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Werthead

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  1. With regard to the glossary, I think the thinking was that having the "very end of the Wheel of Time" followed by the glossary would feel a bit anticlimactic, and they knew the super-glossary was coming out in the form of the companion so they felt able to skip it in the final book.
  2. Adam Whitehead is Dragonmount's TV blogger. Adam has been writing about film and television, The Wheel of Time, and other genre fiction for over fifteen years. Be sure to check out his websites, The Wertzone and Atlas of Ice and Fire (including The Wheel of Time Atlas!) as well as his Patreon. With Wheel of Time production suspended – along with almost every other TV show and film on the planet – I was thinking it might be some time before we got more solid news on the series. However, showrunner Rafe Judkins surprised everyone by hosting a Q&A yesterday on his Instagram feed. There was a lot of exciting information to learn here, so let’s get to the salient points. There is no connection at all between the current series and the 2015 Winter Dragon pilot from Red Eagle. Confirming what we’ve previously reported, Season 1 will consist of eight episodes. At the time of the shutdown, production was completed on episodes 1-4, they were still shooting episodes 5-6 and prepping episodes 7-8, whilst writing Season 2. Post-production is continuing remotely, with Rafe currently approving vfx shots and editing from home. One of the first challenges they found was that Mat and Rand visit 20 villages and cities in The Eye of the World including Emond’s Field, Taren Ferry, Baerlon, Shadar Logoth, Whitebridge, Arien, Four Kings, Market Sheran, Carysford, Breen’s Spring, Caemlyn and Fal Dara, plus lots of unnamed ones. Doing this on the show would be impossible, so they have condensed the trip along the Caemlyn Road in particular. “Honey in the Tea” (Chapter 24 of Knife of Dreams, about Egwene in the White Tower) is one of Rafe’s favourite chapters of the entire saga. Elayne, Aviendha and Min are three of Rafe’s favourite characters. They will not be combined. Min will appear in Season 1, but Rafe did not comment on Elayne. Sometimes very minor characters will be folded into a more major one to make better use of the cast, but there will be no “nutso” combinations for the sake of it. “New” characters will be few and far between, and will be inspired by characters in the books or a number of characters combined. The production cannot cast every named or appearing character from the books because then they’d only be able to afford “a radio play.” As well as main composer David Buckley, there will be “musical guests” on the show. Actors are speaking the Old Tongue where required. Lord Captain Geofram Bornhald is in Season 1 but his actor has not yet been confirmed. He has what Rafe describes as his “favourite costume” on the show. Rafe has been spending “more time” with Ishamael in the writing process. His favourite Forsaken are Graendal, Lanfear and Moghedien. Rafe has had to make some “painful” cuts. The visual effects (vfx) team has spent a lot of time on channelling and how it looks. The early work looks “awesome” so far and Rafe screamed when seeing Moiraine channel on screen for the first time. The show will have a fair bit of CGI but they are trying to do as much as possible in-camera. An Aiel will appear in Season 1, and the one in question will “shock” audiences. Rafe wants tall actors for Aiel but has noted that acting ability will always be the first priority. The show has a real sword master who handles the weapons and training. There are actually two horses playing Bela, one trained to pull a cart and one for riding by herself. Mandarb and Aldieb also have their own horse actors. When asked if we will “see the prologue from The Eye of the World on screen in Season 1,” Rafe replied that we “will hear that phrase.” Fal Dara is Rafe’s favourite set in Season 1 and the Great Serpent Rings are his favourite props. Narg has not been cut. Harriet McDougal (Robert Jordan’s widow and literary executor) has visited the set in Prague, read all the scripts and provided notes when she felt the script was moving too far away from the books. Rafe is a fan of Brandon Sanderson’s work, including both the Mistborn and Stormlight Archive series. Brandon has read all the scripts, provided notes and consulted on the project. Rafe would have him do more, but Brandon is busy with his own projects. Loial will be presented properly as an Ogier, and will be not made more human looking for practical reasons. The show is making some adjustments so it will be understandable for those who haven’t read the books, but “Google exists” for other queries. Alanna, Verin and Siuan are Rafe’s three favourite Aes Sedai. He also loves Sheriam and Pevara. Galina is his least-favourite. My main takeaway is that, as previously speculated, it should be possible for Amazon to complete the first four episodes even