Published: Friday, 17 December 2021 18:07 | Written by Jamie Ruby
Based on the book series by Robert Jordan, The Wheel of Time is set in a fantastical world where magic exists, but only some can wield it. The story follows Moiraine of the Aes Sendai (Rosamund Pike), a group of women who can channel the One Power. With the help of her Warder, Lan (Daniel Henney), she must find the Dragon Reborn, the reincarnation of a channeler who is prophesied to either save the world from the Dark One or destroy it. In the village of Two Rivers, they come across five young men and women, believing one of them of could be the one they are looking for.
In adapting fourteen books into a television series, it’s extremely important to set the right pace and take the right pieces. Executive producers Mike Weber and Marigo Kehoe talked to Jamie Ruby of SciFi Vision during a roundtable about how they decide what to use. According to Weber, “I think it comes out of, what's the best way to tell a story and what's the best way to have a season unfold to the best dramatic effect for an audience that has seen a lot of fantasy,” said Weber. “I mean, there're a lot of shows that have sort of come before this, so it's having it sort of be premium and be excellent for the non-fans and the fans alike. So, choices like that, I think sort of influence what plot was brought up and what characters were made to sort of service that.”
Kehoe talked a bit with the site about how it has to work for both fans of the books and those new to the franchise. “[S]omebody like me," said Kehoe, "who didn't know the books, has been useful in some respects, because now I'm a huge fan; I can say, ‘Okay, I don't understand that mythology. I don't understand; that doesn't make sense to me.’ So, there is a sense check for all the people who love the books and are passionate about them, who we love. There're also the people we need to bring in as well, that they've got the story to follow and understand.”
Kehoe also talked to SciFi Vision a bit about the gender dynamics in the series, which are very important in the books. “I think it's updated. I think it is, but obviously, the core theme of the book series is balance, sort of the balance and imbalance in the world. I think it's updated, but when I read the books, they are pretty up to date. I mean, there's a lot of it that is up to date in terms of the female side of things. I mean, I think we're handling it for a modern audience, I would say.”
For more, be sure to watch our part of the video interview and read the full transcript below. The Wheel of Time is currently streaming on Prime, with the season finale premiering next Friday.
Zoom Interview The Wheel of Time Mike Weber & Marigo Kehoe
October 6, 2021
QUESTION:I love that this is a female empowered series. There's so much driven by the women of the series…So many of the women are the stars of the show [and] are making this show what it is. So, if you could give me your thoughts on that. MARIGO KEHOE:Talking in terms of the actresses on the show or the women behind the camera? QUESTION:Actually, both; I love that. It's a new era for female driven series, and the more the merrier. MARIGO KEHOE:Absolutely, and it's a wonderful show for very strong, powerful female characters, all ages, from very young, very old, and that's been a wonderful casting process. They're all strong, powerful women, which is wonderful as well. And obviously, a lot of women behind the scenes as well, behind Mr. Rafe Judkins, so it helps working with women. Sorry, Mike. [laughs] We like working with Mike too. QUESTION:Especially in fantasy, too. It's really cool. You look at Game of Thrones and The Witcher, and this stands up right with them, and I love that. MARIGO KEHOE:Absolutely, absolutely, and it does make it different in that respect, because the women are in power and ruling the world, but there's also that sense of balance as well. So, the men are there, and there are some great male characters too, but it's just that the women are in charge. QUESTION:As you I'm sure you know, some fantasy fans can be quite vicious, especially when it comes to adaptations, and this is quite a diverse cast. It's really wonderful to finally see that in the fantasy world, but is that something that you guys kind of kept in mind, like maybe receiving a little bit of backlash from that, from certain types of people? MIKE WEBER:I mean, honestly, The Wheel of Time fan community is one of the nicest community of fans I've ever encountered. I mean, we've had nothing but support and just excitement from everything the show's released, from the very beginning. So, yeah, I didn't know what to expect, but it's been an incredible experience, just seeing seeing this fan support from the very beginning. QUESTION:With fourteen or fifteen books to work with, were you more concerned with pacing the show too slowly or pacing it too quickly? MARIGO KEHOE:I think the answer to that is pacing it right. Also we've taken elements of book two and put it in book one but only small amounts. It's making sure that we keep the show running, that it's always exciting, but we're never missing out really key moments. But in eight episodes, obviously there are choices to be made. We can't show everything that is in the books, but I think Rafe is such a fan of the books and [so] great [at] making sure all the time that we're doing the right thing, not only for the fans, but for his integrity to the show and the meaning, where we travel to, who we follow. But the key characters are there, that's what I would say, and obviously, hopefully, we'll go for ten seasons and be able to do all the books. SCIFI VISION:This is actually kind of continuing on with what you were just saying. Can you talk about how you decided what to include for each season and what not to include, if there was kind of a way that you went about it, because there's so much material material? MIKE WEBER:I think it comes out of, what's the best way to tell a story and what's the best way to have a season unfold to the best dramatic effect for an audience that has seen a lot of fantasy. I mean, there're a lot of shows that have sort of come before this, so it's having it sort of be premium and be excellent for the non-fans and the fans alike. So, choices like that, I think sort of influence what plot was brought up and what characters were made to sort of service that. MARIGO KEHOE:Yeah, and we've talked about this before, that somebody like me who didn't know the books has been useful in some respects, because now I'm a huge fan; I can say, “Okay, I don't understand that mythology. I don't understand; that doesn't make sense to me.” So, there is a sense check for all the people who love the books and are passionate about them, who we love. There're also the people we need to bring in as well, that they've got the story to follow and understand. QUESTION:I saw Harriet McDougal is a consultant on the show, Robert [Jordan]’s widow. I was wondering how it was working with her and also what her reaction been to the series so far? MIKE WEBER:She's been wonderful to work with. I mean, she is very supportive and came out to set and had a lovely visit. I wasn’t there for that. MARIGO KEHOE:I was. I've got a photograph with her with the Trollocs. She came with her stepson, and they had a ball. They had an absolute ball. They hadn’t been on a set before, so it's always lovely when you get that, but, obviously, again, she's passionate about the source material and making sure that we don't make any mistakes.
