Amazon’s forthcoming fantasy series, The Wheel of Time, had an eventful panel at New York Comic Con today. Showrunner Rafe Judkins and castmembers Rosamunde Pike, Daniel Henney, Josha Stradowski, Marcus Rutherford, Zoë Robbins, and Madeleine Madden joined Nerdist’s Amy Ratcliffe to discuss what viewers can expect from the show’s first season, alongside a sneak peek and some exciting casting news for the already greenlit second season.
Judkins was at San Diego Comic-Con over the summer to provide an overview of Amazon’s adaptation of Robert Jordan’s 14-book American fantasy series, but with the premiere just over a month out, NYCC ticket holders were given a much more concrete view. When asked how he tackled adapting such a long-running series, Judkins said it was more about the heart than sticking strictly to every plot point of the books. He wanted to make sure that readers would recognize the series, and that new viewers would be intrigued. “I think if people can just see it up on the screen and feel like at its heart it feels like the books, in that intangible way, then we will have done our job,” he said.
A clip of the show premiered during the panel. Judkins described it as “Moiraine’s first arrival in the Two Rivers. It’s cool because it’s when we get to see all of the lovely people on this panel really interact together and be in the same room for the very first time in the series. So, it’s that moment that kind of activates everything in the Wheel of Time. It’s the moment that these kids who live in this mountain village, their life is never the same from the moment that walks into town. So, this is that moment.”
The clip shows Egwene (Madden) serving drinks at her parents’ inn in the Two Rivers, the village where the book begins. Rand (Stradowski) stands against a wall and watches Egwene, and we see hints of the love story that will be at the center of this first season. Perrin (Rutherford) references some kind of ceremony that Egwene went through earlier, but before the two can get too much further into revealing anything, Moiraine (Pike) and Lan (Henney) make their appearance as Aes Sedai and Warder. We see reactions from the main characters, and it’s Nynaeve (Robbins) who first speaks to Lan – surely exciting readers of the books who know what’s coming for their characters. We even get a very brief glimpse of Barney Harris as Mat Cauthon, despite Harris’ imminent departure from the series, as he’s been recast for the second season.
Watching the clip gave viewers some insight into how quickly the series may be moving, a question that has been raised since the adaptation was announced. Information that was long coming in the books happens near immediately, with the inn’s mistress noticing Moiraine’s Aes Sedai ring on screen.
Judkins talked about how the series will compare to other fantasy stories audiences may already be familiar with. He noted that when the books first released in 1990, they were quite revolutionary, with an ensemble cast, multiple points of view in the narrative, and the fact that the main characters were split between men and women instead of focusing heavily on one gender. He went on to recognize that The Wheel of Time is heavily influenced by eastern philosophies like Hinduism and Buddhism, and that at the end of the day the story isn’t so much a fight over good versus evil as it is an attempt to restore a sense of balance to the world.
The entire cast has been reading the series — with Stradowski being the furthest along, having made it all the way to the eleventh book — and they’ve been inspired by the intricacies Jordan has given their characters. Every member of the cast does feel fully connected to the character they’re playing on screen.
Despite an introduction in the first book, there was a particular character missing from the cast list for season one. Fans will be pleased to learn that they’ll finally be seeing Elayne Trakand, the daughter-heir of Andor, in season two, played by Ceara Coveney (Dad, The Amazing World of Emma). Judkins also announced that actors Natasha O’Keefe (Peaky Blinders, Misfits) and Meera Syal (The Kumars at No. 42, Broadchurch) will also be joining the cast. While it’s unclear what characters they will be playing, Judkins did hint that they would be playing two of the most important characters in the entire series.
The Wheel of Time premieres Nov. 19 on Amazon.