with the shutdown. Whether that means they will transmit them or wait until production can resume and finish the whole season is not known. If the shutdown is likely to persist into 2021, they may decide to air the completed episodes as new content, but if it looks like the pandemic has eased and production can be remounted later this year they may choose to wait until the last four episodes are completed as well. Obviously, the health and wellbeing of the Wheel of Time cast and crew, and of the residents of the city of Prague and the Czech Republic, is the primary concern at the moment. As usual, please follow the Dragonmount TV page for the last developments and let us know your thoughts in the comments. A full transcript of the Q&A follows Which character has your favorite costume so far? Rafe: Ooo this is tough. Probably Geofram Bornhald. Can we expect a trailer for the show anytime soon? Rafe: Probably not for a long while sadly. When will we get more casting announcements to hold us over? Rafe: I’ll try to get them to put out something soon. A lot of folks in all departments are affected by the state of the world right now though, so I can’t promise a timeline. Are you using taller actors to portray the Aiel, or camera trickery? Rafe: Trying to get tall folks. But I’m less concerned with height and more concerned with acting ability. Will [Min], [Elayne], and [Aviendha] have to be combined into a single character? Rafe: Girl you crazy, I’m not going to combing huge characters like that. Maybe sometimes a minor character folded into a more major one to make better use of our cast but nothing nutso Do you have a favourite chapter from the whole saga? Mine is Veins of Gold. Rafe: So many. But Honey in the Tea is one off the top of my head. How many trollocs do I have to take out to become a writing assistant? Rafe: Violence is never the answer RJ writes a lot of internal headspace stuff. What’s 1 hint on how the show will handle that? Rafe: That’s the biggest difficulty of any novel adaptation. Figuring out how to make the internal monologue come out clearly to the audience. A lot of the changes we make and stories we tell differently are designed to serves exactly that purpose—showing you what those characters internal monologues from the book are without them just saying it out loud in exposition What are you finding most challenging about going from book to screen? Rafe: The hardest thing is the physicality of production. In the first book alone they go to more than 20 villages and cities. To try to do that is physically impossible for the show, so most of the work we [do] in the room is geographical, figuring out how to condense the story and move it through places we can physically create. Yes or no. Have you had to make any cuts be it a scene or chapter, that has been painful for you? Rafe: Yes. How are you handling sword forms and their names? Rafe: We have a for real sword master on the show who walks into every room and tests out everything as a weapon. He could most definitely kill me with any item in my office. What’s been your favorite shooting location so far? Rafe: Slovenia! Spectacular stuff there What words of hope would you offer a fan afraid that the show will cut out a lot of content? Rafe: I genuinely think we are cutting less than most people think. When I see people ask questions like “are you cutting Min?” it blows my mind. I don’t know how you do an adaptation without some of these characters. I think it’ll be more of the smaller stories you’ll miss. We can’t have Rand and [Mat] travel to many many inns on their travels across the countryside for instance. It’s just not producible. So that will be more of what you miss, I think, and the books always exist to read for that 🙂 Any funny behind the scenes stories? Rafe: I once walked up to Rosamund’s dummy to say hello and then pretended to check its makeup and told everyone they were doing great work What would you say the CGI to practical ratio is going to be? Rafe: Trying to do as much in camera as we possibly can! Will we have to wait till season 2 to see any Aiel? (Other than Rand) Rafe: Nope. And the one you see will shock you. Haha. Amazon shouldn’t let me be on here when I’ve been cooped up for a week. How are the horses on set? Is Mandarb spectacular? Rafe: They are so great. Honestly I love our horses. Mandarb and Aldieb are downright sexy Is [Mat] fluent in the old tongue yet? Rafe: We’ve had a couple cast members speak in it already and they NAILED IT Will the show be understandable for those who didn’t read the books? Rafe: That’s the idea. If there are little things they don’t get though, luckily google exists Similar to Thom performing in an old Inn, what other iconic moments filmed stands out to [you]? Rafe: Rand and Tam walking through the Westwood Who is your favorite Aes Sedai in the books? And you can’t say Moiraine/Siuan or the Wonder Girls Rafe: So many rules. I honestly love all of them though (except Galina that bitch) Alanna, Liandrin and Verin are probably my Top 3. And