April 6-7, 2024
All interviews in this article were completed ahead of the WGA & SAG-AFTRA strikes
In 2021 audiences finally got to see the expansive fantasy world of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time come to life in Prime Video’s ambitious television adaptation. Featuring a supremely talented cast led by Gone Girl’s Rosamund Pike, and featuring the likes of rising Aussie star Madeleine Madden, The Wheel of Time season 2 picks up after Josha Stradowski’s Rand al’Thor has been revealed as the prophesied Dragon Reborn, a mythical figure destined to either save or break the world in its entirety.
Earlier this year we caught up with the cast of Amazon’s ongoing fantasy epic about what fans might expect going forward, ahead of the new season’s upcoming release on Prime Video.
“I think that isolation is a real theme in this season,” says Madden, for whom season 2 will see her character Egwene set out for the White Tower and begin to learn the magical ways of the Aes Sedai. “We find each and every one of our heroes sort of struggling with their own isolation. Whether it be the circumstances that they’re in or a bit of a hangover from season 1.
“I think what we explore as well in this season is the concept of power,” she explains, “and how power can morally corrupt people and poison institutions and affect the influence that they have. I feel like in season 1, we really saw the contrast of good and bad, light versus dark, and in this season it’s a bit more grey.”
While fans of the original books have long petitioned to see Jordan’s work brought to life on screen, many considered the sheer scale of the world far too detailed to be given its proper dues. It was certainly a challenge for many involved in the production’s development, but one which helps to set the series apart from many of its contemporaries.
As Perrin actor Marcus Rutherford explains, “I think the world’s just so expansive. I think when I read the books and I think even doing season 3 now, there’s just so many new characters and cultures that keep coming in with different looks. And I think that the hair and makeup and costume team, they’ve done justice to all these new and crazy [looks].
“I mean, they’re probably pulling their hair out because they have to constantly bring in new people every episode,” Rutherford elaborates. “I haven’t read something or seen a fantasy series where there’s so many different kinds of cultures and it expands so many different kinds of Ages.
“I’ve grown up watching fantasy,” he continues, “and I didn’t see sort of cast that sort of looked like me. I loved Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, they’re incredible but I think it really embraces how different and diverse the books are, and I think as the seasons go on, I think there’s just gonna be something for everyone, really.”
While Wheel of Time season 2 will see many of the characters audiences came to know throughout season 1 follow their own paths, separate from the comfort and security provided by their friends, it will also introduce a number of new faces. Foremost among the series’ latest additions are Ceara Coveney as Lady Elayne Trakand, the daughter-heir to the throne of Andor and White Tower novice, and Dónal Finn who takes over the role of Mat Cauthon from Barney Harris.
Yet despite the daunting prospect of taking over a role that had already been shaped by his season 1 predecessor, Finn admits that stepping into the show was surprisingly easy. “It was a very easy process for us to join,” he reveals. “Because we were stepping into a great team here, you know.”
Finn explains, “My first days on set were with Kate Fleetwood (who plays the Aes Sedai Liandrin) and our director is Thomas Napper and he was a fantastic leader as well. And so, it was a very natural kind of thing to join this team. And also, like there’s a phenomenal amount of work done before you reach the set. So, I think our job is meeting the amount of work that’s [already been] done.”
“Yeah, I’d have to agree,” Coveney adds. “It was actually so easy to kind of walk into this show. I think Elayne particular, she’s kind of making these new friends within the White Tower. So, she’s making friends with Egwene, and in real-time, I was kind of becoming friends with Madeleine Madden and her [with me].”
“I was incredibly lucky to be working with [Madeleine]. She’s incredible at what she does, and she really took me under her wing and showed me the ropes, and made me feel so supported. So, it was a really wonderful experience.”
For Finn, however, his task of taking over as Mat was made infinitely simpler thanks to the extraordinary level of detail contained in Jordan’s original books. “We’re really lucky to have a resource like that,” he reveals. “Because I think so often you read a script, and you are gathering everything that’s in that script in order to form the best picture for your character. But the work of Robert Jordan has immense, minute, fantastic detail and that’s a gift for us.
“Passages that talk about like what Mat has in his pockets,” he explains. “Like on a certain morning or moments in the script – you can find that scene and you can figure out kind of what he’s thinking about between the lines and where something’s intention comes from.”
Yet avid fans of the books will note that the show’s first season deviated slightly from the established story, something which will have a significant impact on Rosamund Pike’s Moiraine Damodred more so than any other character throughout season 2.
“We’ve deviated from the books a little with Moiraine’s storyline at the end of our first season,” Pike explains. “Moiraine appeared to have been what’s called ‘stilled’ (had her powers cut off) by her opponent at the end of episode 8, by who at the end of episode 8 we’re believing as the Dark One.
“But it seems like this was not the last battle,” she says. “It was perhaps just the first of many. So Moiraine, who we’ve loved for her incredible magical powers, her ability to use the One Power that’s now been stripped of her… we have a Moiraine who’s having to be, you know, horribly human, I suppose.”
For Pike, who has also lent her voice to the audiobook recordings of Jordan’s novels, it is a move that was just as surprising for her. “It’s not what I signed up for either,” she states. “So, the fans can be reassured that, you know, I am also in consternation about this because I definitely wanted to play the all-powerful sorceress through every season of the show. I didn’t really want to do battle with human frailties.”
However, Pike maintains that the change has its benefits throughout the show’s second season, particularly when it comes to her character’s relationship with her Warder al’Lan Mandragoran (played by Daniel Henney).
“It allowed Moiraine’s relationship with Lan to develop in very interesting ways,” Pike reveals. “Because without the One Power, you’re also without the bond; this interesting connection that she holds with her warder. So, we get into, you know, tensions and frustrations. It’s a sort of internal betrayal. They both feel lost without their [connection]… so yeah, it gave us a lot of interesting things to explore.”
The one important thing that Prime Video’s Wheel of Time has stayed true to, is the revelation that Rand al’Thor was the one known as the Dragon Reborn. While fans of the books would have known this to be true from the start, the show’s first season intentionally clouded the reveal and even hinted that Zoë Robins’ Nynaeve al’Meara may be the prophesied figure instead. It was a move the actress herself is glad never came to pass.
“I don’t think that Nynaeve could cope with that amount of responsibility,” Robbins explains. “I think she might combust, because she is so concerned about doing right by others. I think that wouldn’t be healthy for her at all. I also think that she might even again go through quite a lot, especially in season 2. I think judging having to deal with all the things that come with being the Dragon Reborn might tip them over the edge a little bit. So, I think it’s a good thing [she wasn’t the Dragon Reborn].”
Set to premiere on September 1, The Wheel of Time season 2 promises a return to one of the most beloved and detailed fantasy worlds ever created. In the meantime, fans can catch up on season 1 with all episodes currently streaming on Prime Video.