Video Interview: Madeleine Madden & Zoë Robins Talk Wheel of Time, Now on Prime Video

The Wheel of TimeToday, one of the most popular epic fantasy series, The Wheel of Time, comes to Prime. Set in a world where only women are allowed to perform magic, Moraine (Rosamund Pike) of the powerful Aes Sedai travels to the small town of Two Rivers in search of the Dragon Reborn, who legend says will either save or destroy the world. There, she starts a dangerous journey with five candidates of the prophecy.

With the book series being so popular, fans, of course, have their own expectations of what the characters have been like. Madeleine Madden, who plays Egwene, one of the candidates, told SciFi Vision during a roundtable interview that regardless, the fan base has been a positive. “Of course, the series has a very passionate and loyal fan base,” said Madden, “which has really embraced us, and…we have used [it] multiple times as a wonderful resource to help us with our characters or with the story in general. Of course, people have expectations in their heads, and they're very loved characters, but, we, from my point of view, have been very embraced by the community. I think people are just very excited for this show to finally be made and to be on our screens so soon. So, it's been a real joy for us, and I know I can speak for all of the actors that have worked on this, have worked their butts off and given it their all. So, I think people will be really happy with [our] portrayal of these characters.”

Madden told journalists that Egwene is a privilege to play. “I got my my audition to play Egwene, and I had three scenes that were incredibly different. One showed her more softer romantic side, one showed her more eager, determined to learn side, and then one her really strong, steely side, and I just thought, ‘Wow, this is a really fleshed out character and a really strong woman that it would be an honor to play.’

The Wheel of TimeZoë Robins, who plays Nynaeve, another character with the potential to be the Dragon Reborn, hadn’t heard of the series when she first got the audition, but told journalists that she was drawn to the character because of her relatable emotions. “I think with Nynaeve, how bold she is with her emotions is something that's really refreshing. I mean, as an actor, as Zoë, she's been quite therapeutic for me to play, because [of] the way she accesses certain emotions like anger. I think, for a lot of us, going throughout our daily lives in society, we suppress a lot to just make it easier for one another, but anger is something that's very…therapeutic and I think needed. And for Nynaeve, there're a lot of other things going on underneath that makes her anger, so that's been a joy to explore. These characters are not one dimensional; they’re very fleshed out, very complex, very real, and truthful to human nature, and I think that's what makes them so relatable.”

With so much source material available, trying to stay present in the moment as opposed to looking ahead does help break down the dense story, according to Madden. “I think, for us, we have shared how our process is quite similar of just trying to stay present in the moment with our characters and where they are. Obviously, we are aware of, I guess, the major moments that happen in the future for our characters and their arc, but when it came to the books, following it as we went along in the series was helpful, because it is such a dense world and so many characters come in, and it is so dramatic. It is easy to kind of get distracted or caught off guard with what might be happening for your character in the future...[P]ersonally, for me, I found it the most useful for my portrayal to just stay with Egwene in the moment with where we are in the series.”

For more from the two actresses about working on the new series, be sure to watch our portion of the interview and read the full transcript below.




Zoom Interview
The Wheel of Time
Madeleine Madden and Zoë Robins

October 6, 2021

QUESTION:
   
…Madeline, I know that your character can be a little bit of a polarizing one within the fandom, and it's like a decade's old fandom. So, what was it specifically about her that kind of drew you to the role?

MADELEINE MADDEN:   
I think Egwene is just honestly a privilege to play. I'll start from the very beginning. The year was 2019, but I got my my audition to play Egwene, and I had three scenes that were incredibly different. One showed her more softer romantic side, one showed her more eager, determined to learn side, and then one her really strong, steely side, and I just thought, “Wow, this is a really fleshed out character and a really strong woman that it would be an honor to play.” I am aware that in the fandom, you either love her or hate her, but I think she's quite misunderstood. She really is the author of her own story, and she is very independent and determined and feels like she's destined for something bigger than what is in the Two Rivers. I think in The Wheel of Time world, a woman going after what she wants isn't something that is radical. She's definitely breaking social constructs and isn't conforming to the social norms. In our world, there is a matriarchal society, and if you want to go off and be your own independent woman, then that's fine. There's nothing wrong with that. So, I think in our adaptation, we will see her, I guess, struggle with this choice a bit more. It's a bit harder for her to leave the Two Rivers then it is in the books.

