Season 2 of Amazon’s The Wheel of Time is set to continue the adaption of Robert Jordan’s epic book series, this time diving into events of the second and third books, The Great Hunt and The Dragon Reborn.
The continuation of the fantasy series promises to introduce some major new characters, as well as plenty of deadly new villains. Ahead of Season 2’s premiere on September 1, we spoke to the main cast of the show including Rosamund Pike (Moirane), Josha Stradowski (Rand), Dónal Finn (Matt), Ceara Coveney (Elayne), and Marcus Rutherford (Perrin).
Prior to the SAG strike, CGM gained plenty of insight into what’s changing for each of these characters, the increased scope of Season Two, and what it was like bringing on a new actor for Matt.
In The Great Hunt and The Dragon Reborn, Moiraine doesn’t have quite as big of a role in the books. Is that going to be different in the second season, what kind of a role does she have?
Rosamund Pike: We know that Moraine is the person who set the story off, she’s the stranger who comes to town and takes these five youngsters on this epic journey. I think we know that underpinning the books is Moraine’s commitment to her promise 20 years previously to find the Dragon Reborn and prepare him to face a lost battle.
We know that Rand is the central figure of the books, and Moraine is tethered to him in the story, whether she’s physically present with him or not. So yes, I have less to do in season two. All of us have less to do than we did in season one because we’re making room for new characters, for new Aes Sedai, the Seanchan. We’ve got new villains coming to play, very important new villains that we’re not allowed to talk about. So yes, Moiraine is not a central, to those books, and we’re not trying to make her the dominant figure of seasons two or three.
You recently did the audiobooks for The Wheel of Time. Has that changed how you see this series at all, or changed how you approach Moiraine?
Rosamund Pike: Doing the audiobooks has only enriched my understanding of what Robert Jordan was up to. It’s made me really appreciate, particularly the passages where you’re in the interior world of a character, and you’re doing battle with their belief in who they are and who they want to be, and sort of their destiny as it’s unfolding. The pull of fate versus you know the desire to hold on to who you’ve been and who you are.
I think that’s fantastic, and actually, I’ve said it before, but the Moiraine that I play in the books is slightly different from the Moiraine in the series because she’s written differently. Her rhythms and the way she speaks are different in the books, Rafe [Judkins] and his team have made her a more direct kind of character who’s taking charge of decision-making more. In the book, she’s more cryptic, which allows me to play her slightly differently. The cryptic one is still in my portrayal of Moiraine in the show, but when I have these driving lines, I can’t play exactly the same.
Rand, as he learns more about his role, starts to learn more about the madness, and how that affects men. How have you approached playing Rand with that in mind?
Josha Stradowski: Well, from a young age, he has always heard that if you are a man that can channel you will go mad, and you will kill everyone around you. We’ve seen that in season one with Logain. So it’s something he grew up with, and now he is that man. Not only that, he is The Dragon, so that means that he is the most powerful Channeler in the world. So even if you channel a little bit, it must be so so much to have to feel that kind of power, and it must be overwhelming and very scary, especially if you can’t control it.
So I feel that madness is a very big part of Rand’s life and it is the reason why he left his friends in the first place at the end of season one, to protect them because he knows what his future holds.
At the start of Season Two, you find him in a place where he’s taking care of people who struggle with mental health, and that funnily enough, is a place where he can be himself. I think that also takes a little bit of the fear away from it, and it makes him maybe I think he will remember that character he takes care of forever. That’s why I think season two is very special for Rand because he meets these different kinds of characters very briefly, but it feels like they always stay with him. I feel like those moments are just very important for whatever you asked to face later on, these just sparks of light here and there.
Dónal, what has it been like coming into the show on Season Two? How have you kind of tried to provide your own spin on this character?
Dónal Finn: I feel like I’ve had the experience of being a fan of something that is adapted from a book that I love into something that’s being put on screen. These things happen, you know, actors take over from other actors. The best example that I had is the late great, incredible Richard Harris, who was Dumbledore until Michael Gambon played him.
