With Amazon's Prime Video and showrunner & EP Rafe Judkins' series adaptation of Robert Jordan's "The Wheel of Time" novels hitting streaming screens in nine days, Judkins is taking some time to offer some thoughts & perspectives to Deadline Hollywood on what fans can expect from the first season, Dónal Finn taking over as Mat Cauthon for Season 2, the pressures that come from wanting to get the adaptation right, how long he would like to series run to the story proper, and more. Here are some of the highlights:
On Dónal Finn Taking Over for Barney Harris as Mat Cauthon: While not commenting on the reason or reasons for the change, Judkins continued, "It's always hard but we're really lucky that Barney is so great in the first season; I love him in the show And Dónal Finn, who is playing Mat in Season 2, is amazing. I have seen him up on set doing his scenes now and they're incredible and they fully capture the character. I think it's a testament to this character and how great the character of Mat is that it really feels seamless between the two actors."
On the Pressures of Staying True to Jordan's Novels: "The pressure is unbelievable from all sides at all times. I feel the personal pressure because I love this series. I fought to get it made for TV and that fight was so hard. It's a success we're getting it made but now I face the additional pressure to do everyone proud. So many people love these books so much. And nobody is a tougher critic than my mom. I send the scripts to her to get an opinion and she always tells me the truth. 'You screwed up on this and you gotta fix it.' I tell her, 'Ok, mom. I'm going to fix it.' My mom should get a consulting fee.
I think that's the thing we do, above all else is respect the characters. I love these characters, even the bad guys. So every change that we make in the show, the thing we try never to change is these characters in the core of who they are and the actors captured that so perfectly. If that's the thing that fans are really looking for, I think they will like this show. If they're looking for us to stick to every single detail of the machinations of the plot or the places that they go or the people that they've talked to, they will more likely be disappointed. But if they're looking for us to get these characters to screen, the heart of who they are alive, then I think we're doing that."
Interested in the "Dragon Reborn" Storyline? Just Be Patient…: "One thing we're trying to hide from the audience is who the Dragon Reborn is, it's the mystery of the show as we start to unravel this story. People who have read the books will know, of course. The first book is told from the Dragon Reborn's perspective but the whole book series is an ensemble piece. One of the defining things about the book series is the different POV characters, [which we leaned into]. This show is the first fantasy series to have half of those POVs from women, so this is a really incredible ensemble piece in the way the book series does in its entirety.
For me, I always have to approach it as if we're going to get to tell the whole story that's in the books. If we don't approach it that way, then we'd set ourselves up to not stick the landing and these books have such a good ending. I really need to set us up to get there if we're able to. That's not up to me ultimately. If people watch it and Amazon wants to keep doing more, I'd love to continue to expand this world further."
Judkins Believes WOT Works Better as a Series: Revealing that he sees the series needs eight seasons to tell the story they want to tell, Judkins added, "I think that's probably true. I think 'Wheel of Time' lends itself better to a television series. That's why I think now is the right moment for it to finally exist because people who know that books know it's just a story about the characters and the journeys each of them is on. The amount you'd have to compress it to turn it into a series of movies is too much. It would take away the heart of what's good about it."
In the following previously-released scene, Rand, Perrin, Egwene, and Nynaeve are in the Winespring Inn on a busy night when Moiraine and Lan enter. The crowd quiets as Moiraine asks for supplies and a room. They then begin to whisper after she is recognized as an Aes Sedai by her great serpent ring:
Prime Video's The Wheel of Time stars Rosamund Pike as Moiraine, Josha Stradowski as Rand al'Thor, Marcus Rutherford as Perrin Aybara, Zoë Robins as Nynaeve al'Meara, Barney Harris (Dónal Finn in S02) as Mat Cauthon, Madeleine Madden as Egwene al'Vere, Daniel Henney as Lan Mandragoran, Michael McElhatton as Tam al'Thor, Álvaro Morte as Logain Ablar, Hammed Animashaun as Loial, Alexandre Willaume as Thom Merrilin, Johann Myers as Padan Fain, Jennifer Cheon Garcia as Leane Sharif, Priyanka Bose as Alanna Mosvani, Emmanuel Imani as Ihvon, and Taylor Napier as Maksim.
Lolita Chakrabarti as Marin Al'Vere, Michael Tuahine as Bran Al'Vere, David Sterne as Cenn Buie, Christopher Sciueref as Abell Cauthon, Juliet Howland as Natti Cauthon, Mandi Symonds as Daise Conger, Abdul Salis as Eamon, Stuart Graham as Geofram, Pasha Bocarie as Master Grinwell, Jennifer Preston as Mistress Grinwell, Izuka Hoyle as Dana, Darren Clarke as Basel Gill, Maria Doyle Kennedy as Illa, Narinder Samra as Raen, Daryl McCormack as Aram, Sophie Okonedo as Siuan Sanche, Kae Alexander as Min, Clare Perkins as Kerene, Peter Franzen as Stepin, and Kate Fleetwood as Liandrin have also joined the cast.
Uta Briesewitz (Westworld) is set to direct the first two episodes. Isis Mussenden is attached to the project as costume designer, with Karen E. Goulekas serving as the visual effects supervisor. Amazon's The Wheel of Time is executive produced by showrunner Rafe Judkins (Chuck, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), alongside Rick Selvage and Larry Mondragon of Red Eagle Entertainment, Ted Field and Mike Weber of Radar Pictures, and Darren Lemke. Harriet McDougal serves as a consulting producer. Produced by Sony Pictures Television and Amazon Studios, The Wheel of Time will launch in over 200 countries and territories. Sanaa Hamri (Shameless, Empire) is joining the team as both executive producer & director for Season 2.