QUESTION:What was the most intimidating thing that you guys found when it came to adapting something so massive? MIKE WEBER:I think, it's the unknown factor of, “how do you how do you satisfy the hardcore fans and also appeal to you the tens of millions of people you need to have watch the show at a show that cost this much money?” I mean, that's that's the big challenge. But I think Rafe was able to do both. I mean, I think he identified what was important to the core fans and, in doing that, I think that sort of love of the material and sort of attention to detail is going to, I think, permeate out to the masses. QUESTION:This is an amazing series; there's so much going on, but if you could pick maybe one or two things, what are you the most proud of, both of you, personally about this series? MARIGO KEHOE:I have to say, watching the first episode and having a reaction from some of our crew who've seen it for the first time, that they absolutely bought into the characters, love the characters, and then you go into that huge battle [laughs] - They were all going, “When's the next episode?” because they haven't seen anymore. So, it's that. If it can do it to [them], and they've obviously worked on the show for a long time, but if we can hook people in, which is what I will be incredibly proud of. That my friends who've never heard of the books, I say, you know, “I've worked on it,” and that will be amazing. Amazing. MIKE WEBER:Yeah, I'm just I'm just proud of the fact that we were able to literally create this world that fans seem to say, “This is exactly how I pictured it.” Even even Brandon Sanderson, when he first saw Rand and Tam (Michael McElhatton)'s house, he said, “This is exactly, almost exactly, how I pictured it for all these years when I when I first read it, like the stairs are over there.” Just seeing people actually say, “Wow, you guys basically made it the way that I read it all these years,” has been really satisfying. And hopefully that will continue once people actually see the show. So yeah. MARIGO KEHOE:Exactly, exactly. I don't want to let anybody down. QUESTION:I actually wanted to ask about Brandon. He's talking about Harriet, but I was wondering if Brandon was on set a lot and was it cool to work with him? Was it kind of nerve wracking to have him there at all? MARIGO KEHOE:He came just the once when we were shooting Taren Ferry, and he was there a couple of nights. We did an epic sort of night shoot, and he was wonderful. I mean, Rafe obviously speaks to him a lot, but my experience with them was just those two nights. And Mike, you probably had more. MIKE WEBER:I first sort of heard from his agent when the show was starting to come together, and we brought him on as a consultant. Rafe got to talk to him a lot in the script development phase, and I think they had a nice relationship that sort of kept on. SCIFI VISION:Gender dynamics are so important in the book series, can you kind of talk about how closely you're sticking with that? MARIGO KEHOE:Sorry, I missed what you said there, the beginning. SCIFI VISION:The gender dynamics, the way they're handled, are you gonna adhere to [the way] they are in the book, or are you changing it kind of to update it for more of the way things are now?
MARIGO KEHOE:I think it's updated. I think it is, but obviously, the core theme of the book series is balance, sort of the balance and imbalance in the world. I think it's updated, but when I read the books, they are pretty up to date. I mean, there's a lot of it that is up to date in terms of the female side of things. I mean, I think we're handling it for a modern audience, I would say. QUESTION:…[This is] probably one of the most diverse casts I've seen, especially in a fantasy series in a while. What were some of the challenges in casting, and who are some of the people that you brought in that really just hit it on the nail from day one?
MIKE WEBER:Well, I mean, the cast that you see in the show, you know, after seeing hundreds and hundreds of different different people and combinations, I think, for all the producers, this combination just clicked in a way that I think was, just again, sort of that “aha” moment when these young actors all sort of came together. Everything just kind of made sense. [laughs] That's it. It was a great feeling.