I think that’s a perfect kind of illustration that there are qualities within that character that spoke to both performances. And yet, there were individual idiosyncrasies, choices, and energies that both of those people brought that also spoke to a cohesion between both performances, but also a difference as well. Me as a fan, I loved it.
So that was something that made me relax about this process of playing the part. But, in a process sense, I just went back to all the resource material that was available to me, which was all of the scripts of season one, and I tried to use them as a backstory, and that was a lucky thing for me to have. This kind of backstory was going to enforce where we were meeting the character and helped me understand the choices that brought him to being in that place.
Then gleaning the source material for all of the opportunities of bringing the quintessential nature of the character. How he relates to objects in the space, what he carries on his person, the stream of consciousness when he’s interacting with other characters. That helped bring something that was undeniably mapped, hopefully, to the performance. I think it speaks to speaks to Matt in Season One and Matt in Season Two, that there are things about him that are undeniably him. It’s kind of exciting that the spirit of this character is so evident, no matter who is playing him.
Matt has this interesting relationship with luck. In this season, how do you portray that on camera?
Dónal Finn: That’s a great question. When I started season two, I don’t feel like I had a lot of luck on my side, just because of the circumstance of the character and where you meet him. I think he’s isolated, he’s remote, and he’s left to dwell in all the decisions and the circumstances that he chose, that got him to this place. So I think it just causes him to be really reflective, and to kind of question how he showed up for people, or maybe didn’t show up for them.
Ultimately that, as well as this friendly but explosive rivalry between him and Liandrin, who is taking care of him, both of those things set about a course for Matt to decide who does he want to be? Is that something that’s written into the pattern? If he makes a choice in his behaviors or his actions is that consequential, or is that a choice that’s mapped out and always led to being the person that he will become?
But I think what that kind of means is that he’s trying to take luck maybe into his own hands. The way I would read luck within that story of season two is the Mark Twain thing of “the harder I work, the luckier I get, like” He’s trying to carve out his own circumstance, and it that way it feels like things are starting to become lucky.
Ceara, Elayne is coming into this story a little later than she does in the books but she’s very much a fan-favorite character. What has it been like playing this character in season two, and how does she kind of integrate with the rest of the cast?
Ceara Coveney: It’s been a real joy to play Elayne this season, as she’s different from the characters we’ve already met. Because she’s been raised so differently because she is the daughter of Andor, and she’s been raised that she was born to one day be queen and to hold the Lion Throne. So she has a very kind of different upbringing.
This season, to have her interacting with these characters and making friends with Nynaeve and Egwene, and perhaps meeting these characters who are as strong-willed and headstrong as she herself is, and coming up against other peers that are as strong as she is, and she comes into these situations where she’s learning so much. Because I think Elayne thinks she knows so much, and she is incredibly knowledgeable about the world around her in the world that one day, she will rule. So to have these women that not only challenge how much she does actually know, but also teach her so much and that she can f build friendships through. It’s been a real joy to play.
Marcus, one of the most interesting things about Perrin is this connection that he has with wolves, and how that kind of animal connection grows across his story. As that starts to increase, how are you approaching playing this character?
Marcus Rutherford: Yeah, it’s interesting, a lot of season two involves working with real animals, which is quite a different thing to be doing. I spoke to Rafe when we first started, and I knew this part of his character, and he wanted that part of it to feel very real, that connection to be as natural as possible.
I think if you CGI those kinds of animals it can look big and scary, but I actually think working with a real animal, you have to have a real connection, you have to establish trust and it has to be able to work with you on set and follow you, and sit down next to you. That established a real connection with the animals that I had to work with, and it meant that a real kind of bond was formed. It’s cool and really different, and I think that challenging aspect of the season was something that correlated with Perrin’sjourney as well.
The Wheel of Time Season Two premieres on September 1, when the first three episodes will be available.