The debut season of Amazon’s adaptation of The Wheel Of Time was one of the most hotly anticipated television events of recent years.
Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson’s beloved fantasy series – which comprises 14 books and a prequel – has sold more than 90 million copies worldwide, making it one of the most popular entries to the genre of the last 50 years.
The series follows Moiraine (Rosamund Pike), a member of the magical organisation Aes Sedai, who goes on a journey with five young villagers from the remote and recently ravaged Two Rivers.
She believes that one of her companions is the reincarnation of the Dragon, a powerful channeler, who previously nearly destroyed the world. The problem for Moiraine, though, is that she doesn’t know whether the reborn dragon will save the world from a primordial evil called the Dark One, or try to break it again.
While there were some inconsistent elements of The Wheel Of Time’s eight-episode-long opening season, most critics and viewers were impressed by its epic storytelling and heartfelt characterisation. Daniel Henney, who plays Moiraine’s Warder and companion Lan Mandragoran, is the first to admit that there were plenty of lessons to learn from the first batch of episodes.
“Anytime you’re shooting the first season of a big series, mistakes will be made and things will be learnt. You’re trying to figure out the tone, the look and how people are going to react,” Henney tells The National over Zoom. “There's a lot of nervous energy. Especially with a show like ours because of the massive fan base and expectations.”
Henney, who has previously appeared in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, My Lovely Sam Soon, Hawaii Five-O and Criminal Minds, says that the first season was particularly hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic. He also teased some other issues that blighted production but didn’t go into detail.
“We had some pretty difficult internal stuff that happened on the show. Some changes in the storylines were forced. But that was a moment we had to get through.”
The Wheel Of Time’s cast and crew’s resilience during these tough moments was truly felt when they started work on season two. “I think we had all matured. Pacing and tone-wise, this is where we want the show to be. It’s very different compared to season one, and we’re now moving forward in the direction we want to be," says Henney.
Such complications are understandable when you consider the size of The Wheel Of Time’s production. Not only are there hundreds and possibly even thousands of actors and crew members working tirelessly to bring Jordan’s books to life, but Amazon executives and studio heads also oversee and approve every aspect of filming.
“That’s a lot of different people talking about where you’re going to land. Now we’re in a place where we’ve caught our rhythm. The show is a little darker, the characters are breathing more, the conversations are longer, and it feels more like a classic fantasy. Season two is a lot more free flowing,” he said.
Henney spent most of pre-production on season one reading the books and making sure he knew every aspect of The Wheel Of Time’s vocabulary, stories and characters. Ahead of season two, he was able to feel less anxious about his performance.
“You can see that everyone has kind of collectively just relaxed.”
This time around, because of his extensive preparation ahead of season one, he was more prepared for his fight sequences, especially when it came to using Lan’s katana sword.
“I have a solid foundation now for the action scenes. I can spend a week working on that, rather than a month. Because of the battles and experiences we went through on season one, I felt I had the emotion and psychology of the character ingrained, too," he says.
It also helps that Henney’s sparring partner on screen is the Oscar-nominated Pike, who he admits is the “the best actor that he’s ever” worked with.
“She’s underrated in so many ways. She’s just perpetually curious about everything in life. She’s so dedicated. She wants to rehearse endlessly and tries to find the truth in every scene," he says. "She’s going to do what she wants to do and is unapologetic about that. Which I love about her. She’s such a great person to lean on.”
Henney hopes that the dedication and enthusiasm that he, Pike and the other cast and crew have for The Wheel Of Time can be felt by viewers.
“It’s already been four years working on the show, and I’ve enjoyed it so much. I hope people see our love for the books and the show and how much we’re putting into making the characters feel real,” he says. “I’m so excited for people to see the performances and these moments. Hopefully the show can keep going.”
The Wheel Of Time season two was released on Amazon Prime on Friday