Siuan! There’s too many I love. Sheriam! Pevara! Since JordanCon was cancelled, can we maybe get an extra treat next month? Rafe: Sure! What do you want? I think [Bela] is such an important character, will the same horse play [Bela] through the series Rafe: We’ve already had to have two Belas. It turns out a horse for riding on film is not the same as a horse for pulling a cart and SHE MUST DO BOTH If you were an Aes Sedai, what Ajah would you choose? Rafe: Such a good question. They all have merits but GREEN for the win. If only to hang with @priyankabose20 Has any post-production work begun or does that not start until filming is completed? Rafe: Nope! We do it simultaneously. Before the corona hit, I was prepping 2 episodes, shooting 2 episodes, in post on 4 episodes and writing Season 2 simultaneously 😮 Can you guys do a big WoT Wed announcement during the hiatus to keep all us fans hyped instead of al [sic] Rafe: Yeah! It would cheer us all up and we have some fun news How involved, if involved at all, is [Brandon] Sanderson in the writers room? Rafe: Brandon is hugely helpful. I talked to him before we started Season Two while he was in Prague to get advice and he reads all the scripts and gives notes. He’s incredibly thoughtful and understands the process of adaptation and what’s required from it. I feel so lucky to have him involved. I would have him do more if I could make him! Will there be a soundtrack? Who’s the composer? Rafe: Of course! David Buckley. Plus a few incredible musical guests we’ve already had. To what extent has Harriet McDougal been involved with the project? Rafe: She’s a consulting producer so she’s been out to Prague to the sets and reads all the scripts and sends me her notes on them. She and Maria [Simons] are hugely helpful for maintaining the truth of the series and always keep me honest when it comes to things that change too much Do you read [The Way of Kings] or Mistborn? Please make a tv adaptation for them too Rafe: Read both. Love both. Will the show have any connection to that abomination of a pilot that [Red Eagle] put out Rafe: nope! 🙂 Are you going to merge Min and Elayne? Rafe: Hell no Are Min/Elayne in season 1? Rafe: TWWaTWW [The Weave Weaves as The Weave Wills] Will we see the prologue from the Eye of the World on screen in season 1 Rafe: You will hear that phrase Is Lan going to be as much or an absolute stud in the show as he is in the books? Rafe: You’ve seen @danielhenney right? Which WOT book title best describes your self isolation experience? Rafe: A Memory of Light… What has been your favorite set so far? Rafe: Fal Dara! RJ created 1000’s of [characters]. Given that did you feel the need to create new characters? Rafe: Anyone “new” is inspired by characters in the books or a number of characters combined. If we paid to cast all speaking roles in the book we could only afford to have a radio play Please tell me you’ve cut Narg!! Rafe: Never!! First moment you were speechless on set? Rafe: First time walking into Emond’s Field with my mom How is the cast and crew weather the pandemic? Rafe: Our team in Prague did an amazing job of getting everyone out and keeping them safe. And now everyone’s home and we all live on Instagram. Should Amazon do a better job of engaging fans love of theory & speculation. [Please] embrace us!! Rafe: I love theory and speculation! What can they do to better engage you? Send suggestions and I’ll forward them along 🙂 Blink twice if Min is in season 1. Rafe: 😉 😉 Do you have a favorite Wise One? Rafe: [Aviendha] Now you’ve met them settle the score: who’s better with women? Rand, Mat or Perrin? Rafe: I think they’d all say it’s the other Will Loial portray the Ogier species, or will he be humanized for screen? Rafe: He’s an Ogier! How are you planning to handle the visualization of the weaves? Any little tidbits? Rafe: We are trying to stay as true to the books as possible. I’ve been giving a bunch of VFX folks long diatribes about channeling, weaves, threads, earth vs. air, etc and [the] early stuff has started coming in. It looks FUCKING AWESOME. I screamed when Rosamund started channeling Will Jeff Probst be one of the Aiel? Can you make some calls? Rafe: If he dies his hair red 😉 Can you please make sure you do a great job? Books are so great Rafe: This is a really good idea Is any aspect of the show still in development, or has it all stalled because of the virus? Rafe: A lot can be done virtually! I’m still doing VFX, editing and the Season Two Virtual Writers Room! And I can do it all in pajamas Who is your favorite Forsaken?? Rafe: Ahhh. I love the ladies. Greandal, Lanfear, Modhedien. And Ishamael holds a special place in my heart the more time I spend with him So far, what is your favorite prop in the show? Rafe: Great Serpent Ring. We all want one. How has it been to work with your incredibly talented cast? Also… dinner’s ready Rafe: Okay I have to go eat now. I think I did this right. Next time I’ll use different colors. I don’t know why it was pink and orange the whole time.
