it’s also about Jaskier’s own expression, and his own artistic ideals. I don’t know if it’s going to be catchy, but I think it tells the story.
Like Bob Dylan plugging his guitar in.
Exactly! Yeah. Exactly—this is his guitar plug moment.
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Let’s switch gears a bit to some style talk. What are your favorite clothing brands? Any thing you see and find yourself gravitating towards?
Not really, because I tend to shop at vintage stores, and charity shops or thrift shops. Mostly because sustainability is quite important to me, but also a friend of mine described my fashion sense as ‘It’s like you’re a time-traveler, trying in vain to fit in with whatever era you’ve just landed in. To varying degrees of success.’ So, I love hunting around trying to find those really small corners of the world, and waistcoats, and boots, and long coats, and things with a little bit of history and a little bit of a story to them. That tends to be where I gravitate to.
How would you describe your personal style?
It’s like if someone told Johnny Depp to calm down. [LAUGHING]
Any specific character? Or just the guy himself?
Sure. The whole canon.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever gotten?
My sisters and I, we weren’t necessarily from the richest of backgrounds. So, quite often for Christmas, and birthdays, and stuff, we would write each other songs, and record audiobooks of our favorite childhood books and stuff. So, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, or Alice in Wonderland.
And they, for me, are the most treasured gifts, not only that I’ve given, but that I’ve received, because I like gifts that people have created or made, rather than splashing out on some…obviously if someone wants to throw lots of money at me, I’m obviously very happy. But I treasure those sort of moments in time that I capture on recording or in an old cassette player or something. And I keep them in a shoebox under my bed, and when the days are long, and I just need a bit of a pick-me-up at the end of a long day, then I pop them on and remind myself of where I came from, and what’s important really.
Do you have a favorite that you’ve ever given?
I think I did the entirety of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy stage play for my sister, and did all the voices. And all the aliens, and all the robots. That took me a good couple of days, but you can hear in the recording steadily when I’ve been enjoying a glass of wine while I’ve been doing it, because the voices get steadily worse and worse.
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