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Interview with Dónal Finn

Kathy Campbell
  • The charming and iconic Dónal Finn was so wonderful to speak with, clearly excited to chat and discuss his work on Season Two and Three of The Wheel of Time.

When Amazon asks if you want to talk to four cast members from The Wheel of Time on Prime Video, you drop everything and reschedule your day to make ten minutes for each one available. Now that the SAG-AFTRA strike has ended, the media is finally able to communicate with the cast, and it’s been so wonderful. I know how excited the actors have all been to talk with the fans as well!


We were lucky enough to gather together questions to ask Ayoola Smart (Aviendha), Kate Fleetwood (Liandrin Guirale), Marcus Rutherford ( Perrin Aybara), and Dónal Finn (Mat Cauthon).


These interviews will make you want to rewatch all the episodes of Season One and Season Two of The Wheel of Time on Prime Video…I know they did for me.


Dónal Finn was so charming and clearly excited to be a part of The Wheel of Time. Here’s a snippet of our interview with him.


Dragonmount: So as most folks know, productions often do not film in sequence. And you came into Season Two as new to the cast and the crew, but your character had a lot of previous rapport. What was your first day on set like? Did they throw you right into battle scenes or did you get to vibe with Kate Fleetwood hanging out in your cell?


Dónal Finn: I feel really, really lucky about my first days on set because, for me it was chronological and like, that's a bit of a blessing because like you said, it's not always that.


But the first scenes that I shot on set were the first scenes where you are introduced to Mat, and that's in the cell in the White Tower, and it was with Kate. And then with Kae (Alexander, who plays Min). But I think the blessing was, you know, there were scenes that were all happening in one room. And in that case, like I admired her from afar, like as a someone who goes to the theater a lot in London.


And so we and our brilliant director of that block, specifically Tom Napper, said, why don't we, you know, find a space within our studios and maybe just rehearse these scenes? And so we got to kind of imagine them and play the scenes as though, it was as though it was like for a theater. And like, that made me feel really relaxed because I was very familiar with that experience.


And so it did put me at great ease. And I think there was, even though I didn't know Kate before those days, even the fact that I kind of like was such a huge admirer of the work that I'd seen her do and because she's so, so lovely and that quality that she has and Liandrin is like she can just turn on and then switch it off when they say cause.


And so you can have great, great fun with her like on set that always puts us at ease. And Tom is also such a legend and was so accommodating to all of my questions and ideas for the character. Yeah, my…first days on set were like, really, really blissful. Even though, like with this, what's going on for the character in those scenes is not bliss.


DM: This season almost has four different versions of Mat. You have the regular Mat, you have Mat from the Accepted test, you have the Mat high on the Ishy Tea and then Mat after blowing the Horn. How did your preparation for each of those scenes change? 


DF: I feel like there's a, you know, that there's like one Mat that gets just like, pushed into these different situations. So there's kind of a, there's a healthy kind of core understanding of the character. And then you just kind of go, he was in, you know, he's being pushed into this circumstance.


He's been pushed into the challenges facing today with a different kind of approaches. I think all of them were, I think they all evolved like different things. You know, I'm, but I think, you know, Mat, blowing the horn, that felt like there was maybe two things about that that needed specific like time and effort, as in like there's the fight, there's the kind of, there's the language, there's the Old Tongue.


And then, similarly as well, with Mat drinking Ishameal’s tea. It’s kind of getting into the skin of like or what would that be like. What is, what is it like in our, you know, relative worlds and, and what would that be like physically? What would that do to the body and with all their emotions as well, you know?

In the second kind of chapters of Mat that you described, like they're still really challenging and emotional and you know you don't get some of those things for free. And so you're always trying to find a way to imagine, like, what is it like. In my own experience and what's helped me feel that way as well, and I might be, it might be music or might be, you know, it might be if he's in a good mood, it might be just like making sure I'm having like a really nice time on set or enjoying, you know, having fun with the people behind the camera. And just being present to be hopefully being playful with, with the other actor. 


DM: The stunt team at Jordan Studios said that you jumped all in for fighting lessons once you were cast. And they hinted at something I know fans have been desperate to see on screen that might be happening in Season Three.


Obviously, you can't give anything away, but is there a particular skill or trick that you worked really hard for that you can share?


DF: The guys are unbelievable, particularly Andre, who is kind of the, the guy who has taught me from the start. It's like the karate kid you know, like kind of watching him and learning.


I kind of get a buzz every time they go….”so we're going to teach you this.” He might be talking to me, and he'd be spinning the staff around. And I'd say, well, what did you just do there? And he'd say, “That? Yeah. It's just like, we've got the stuff in your hand, Twirl it over here, and then you spin it, as you put it, behind your back, and then you pull it over here.”


And I kind of go, yeah I don't know how to do that. What's that? And then so he'll kind of like, you know, I get a buzz off of learning at all on like, you know, but he, he is so good that I just stand back and watch him and kind of wait for him to do something cool and then say, okay, I don't know how to do that, show me how to do that. 


So I kind of feel sometimes that the tricks are kind of like, you know, a footballer because you go, God, that's like so impressive, but in a battle sense, in the sense of like actually being in a  battle, that's like super impractical, you know? Like, well, how do you have the time to spin it round like your back, you know?


So I think, you know, that speaks to Mat’s character as well, because I think he enjoys being good at this and kind of the flourish of it, you know? I feel so lucky that, you know, practical experience and journey with the show is that I'm learning how to do this, you know?


So, sorry. I don't have a specific move.

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