  3. Adam Whitehead is Dragonmount's TV blogger. Adam has been writing about film and television, The Wheel of Time, and other genre fiction for over fifteen years. Be sure to check out his websites, The Wertzone and Atlas of Ice and Fire (including The Wheel of Time Atlas!) as well as his Patreon. PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS AN ONGOING STORY AND WE WILL UPDATE WITH FURTHER DEVELOPMENTS. The Wheel of Time appears to be the latest TV production to sadly be impacted by the spreading coronavirus pandemic. Sony TV have now confirmed that production of The Wheel of Time is indefinitely suspended. The Czech Republic, where production for the series is based, began clamping down on the outbreak earlier this week, closing schools and restricting large gatherings of people. This led to Disney cancelling a one-week filming stint for their Marvel show The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which will instead film those scenes elsewhere. On Thursday this was followed by the news that Wheel of Time’s sister-show, Carnival Row (shooting at Barrandov Studios in Prague), would shut down roughly halfway through the shoot for its second season. This morning the Czech government announced draconian measures to control the outbreak. They have sealed their borders to travellers from other countries affected by the virus, including the UK where numerous Wheel of Time cast and crewmembers are based. The situation with citizens from those countries already in Prague and other Czech cities is unclear, but it appears that flights out of the country are not affected so far. Based on some crew posts on social media, The Wheel of Time is gearing up for the shutdown from the end of today. Given the status of other filming projects in Prague and the measures introduced by the Czech government, it was hard to see how it could continue. Filming on the first season began on 16 September and was due to run until at least early May, meaning the bulk of the filming for the season was complete. Looking at the turnaround of directors and when they were in Prague, it also looks like the season was shooting in approximate chronological order. This means that, even if the series cannot be remounted in the next few months to complete the final scenes, it should hopefully be possible to air a truncated, shorter season (assuming, of course, that the coronavirus outbreak does not impact on post-production facilities in the United States and elsewhere), with the remaining material held back for a second season. Of course, the situation remains very fluid and estimates for the time of the pandemic range from months to a couple of years, which would have a much bigger impact on the timescale for the series (and, of course, everything else). So, the news is unfortunate, but the team at Amazon Prime Video have amassed a huge amount of material over six months of filming (so far) and hopefully we will get to see that at some point. In other news (and there is some!), to celebrate International Women’s Day last week, The Wheel of Time TV show’s resident book advisor and expert Sarah Nakamura tweeted out thanks and respect to the cast and crew who are working on the show, including several actresses who’d previously been rumoured to be appearing but not confirmed. This message was widely retweeted and liked by others involved in the production, so we can take it as confirmation these actresses will indeed be appearing, although not in which roles. Helena Westerman’s involvement has been unofficially known for some time: she appeared in the table read video released a few months ago and her own account has been following and retweeting Wheel of Time news for a few months. Westerman is a young British actress who has been appearing on stage and in short films for a few years. She also has credits as a producer and writer of theatre material and short films, and is co-director of the Rascal Theatre. Juliet Howland is an actress and composer, best-known for roles in Colditz, Skins and Doctors. According to some rumours, she will be playing the relatively small role of Natti Cauthon, mother of Mat Cauthon, but this is not yet confirmed. Naana Agyei-Ampadu is an actress whose previous credits include the TV show GameFace and the film Ready Player One. Ampadu was also seen in the table read video. Lolita Chakrabarti is an English actress and writer. A graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), she has appeared in Criminal, Rviera, The Casual Vacancy, Intruders, Bodies, Hustle, Extras, Silent Witness and a regular character on The Bill. In additional news, Priyanka Bose, who is playing Alanna, confirmed that she wrapped filming and headed home for the season before the shutdown. The shutdown may also impact the show’s premiere date. Amazon has remained tight-lipped on when the show could air, with projections being divided between an optimistic view that the series could air at the tail end of 2020 and a possibly more realistic one that the show could air in the first few months of 2021. Netflix’s The Witcher wrapped shooting on 29 May 2019 and was on air in December 2019, but The Wheel of Time is being shot by a different company with likely different (and probably more elaborate) post-production requirements, so this is not a precedent. A recent interview with Rosamund Pike (who plays Moiraine and is an executive producer on the series) seemed to be leaning on the 2021 date as well, but this has not been confirmed by Amazon. Still, it may be wiser to temper expectations of a release any sooner, especially given the delay to filming. It may even be possible that the show will air sooner if the season is indeed not remounted and they go with the material that is already completed, but this is highly speculative. As always, Dragonmount will keep you informed about developments as they happen on our Dragonmount TV page. Please also let us know your thoughts. Whilst the news is disappointing, I’m sure everyone will join us in agreeing that the health and wellbeing of the cast and crew of the show, and of the residents of the country hosting filming, must be paramount. To stress, this is a developing story and we will continue to cover it as more news emerges.
