Published: Wednesday, 10 November 2021 12:05 | Written by Jamie Ruby
Adapted for television by Rafe Judkins, The Wheel of Time, based on the best-selling fantasy novels by Robert Jordan, is set in a world where magic exists but only women are allowed to wield it. The story follows Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) of the powerful Aes Sendai, who goes on a perilous journey with five young men and women from Two Rivers, to determine which one is the prophesied Dragon Reborn who will either save or destroy the world. The series premieres November 19th on Prime Video.
There is a lot of content in the books, so the actors have to strike a balance between looking a head and working moment to moment in the script, according to Josha Stradowski, who stars as Rand, one of the five candidates. “I guess it's trying to find the balance between [it],” said the actor to Jamie Ruby of SciFi Vision during a roundtable interview, “because even if you're far ahead in the books, you just can always use bits and pieces that you find. You just use that as inspiration, and although it might be a little bit farther plot-wise, I think you can still use it. It's just a matter of finding that balance and make sure that it works for you; don't let it confuse you in any way.”
Stradowski told SciFi Vision that he found commonality with his character when it came to the way he views things. “I think, for me, what I appreciate in Rand and [what] was maybe easier to connect with was that he really appreciates a life in nature and a more simple life. Which doesn't mean that it's at the surface or without complexity, but I kind of feel I'm in the same headspace as Rand in that way.”
Marcus Rutherford, who stars as Perrin, another of the potential candidates to become the Dragon Reborn, told the site that he connected to his character as well. “I think there's a thoughtfulness and quite a considered approach that Perrin has to how he goes about things. I think he takes his time and thinks things through, which I think is quite a cool quality to have as a a young person.”
The series already has a huge fan base because of the books, which can be helpful or hinder you. “It helps in a way, and you feel supported,” said Stradowski, “but if you feel too much pressure, then it might intimidate you and kill creativity. So, for me, it was a matter of trying to stay away from that pressure and just really trying to find the essence of what Rand is for me.”
Rutherford agrees. “I think understanding that there's a really passionate fan base there, and that's exciting that it already exists, but also, trusting your instincts, that you got chosen for this part for a reason, and to just carry on with that.”
The actors also had to learn myriad of skills to film the fantasy series, according to Rutherford. “I think learning so many skills, all the combat training, sword fighting or horse riding and all those skills that you have to learn that's quite specific to this kind of genre, I think that for me, was really amazing.”
Stradowski added, that their lives really changed in a positive way from the experience, and it gave them time to bond. “We had like two hours of stunts every day, two hours horse riding every day, archery, a lot of prepping going on that first month. There was chemistry, and we did bond naturally…and we've only grown closer together, I think.”
During the interview the actors also discussed the beautiful locations, some of the challenges they faced because of the pandemic, pranks on set, and much more. Be sure to watch our portion of the interview and read the full transcript below.
Zoom Interview The Wheel of Time Josha Stradowski and Marcus Rutherford
October 6, 2021
QUESTION:I know that this is [your] first time in such a massive fantasy world, so what was the most interesting thing you had to do for the role? JOSHA STRADOWSKI:So many things. MARCUS RUTHERFORD: So many things. I think learning so many skills, all the combat training, sword fighting or horse riding and all those skills that you have to learn that's quite specific to this kind of genre, I think that for me, was really amazing. JOSHA STRADOWSKI:Yeah, I agree. I agree. It's just, it's a hard question. It's a good question, I guess, because it's really everything about it, because it's just one big, amazing experience, and I feel like because of this project, our lives have totally changed, I think. I guess in a way we were [taken] from our lives, or from all different places - Nottingham, Amsterdam, New Zealand, Australia - and we were all put together in Prague to go and do this journey, and it has been really amazing so far. QUESTION: What can you tell me about working together? What were some fun moments, challenging moments, perhaps? If you could tell me what the dynamic was like working together? JOSHA STRADOWSKI:Well, when we first started, we had one month of prep, and I felt like they also set it up in a way that we could have spent time together. So, we had like two hours of stunts every day, two hours horse riding every day, archery, a lot of prepping going on that first month. There was chemistry, and we did bond naturally, and then it has been two years now working together, and we've only grown closer together, I think. QUESTION:This show is just getting so many comparisons to Game of Thrones. Can you think of anything Game of Thrones