QUESTION:   
I love that this series is helmed by women; women drive the story. There are so many strong female characters, and the the main star of it is a producer, is a woman; it's incredible. I wanted to know what your thoughts were in being involved in such a female empowered series and what that feels like?

ZOË ROBINS:   
Yeah, I mean, it's wonderful. It's refreshing, I think, what people will see on screen, I think you feel it. For me, personally, the strongest people in my life who I know are women. So, to be able to look around on set and see these incredible actresses and equally amazing roles with such power is - I've had a lot of overwhelming moments. I think what I feel about The Wheel of Time world is that it's not forced, this equality between men and women, and the balance and the theme of us recognizing how much we need and depend on each other is really beautiful and different. What we've made is something really quite special.

Madeleine MaddenQUESTION:   
[Zoë], I feel like just having seen the first few [episodes], Nynaeve is my favorite character from the jump, especially compared to the book version of her, and I was wondering if there were any particular conscious choices you made to kind of make her that way or if it just worked out that way. I also wanted to ask if you're prepared for all the braid tugging jokes.

ZOË ROBINS:   
I've already seen them; I already know all about “tug that braid…” [laughs] Honestly, it wasn't much of a struggle for me. I mean, I first approached Nynaeve through the internet. There's so [many] fan videos and articles and blogs about the world of The Wheel of Time, but in particular Nynaeve and what makes her tick and what people first thought of her on the first read and the second read and how it changed and shifted. As an actress, everything was on the page, and if there was anything that I wanted more information about, I could go to Rafe, who was an expert of all things, but, honestly, the way that the scripts are written, I don't have to reach for much.

SCIFI VISION:   
With the book series being so popular, were you guys worried? Or did you get pressure to do it a certain way, because people have expectations already?

MADELEINE MADDEN:   
Of course, the series has a very passionate and loyal fan base, which has really embraced us, and like Zoë said, we have used [it] multiple times as a wonderful resource to help us with our characters or with the story in general. Of course, people have expectations in their heads, and they're very loved characters, but, we, from my point of view, have been very embraced by the community. I think people are just very excited for this show to finally be made and to be on our screens so soon. So, it's been a real joy for us, and I know I can speak for all of the actors that have worked on this, have worked their butts off and given it their all. So, I think people will be really happy with [our] portrayal of these characters.

QUESTION:   
How familiar were you with the series beforehand, and when you were given a script or the characterizations, what really drew you to the series?

ZOË ROBINS:   
For me, personally, I had not heard of The Wheel of Time before I got the audition in my emails [laughs] and it was a bit of a shock, honestly, to read [that] ninety million books sold worldwide, because it made me feel like I know nothing about [any]thing. [laughs]

MADELEINE MADDEN:   
I felt like I was living under a rock as well. I was like, “Where have I been?” [laughs]

ZOË ROBINS:   
Sorry, what was the second question?

QUESTION:   
What drew you to the characters once you were given the scripts [or] the characterizations?

Zoë RobinsZOË ROBINS:   
I think with Nynaeve, how bold she is with her emotions is something that's really refreshing. I mean, as an actor, as Zoë, she's been quite therapeutic for me to play, because [of] the way she accesses certain emotions like anger. I think, for a lot of us, going throughout our daily lives in society, we suppress a lot to just make it easier for one another, but anger is something that's very, I don't know, very therapeutic and I think needed. And for Nynaeve, there're a lot of other things going on underneath that makes her anger, so that's been a joy to explore. These characters are not one dimensional; they’re very fleshed out, very complex, very real, and truthful to human nature, and I think that's what makes them so relatable.

QUESTION:   
As cast members, how far ahead are you thinking when it comes to the portrayal of your characters, because you have the whole fourteen arc series to kind of pull from. Are you trying to think ahead and plan ahead? Are you really just trying to stay in the moment and hold on to the emotion that you have right now and what you're filming?

MADELEINE MADDEN:   
I mean, you hit the nail on the head there. I think, for us, we have shared how our process is quite similar of just trying to stay present in the moment with our characters and where they are. Obviously, we are aware of, I guess, the major moments that happen in the future for our characters and their arc, but when it came to the books, following it as we went along in the series was helpful, because it is such a dense world and so many characters come in, and it is so dramatic. It is easy to kind of get distracted or caught off guard with what might be happening for your character in the future. I know Josha has just powered through them, left us in the dust. So, everyone has a different process, but I think, personally, for me, I found it the most useful for my portrayal to just stay with Egwene in the moment with where we are in the series.

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