  4. Adam Whitehead is Dragonmount's TV blogger. Adam has been writing about film and television, The Wheel of Time, and other genre fiction for over fifteen years. Be sure to check out his websites, The Wertzone and Atlas of Ice and Fire (including The Wheel of Time Atlas!) as well as his Patreon. It appears that we now have our full roster of Wheel of Time directors! Ciaran Donnelly recently confirmed that he’s working on the show and his agency updated his CV to show that he’s working on the Season 1 “finale,” although that may actually be the last two episodes (Amazon have declined to confirm so far, as with most things about the project). That would fill up the last gap on the schedule. All the evidence is pointing towards the first season of The Wheel of Time having eight episodes in total, with four directors tackling two episodes apiece. First up is Uta Briesewitz who is handling Leavetaking and Shadow’s Waiting, followed by Wayne Yip with A Place of Safety and The Dragon Reborn, then Salli Richardson Whitfield with Blood Calls Blood and The Flame of Tar Valon. Ciaran Donnelly will be helming the last two episodes whose titles have not yet been confirmed. Television directors are notable in that they have far less power than in film, where they are the primary creative force. In television, directors are needed more to film in accordance with the “house style” which will be laid down in the first episode by the writers, producers and the director of the first episode (in this case, Uta Briesewitz). The job of all the directors who come after is to fit into that style and into the challenging filming schedule. That’s not to say they can’t bring their own filming styles and ideas to the party, but they have less room to be improvisational. But the choice of directors is still an important one for a TV show, and almost every show has a cadre of preferred directors the producers want to use as much as possible because their vision for the show adheres closest to that of the showrunners: think of Miguel Sapochnik on Game of Thrones, Jack Bender on Lost, David Nutter on The X-Files or Michael Rymer on Battlestar Galactica. So, who are our directors? Uta Briesewitz is a German film-maker who started off as a cinematographer, planning the photography and lighting of each scene in conjunction with the director. After small-scale films and TV shows, she got her big break in 2002 when she was recruited by David Simon to work on his HBO masterpiece, The Wire. She established the photography aesthetic of the whole show, resulting in its mix of documentary-style film-making with more dynamic dramatic moments. She continued to work with HBO on shows including John from Cincinnati, Hung and True Blood. HBO also gave her a first break at directing, with an opportunity to direct episodes of Hung. She subsequently directed episodes of Weeds, Orange is the New Black, The 100, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, The Defenders, The Deuce, This is Us, Altered Carbon, Westworld and Stranger Things, building up a strong rep in the process. Her work on the Season 2 Westworld episode “Kiksuya” has been particularly praised. Briesewitz also has a producer’s credit on The Wheel of Time, which is standard practice for the director of the first episode since they are also intimately involved in casting the main actors and establishing the look and feel of the whole show which will be adhered to for years to come. Wayne Yip is a British director who started his career in music videos in the mid-2000s. He then worked on short films for several years, winning a BAFTA Award in 2007. He moved into television in 2010 with Coming Up, Secret Diary of a Call Girl and Utopia. He began branching into filming for both British and American productions, and in recent years has worked on Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Preacher, Cloak & Dagger, Doctor Who, Into the Badlands, Doom Patrol and Hunters. Yip has gained a reputation for working fast and reliably at a high level. In 2019 alone he directed eleven episodes on seven different shows, including the very challenging Into the Badlands which has extensive visual effects, martial arts and sword-fighting set pieces in every single episode. Salli Richardson-Whitfield is best-known as an actress. She started her career in the early 1990s in TV shows such