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INTERVIEW: Cast of THE WHEEL OF TIME discuss first impressions, fantasy worlds, and taking on the series

Who auditioned for what role? What was it like filming on location? The cast answers those questions and more!

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Credit: Prime Video

Long-time fans of Robert Jordan‘s The Wheel of Time series are no doubt eager to see the adaptation of this beloved fantasy series come to life. Based on the first novel of the 14 book series, The Eye of the World, Amazon Prime’s The Wheel of Time, follows the story of five young people who are taken on a journey around the world, one of them fated to be the prophesied savior of the world.

We spoke with four of the leading young actors about their time filming this anticipated series and immersing themselves in the world.

A New (Kind Of) Fantasy World

Those familiar with Jordan’s thirty-year-old series will be well-learned when coming into The Wheel of Time, but for many casual viewers, this series has the benefit of other fantasy properties like Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings to help its introduction. However, speaking with the cast, there were some significant differences that they felt would make the series stand out.

Zoë Robins, who plays the young wisdom Nynaeve al’Maera of the Two Rivers town, said, “I think what makes Wheel of Time stand out is the way it deals with things like the gender dynamics and the themes of balance. I think that’s something that we haven’t seen before on screen, at least not so detailed. What’s been a pleasure to work with is, in The Wheel of Time world, these women are in power and it’s not a big deal, you know what I mean? It’s accepted and it is what it is, rightly so, and that’s been lovely to be a part of as an actor.”

In the world of the series, only women can wield the One Power, which is essentially their magic in the world. Men who are born with the ability are killed due to the fear that the ability will eventually drive them insane.

For Madeleine Madden, who plays Egwene al’Vera, the elements of women championing each other, which is something we see early on in the television series, also makes the series stand out. “It’s not a radical idea that women can be what they want and who they want, and love who they want. Like Zoë said, it’s just the way the world is.”

Josha Stradowski, who plays Rand al’Thor, also noted that it was the culture and relationships between the people of the Two Rivers, the town where all our protagonists come from, that makes it stand out. “The most special to me is the characters, you know? The characters feel real, and human, and I hope that’s something that, {you take that away] from the first episode, that the relationships feel real.”

Marcus Rutherford, who plays Perrin Aybara, added, “I think there’s a character for everyone, that audiences are going to relate to and identify with. The characters are so contrasting in different ways that there’s going to be someone for each audience member to relate to.”

Capturing Beloved Characters

When it came to adapting the story and taking on these beloved characters, Stradowski laid out the timeline. After reading the script came the audition, however, he said, “When we were auditioning for this, we did not know who we were auditioning for. We didn’t have any information really, only that it was The Wheel of Time. So, I guess we all had to go with our intuition and that came quite naturally, I think, with all of us, hopefully.”

After being cast, it was about jumping into the world, which not only meant the script but the immense volumes of the books. Being that the series has been around for so long, the internet was also a wealth of information for the actors.

“We obviously looked up The Wheel of Time and it’s just such an expansive world. You can just get lost on forums and the wiki, you know, which we’ve done,” Madden explained. “We’ve really gone into the internet and that’s been an amazing resource. A lot of the fans have shared their notes and favorite parts of the books, which has been really, really, really incredible for us [to use] as information. So all of it was at our fingertips.”

Then comes the training: horseback riding, sword fighting, archery, stunts. For the Dutch Stradowski, training also came in the form of learning the British accent for his role, a task that he noted was particularly challenging. And then, a ten month stint in Prague where the filming took place.

“The sets and the locations that we get to go on, it’s just like nothing I’ve ever experienced before,” said Robins. “It’s very easy to to get ourselves into a character and into the world and immerse ourselves into the world of Wheel of Time. They definitely make this world to come to life, and I think we will see and feel that on the screen as well.”

Mentors

Alongside an experienced cast, the actors spent much of their time with Rosamund Pike and Daniel Henney who play Moiraine and al’Lan Mandragoran. Moiraine is an Aes Sedai, a powerful organization of women who use magic and operate as a sophisticated influence on the power structures of the world. Lan is Moiraine’s warder, a person who is bonded to their Aes Sedai and acts essentially as a very strong bodyguard and ally.

“I love her nobleness, her determination to do the right thing, always,” said Robins, about Moiraine and Pike. “There is no other Moiraine in my eyes.”

“As a young actor, it’s so amazing to work with such a brilliant actress (Pike)” said Stradowski. “She’s a leader by example, and I look up to her as an actress and as a person. We’ve worked a lot with her, and it’s just an amazing experience that I’m able to learn from her and watch her every day. I think she really brings an intriguing mystery to the character.”

Although Pike is no stranger to big projects, this is her first foray into fantasy. Rutherford revealed that on the first table read, “She kind of turns me like, ‘I’m so nervous. This is quite a big thing for me.’ And instantly, you felt like she was on this journey with us, together. And that kind of camaraderie has not really left. It’s so amazing to have someone there was almost like a mentor, but also you feel is right there beside you, to help you.”

The Way of the World

For these characters out on a journey, sometimes the struggles they faced weren’t purely tied to their character. Rutherford described the chilly conditions of the countryside that they enjoyed during filming. “It got cold. It got very cold at some point. I think filming some scenes outside — it’s amazing to film in the woods, in the wilderness, and its stunning scenery — but for some scenes in the winter, in Prague, it does get quite particularly icy. I think, you [Josha] had a scene, where you were just lying on the floor and it was winter, at night…”

“Raining. Shivering. With not a lot of costume on,” Stradowski confirmed. “But I guess as an actor that’s what you want. These characters go on this journey, and we, as actors, also go on this journey. You know, we have seen all the forest, [and] the countryside of the Czech Republic, and Slovenia, and Croatia. So, that struggle that the characters feel, as an actor, I love it when you have the same.”

Indeed even the audience learns the ways of the world alongside the characters. Although The Wheel of Time has quite a complicated lore and mythology, frequently the reader is as in the dark as the protagonists are. “As these characters go out into the world, the audience is being introduced to all these terms and all these places, but the characters are as well,” Stradowski explained. “So I guess that’s the same. Because they grew up in the Two Rivers, it’s really unknown territory, as it is for the audience.”

Rutherford added, “As the characters are finding out new cultures and new worlds and new languages and things, it probably will seem quite overwhelming, but I think that matches — it feels quite overwhelming in the books when everything’s new. I think it will be quite similar when you’re watching the show, and I think that’s how it is. This world is so expansive, new things are coming in, and this season is basically about establishing as much as possible, really.”

The Wheel of Time will premiere on Prime Video on November 19, 2021.

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