fans will like or anything they might dislike from Wheel of Time? MARCUS RUTHERFORD:I think in terms of similarities, the world is very, very expansive, maybe even more so in terms of in Robert Jordan's books; there's so many different cultures and so many different landscapes and cities and towns that the characters go to. But I think what's kind of different, is this element of the power balance between the genders and within the magic system, women being the only ones who are allowed access to it. So, I think that's something that's quite refreshing within our series. JOSHA STRADOWSKI: Yeah. SCIFI VISION:With so much content and so many books, how far ahead are you looking as you're portraying these characters? Or you really focusing on it moment by moment in the script? JOSHA STRADOWSKI:I guess it's trying to find the balance between [it], because even if you're far ahead in the books, you just can always use bits and pieces that you find. You just use that as inspiration, and although it might be a little bit farther plot-wise, I think you can still use it. It's just a matter of finding that balance and make sure that it works for you; don't let it confuse you in any way. QUESTION:It's been over two years now. You guys have dealt with COVID; it was a long shoot. How was it coping with the delays and just the shooting schedule of something like this? MARCUS RUTHERFORD: I think, initially, it was quite a long shoot anyway. It was about nine, ten months, so it was quite a big commitment. Then, with COVID, like you said, it went up to two years with two big breaks in the middle. So, I think it's quite hard when you want to carry that momentum through. You're doing a scene, and then you might have to pick it up six months later or something like that. I think, obviously, with the pandemic, regardless of our industry, just globally, it was something that affected everyone. I think the show had to deal with it at the time and had to find ways to work around it. How do you get [an] international cast all back together, and how do you test everyone in a huge crew and a huge production? So, I think going through something like that on a first season definitely made us stronger, and [we] definitely built that bond together. We were checking in on Zooms all together, all around the world. Rosamund was still winning Golden Globes and stuff in the break so that was good for her. But no, it was wicked, man, and definitely it brought us together, for sure. QUESTION:I would like to know, [in] for preparing for your roles, The Wheel of Time already has such a large, decades-old fan base and there's so much in the books, what was the most challenging thing about knowing that this fan base is already here and ready for this show? JOSHA STRADOWSKI: I guess for me…it helps in a way, and you feel supported, but if you feel too much pressure, then it might intimidate you and kill creativity. So, for me, it was a matter of trying to stay away from that pressure and just really trying to find the essence of what Rand is for me. MARCUS RUTHERFORD:Yeah, likewise, really, I think Josha hit the nail on the head. I think understanding that there's a really passionate fan base there, and that's exciting that it already exists, but also, trusting your instincts, that you got chosen for this part for a reason, and to just carry on with that. QUESTION:In adaptations, especially books, there's a lot of inner dialogue, internal monologue that gets lost on the way. So, is there anything you had to do to find that balance between staying true to your character, flaws and everything, but also not having them come across as completely unlikable or unrecognizable to the fans? MARCUS RUTHERFORD:I think the description in the books is quite amazing. You have these point of view chapters of each character. I know for Perrin, especially, a lot of it is that inner monologue; a lot of it is what's going on in his head. So, I think talking to Rafe, how we translate that into the show, we've added different relationships for him and things like that, that helped tell that story. But I think you can still be very subtle with looks and body languages and things like that. So, I think for a character like Perrin, where a lot of it is quite introspective, and where Robert Jordan might write for two chapters about what's going on in his head, if you're very clever about how he looks at things or when he says something or when he doesn't say something, you can translate it into screen in a quite cool, innovative way. JOSHA STRADOWSKI:Yeah. QUESTION:This is a very highly anticipated series…and it's been a long time bringing this series to the screen. Do you have friends who are trying to find out some plot points? Do you have some way to keep some of the plot points and so forth secret during the time that it starts airing? JOSHA STRADOWSKI:It's funny; my best mates in Amsterdam, some of them, they’d actually started reading The Wheel of Timewhen they heard that I [had] got the role, and some of them are quite far, and it's really interesting to talk about it with them…I’m in a fun position, because I am aware of the books; I'm reading them, and I am on set every day. I don't know as much as Rafe, for example, but it's fun, because I have secrets, and I can't give away too much, and that's a nice place to be in. QUESTION:…Marcus, are you a dog person?
