EXCLUSIVE: Basil Eidenbenz (Victoria) will play popular Witcher Eskel in recasting for the second season of Netflix’s hit series The Witcher. Thue Ersted Rasmussen, who had been originally cast in the role heading into Season 2 and filmed scenes in late February and early March before production was shut down due to escalating coronavirus pandemic, announced this week that he had to leave the show “due to the rescheduling because of COVID-19.”
Rasmussen was one of seven new cast members announced by Netflix on Feb. 21 in conjunction with the Season 2 start of production in the U.K. Just three weeks later, The Witcher became the first major TV show filmed in the UK to be grounded by the pandemic. The same day, cast member Kristofer Hivju tested positive for the virus.
The Henry Cavill-headlined fantasy drama, filmed at Arborfield Studios, resumed production on Aug. 17 with Eidenbenz taking over the role of Eskel, a Witcher of the school of the Wolf with strong magic powers.
In his note to fans posted Wednesday, Rasmussen called the decision to exit The Witcher “heartbreaking,” adding, “but I mostly feel happy and grateful for the days I got to spend on the set earlier this year.”
After thanking fans and wishing the show’s team “best of luck with the rest of the production,” Rasmussen concluded, “I’m sure Season 2 will be absolutely amazing, and now I get to watch it as a fan boy instead of as a Witch.”
Eidenbenz, who was one of multiple names floated as a possible replacement following Rasmussen’s announcement by the The Witcher-focused site Radanian Intelligence, has been on set filming major scenes already. The Swiss actor is known for his roles in the UK series Victoria and The Athena and Canada’s X Company.
Produced by Netflix, The Witcher is based on the book series of the same name by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski. They were adapted by Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, who serves as the series’ executive producer and showrunner. Cavil leads the cast as Geralt of Rivia. Anya Chalotra plays sorceress Yennefer, Freya Allan is Ciri and Joey Batey is fan-favourite Jaskier.
The Witcher has been a big breakout for Netflix, with its first season ranking as the streamer’s second most watched series in 2019 only behind Season 3 of mega hit Stranger Things. The success led to Netflix ordering a spinoff series in July.