Anya Chalotra

The actress discusses reconnecting with her inner child and submerging herself into the fantasy world of The Witcher, all while test-driving the new horizons of the Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses.

Originally from Wolverhampton, British-Indian actress Anya Chalotra admits that while she didn’t hail from an “arty family”, her upbringing was the driving factor which led to her choice of career; namely, growing up in a diverse household instilled an early fascination with exploring the inner worlds of others. Now 25, she gained her grounding in the craft by way of training at LAMDA and Guildhall, before launching a career in theatre at The Globe and Royal National Theatre. Television naturally beckoned from there, with Chalotra bagging a leading role in BBC One’s Wanderlust (alongside Toni Collette, no less) in 2018 – but her big break came when she was cast as sorceress Yennefer of Vengerberg in Netflix fantasy series The Witcher, based on the bestselling books by Andrzej Sapkowski and their cult video game counterparts. With an in-built fanbase, the stakes were high for a relative newcomer like Chalotra, but her stellar performance, truly immersing herself in the world of monsters and magic, quickly proved naysayers wrong when the series landed in December 2019. As she gears up for the release of the second season, she talks HUNGER through her journey so far.

Megan Wallace: As a first fundamental question, how did you get into acting – what sparked that passion for you?

Anya Chalotra: I was just intrigued by people and I wanted to jump into other people’s lives. I grew up in a home that was heavily influenced by my Indian culture, so I wanted to see what it was like in other people’s worlds and cultures. It was people, really, that drew me to it and just being a curious child.

MW: Looking back at that curious child from today’s vantage point, do you keep some of that wonder and joy in your work? It sounds like your career might be quite connected to your inner child.

AC: That’s why I love what I do, because it gives you permission to be a child. [When acting] you’re only going to get the best out of you, [especially] if you submit to that inner child inside yourself and let them do the talking, because you’re limitless then.

Anya wears RAY-BAN STORIES Round, and shirt by LOUIS VUITTON.
Anya wears RAY-BAN STORIES Meteor, dress by MIU MIU, earrings by JESSICA McCORMACK and ring by MINKA.

MW: And what attracts you to the different roles that you’ve done so far?

AC: I’m most interested in that internal battle that goes on in people and figuring out what characters are about in the deepest sense. I’m not in a position where I can pick and choose the roles that I want to do in the freest way, but luckily I get quite an array of different characters.

MW: Let’s talk about The Witcher, which may be your most high profile project to date. It’s such a unique series to sign onto, because it has such a massive in- built fan base due to being a book and video game series before being adapted for television. For you, did that expectation come with any trepidation or challenges?

AC: Before I auditioned, I didn’t know of The Witcher and I never really looked into how big it was until I got cast, when I realised from the initial response just how important this was to so many people. I definitely got a lot of people telling me how they’d like my character Yennefer to be. So the most important thing for me was focusing on the work, that’s all I could trust. It wasn’t only the character, but doing a TV job for eight months, and sustaining a character like that, on film, which I’d never done.

MW: You say that people had fixed ideas of what your character would be like, what sort of form did that take?

AC: First of all, I’m an Indian actress playing a character who so many people saw as a white woman. That was probably the biggest challenge, but also you’ve got to take the positive. So many people love this character. She’s so brilliantly written [in the books], and even more so in our scripts [for television] because we look at her backstory, and go deeper into why she presents such a cold exterior.

Anya wears RAY-BAN STORIES Wayfarer, jacket and shirt by GUCCI, earrings, necklace and ring by COMPLETED WORKS.
Anya wears RAY-BAN STORIES Wayfarer, dress by JW ANDERSON and earrings STYLIST’S OWN.

MW: How does it feel to be playing such a layered female character? I know in the past, that there might not have been so much effort channelled into drawing out the depth in a character like this, particularly in the fantasy genre.

AC: It’s just normal, it’s how it should be. With fantasy, women characters just didn’t get enough of a story previously but they’re still brilliant characters even though a lot of their life may not be shown on screen. The privilege that I have with the writing in The Witcher, is that all of that is shown on screen with Yennefer and so I get to play out that complexity and the audience get the gift of seeing all of someone, whether that be man or woman. It’s a real gift to play her.

MW: I know that there’s limits to what you can say about this, but what can fans expect for Season 2?

AC: More! It’s difficult to establish so much in one season and bring a new world to our world – I can guarantee that you can sit in Season 2, and just enjoy all the elements that you may have missed in Season 1 while you were trying to take in all that new information. The new season will also be extremely exciting with the magic, new monsters and Yennefer’s journey.

PhotographerRankin using RAY-BAN STORIES, the next generation of smart glasses from Ray-Ban and Facebook
StylistTilly Wheating
Beauty EditorMarco Antonio using DIOR Capture Totale Super Potent Serum and Forever Foundation
WriterMegan Wallace
Hair StylistDayaruchi at The Wall Group using Oribe
ManicuristAMI STREETS using Dior Manicure Collection and Miss Dior Hand Cream ‘Dior Vernis 494 in Junon’
Hair AssistantMelli Cengel
Photography AssistantsManny Owusu-Afram, Doma Dovgialo, Jed Barnes, Chelsea Nawanga
ProducerGrace Finger