MARCUS RUTHERFORD:A dog person? [laughs] You know what? I actually grew up with cats. Not like - it sounds like I was feral; I had a family as well, but I grew up with cats. Then, on this job, obviously, I've had to create a relationship with these dogs, these Czech wolf dogs. Then, ever since then, I'm not gonna lie, I feel like I've got quite a special bond with dogs, because I feel like everyone's out filming on location, and then I go around the back of the studios, and I'm just hanging out with these dogs every day, which is not really a job. I feel like that's a pretty cool thing to do, but, yeah, it's been really handy that I've had these Czech wolf dogs to act with. I'm sure they could have done some kind of CGI thing, but it's really cool. Yeah, you've got the real thing to act with. SCIFI VISION:What part of the characters did you find the easiest to connect with and what part did you find the hardest to connect with? JOSHA STRADOWSKI:I think, for me, what I appreciate in Rand and [what] was maybe easier to connect with was that he really appreciates a life in nature and a more simple life. Which doesn't mean that it's at the surface or without complexity, but I kind of feel I'm in the same headspace as Rand in that way. MARCUS RUTHERFORD:Yeah, I think there's a thoughtfulness and quite a considered approach that Perrin has to how he goes about things. I think he takes his time and thinks things through, which I think is quite a cool quality to have as a a young person. QUESTION:With such a long shoot, and I'm sure there's some tension, but seeing you just in the short time in this interview, you guys have some great chemistry. Were there any pranksters on set, and who broke the tension, or which one was it? JOSHA STRADOWSKI:I think Marcus, and Rafe as well. I feel like Rafe is probably the person that enjoys pranks the most, but they actually pranked me. We were wrapped with [laughs]…shooting, and I shaved my head. All the red hair was gone. Then, we had this dinner to say goodbye to everyone, and I arrived there, and I got this email, and then Rafe [came] up to me, and he said. “You have to shoot tomorrow, because we need some more coverage of the scene you did today.” So, I was like, “Okay.” “But,” he said, “the makeup team, the costume team, everyone has left, so you have to do your own. You have to put on a wig as well, and you have to learn it tonight.” And I just said, “All right,” and I said, “Just give me a minute,” and I walked away. MARCUS RUTHERFORD:His face. He just went off into this room. He just walked into this room by himself. JOSHA STRADOWSKI:I just walked away and I said, “All right, we'll do it tonight.” And then I called my agent and asked him if he could change my flight, because I - MARCUS RUTHERFORD:Yeah, we knew it had gone too far. [laughs] JOSHA STRADOWSKI:I was flying out and then everyone came into the room and said, “What are you doing?” “Well, I'm calling my agent to say that I can't fly out tomorrow.” And then they said, “It's a prank. It's a prank.” They thought I was going to be very angry. MARCUS RUTHERFORD:We were like, he's gone in that room for quite a while and he's talking quite a serious Dutch conversation. We were like, "I think we need to like intervene now before he starts learning how to do his wig. QUESTION:I know that Rafe had spent a lot of time scoping out for location filming, and you can definitely see that in the series. There's a lot of gorgeous, gorgeous shots. Where were you most excited to get to film on location for? MARCUS RUTHERFORD:I think Slovenia was quite breathtaking. We had a few bits in the first block where we're on horseback, and we're constantly on the move, but there was a few particular days where you have the mountains and the clouds above them and then this beautiful turquoise water, and you're riding your horses through it. That, for me, was one where I was just like, “This is insane that we're here.” JOSHA STRADOWSKI:And that's how it is on this show. When we sometimes are allowed to go to another country, if you are on this set, you know that you will see the most beautiful places around. So, you’re better [going] on the Wheel of Time tour than some tourist tour.