“I definitely have a lot in common with Yennefer of Venberberg,” actress Anya Chalotra says about the fierce, dramatic, and independent sorceress she plays on Netflix’s The Witcher. “She’s definitely informed my world and my choices a lot. She’s made me a lot more confident.”
At the beginning of the first season of the high fantasy series The Witcher, which premiered on Netflix in December 2019 and is based on an action role-playing video game of the same name, Yennefer is introduced as a shy young woman coming from a traumatic childhood that left her with a curved spine and facial paralysis. She then makes a deal with an enchantress who enhances her appearance, but as a result, Yennefer will no longer be able to bear children. Years later, a hardened Yennefer meets Geralt (the titular witcher, played by Henry Cavill). Though they get off to a rough start, the two are drawn to each other. Chalotra acutely describes their deep connection as “animalistic lust.”
In the show’s second season, which drops on the streaming service December 17, Yennefer goes on a more humanizing journey. Like the character, the British actress also has a fraught relationship with the concept of beauty. Below, Chalotra shares her thoughts on Yennefer along with her skincare routine, go-to products, beauty icons, and more.
How has Yennefer changed since we first saw her in season one?
She has changed a lot through season two, for reasons I can’t really disclose. But she becomes less selfish. The people she meets, and therefore the choices she makes, kind of reflect who she is, who she becomes, who she wants to be. She changes a lot for the good, I think.
What draws you to this Yennefer and this world of The Witcher?
What’s going on inside for her, this battle that she has inside her definitely drew me to the character and still draws me to the character. I don’t think that'll ever end. I don’t think that ends in anyone, because the world’s always changing and new things arise from certain different situations, or new situations. That is the core of her. What’s going on inside is definitely the most exciting part, because she’s full of so much emotion. And it’ll be an ongoing journey to unpack that.
A show like The Witcher is a very complicated production. What’s a typical day like on set?
We only knew a Covid set for season two—getting in and doing your test and waiting in your trailer until you got the results and then going to hair and makeup. I’d come back from hair and makeup, and usually have my breakfast. I usually have porridge. Then, I would get into my costume, and I’d get my 10-minute call to go on set.
As an actress, you’re used to getting your makeup done by professionals, but have you learned anything from any makeup artists just from being in the chair?
I’ve just learned what I believe suits me, and what I believe enhances my features and what doesn't. I prefer less makeup. I’ve always known that, but I’ve always wanted to potentially experiment with lipstick or eye shadow, because you see people experiment on the red carpet. But I experiment less with my makeup. For me, I feel most beautiful without everything. It’s got to be defined eyebrows and glow-y skin.
Do you have a skincare routine?
I usually have a cold shower, then put coconut oil all over my skin, on my body, which is just like the cheap, supermarket coconut oil. I use a product called The Pill from a brand called The Nue. It's a supplement for your skin. I use that on my skin first and then I’ll use a rose hemp oil after. Oils are my best beauty product.
You don't wear much makeup, but are there any beauty products you swear by?
The eyebrow pencil I use is Kevyn Aucoin in the dark brunette shade. I use that, and then I use the Anastasia clear eyebrow gel.
Do you have any celebrity beauty icons?
My fashion icon would probably be Kate Moss. My beauty icon right now is Zoë Kravitz. I also love Thandiwe Newton. I love Penélope Cruz as well. It would be Zoë Kravitz in terms of her overall essence.
All three of those women share an aesthetic: they’re all about natural beauty.
They’re all beautiful women, but they just know how to glow in a really beautiful way. I love it. I love keeping up to date with what Zoë Kravitz is doing. You know?
What’s your go-to beauty look for a night out? If you’re going to a red carpet event or something, what would be the kind of look that you want to go for?
Dewy, glow-y, au naturel, defined. I think that would be my look. Something that enhances me, that makes me feel good, makes me feel beautiful.
Has there ever been an occasion where you get your makeup done and you just don’t really like it?
Yes. Many, many times. You know what? It was probably my first Witcher press tour. It wasn’t to do with anyone else. There was so much press, and we had so many different people working with us with our looks, I suppose, that I couldn’t find myself within all the looks because there was so much, and I had never had to do that before. I just felt a little bit suffocated in the makeup and everything else.
Do you have a favorite form of self-care, whether it’s related to beauty or not?
Any form of self-care? Yes, I do. My form of self-care would either be making some sweet treats in the kitchen, or laying down listening to Max Richter. I’m not joking. It would be that, or exercise. I do a lot of exercise. I love it. It just gets me out of my head and gets me into my body, in a way that nothing else will.