One of today’s JordanCONline panels, “WoT on Prime,” had a bit of an unexpected visitor when Rafe Judkins himself dropped in to discuss the upcoming television adaptation of The Wheel of Time. (You can view the full panel HERE.) Although there were no new casting releases (sad face), Rafe was able to confirm a few important points and give a look into the process of working on the show.
First, the basics: Rafe was able to confirm that there will be eight episodes in the first season and eight episodes in the second season, and that filming has been completed for the first six episodes of season 1.
Although filming has temporarily halted due to COVID-19, Rafe revealed, in answer to a question from TarValon.Net’s Amyrlin Seat, Shannan Lieb, that the hiatus is being put to good use for the second season. Rafe, who prefers to have all scripts for a given season written before beginning prep for that season, expressed that the ability to put together all eight scripts for season 2 is a “huge gift and a bonus.” He laughingly said that he is still working 12-hour days on the show.
Rafe also shared some behind-the-scenes stories. He revealed that all of the actors have become friends, spending time together even when not filming; they all even go to the same gym in Prague. When asked by panelist Daniel Greene about how the actors are bonding, Rafe shared that the experience of travelling together to Slovenia, where scenes from a couple of episodes were shot, was a huge bonding experience. We even learned that Josha Stradowski (Rand al’Thor), Marcus Rutherford (Perrin Aybara), and Barney Harris (Matrim Cauthon) love mischief almost as much as their characters do: one day, when Madeleine Madden (Egwene al’Vere) and Zoë Robbins (Nynaeve al’Meara) were shooting a scene together, the three boys rented a car and snuck off to explore the countryside.
Rafe also spoke a bit towards his love for the book series. When JordanCon’s Jennifer Liang asked why he was driven to take on such a huge project, Rafe replied that he had a feeling that “I can’t let anyone else do this. […] If someone screws this up I will never forgive myself.” When he learned that the project was coming up, he immediately got in contact to express his vision for the show.
Theoryland.com’s Matt Hatch wanted to know whether Rafe felt a little like Brandon Sanderson did upon taking over completion of the book series, and Rafe confided that he and Brandon have both experienced the “intense desire to do right by this thing that you love” and have felt the “burden of this in the same way.” Rafe emphasized the huge amount of help that it has been to be able to “bounce ideas off” of Brandon. And as to how the show will honour Robert Jordan’s vision, Rafe said that in addition to speaking with Harriet McDougal, Maria Simons, and Brandon, he often turns to interviews and recordings from book signings with Robert Jordan in order to “go back to the words that he [Jordan] said.”
Dragonmount.com’s Adam Whitehead wanted to know about Rafe’s interpretation of gendered magic in The Wheel of Time, and whether Rafe could speak to any of the changes that he’s been making to give a more “modern interpretation” of gender issues. Rafe shared that he feels that “the book series is so much […] about gender and the balance between things,” and that he hopes to emphasize this in the series. While some of the things that might have felt feminist about The Wheel of Time decades ago might no longer feel so, Rafe hopes to hold true to the books’ intention and desire to be feminist.
Rafe also reiterated his commitment to maintaining the core of the book series in the television adaptation, stating that “My job is to protect the spine and heart of what the books are.” He stressed that sometimes, doing this actually requires changing things in order to properly convey them to a new audience, and that although these are “little losses,” it is nonetheless exciting and beautiful when “you see something come together.”
Rafe’s final message to the fans: “I just really hope that everyone enjoys it.”