as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Stargate SG-1, CSI: Miami and House. Her best-known role was as a series regular in Eureka (aka A Town Called Eureka outside the US) from 2006 to 2012. More recently she’s appeared in shows like Criminal Minds, NCIS, Castle and Black Lightning. She moved into directing in 2011 with the short film Grace. Since then she has directed episodes of Eureka, Scandal, Lethal Weapon, Agents of SHIELD, Luke Cage, Black Lightning, The Punisher, The Magicians, American Gods, Doom Patrol and Altered Carbon. Like Yip she’s gained a reputation for working fast and effectively, with more than a dozen episodes of television shot last year alone. Irishman Ciaran Donnelly is the most experienced of the four directors, beginning his career in the 1990s with short films before moving into TV movies at the end of the decade. His TV work includes Cold Feet, Spooks, Donovan, The Tudors (which he work on with Maria Doyle Kennedy), Camelot, Once Upon a Time, Vikings, Krypton and Altered Carbon. We also now have confirmation that the composer for the show will be David Buckley. Buckley is a British composer now based in the USA. He has worked as a composer on films including Jason Bourne and Angel Has Fallen; TV series including The Good Wife, The Good Fight, Killing Lincoln and The Gifted; and video games including Metal Gear Solid 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts and Batman: Arkham Knight. You can listen to a selection of Buckley’s work on Spotify. Please let us know what you think of the creatives discussed today. Have you seen or heard any of their work? Any suggestions for directors for Season 2? As usual and until next time, peace.
  5. Adam Whitehead is Dragonmount's TV blogger. Adam has been writing about film and television, The Wheel of Time, and other genre fiction for over fifteen years. Be sure to check out his websites, The Wertzone and Atlas of Ice and Fire (including The Wheel of Time Atlas!) as well as his Patreon. Please note this article contains very mild spoilers for The Wheel of Time novels. Official glimpses of filming on The Wheel of Time TV show have been few and far between so far. Amazon has surrounded filming with an aura of secrecy and the only shots have been leaked photos snapped by eager fans. We’ve so far not published these out of respect for the production team’s wishes. However, there have been signs of this being relaxed somewhat in recent weeks. This week, the production even released a behind-the-scenes shot of the first day of filming. This shot is impressive, showing a significant amount of work has been done on building a chunk of the village for real. At least five fairly big buildings have been constructed, one of them presumably standing in for the Winespring Inn. What appears to have been an artificial tree has also been added to the location. Curiously, the village’s infamous Green is not present and the tree is standing somewhat incongruously by itself, but perhaps more greenery will be added in post-production. The lack of thatched roofs suggests that Cenn Buie has a different profession, or perhaps there are buildings elsewhere with thatched roofs. We know that the first scene shot for the series was Padan Fain arriving in Emond’s Field, the largest town in the Two Rivers, so it’s a good bet that this show shows us what Emond’s Field will look like on the show. A covered wagon and horses can be seen behind the tree, which is likely Padan Fain’s wagon, with a group of actors visible in dressing gowns. Also visible are the dolly tracks which will be used by cameras to take sweeping shots of the location. A few weeks ago, they also released the first shot of filming, showing Josha Stradowski as Rand al’Thor against a dramatic mountain backdrop. It’s a fair bet this is from early in the story, when our initial band of heroes are fleeing the Two Rivers for their lives with the Mountains of Mist dramatically looming in the background. We’ve heard reports over the shooting period that the team has been filming in snowy locations. This of course contrasts with The Eye of the World, which mostly runs through spring and the snows have melted (apart from on the mountains in the background, of course). Avoiding snow during shooting has been impossible, since the filming period started in September and has run straight through the winter in Slovenia and the Czech Republic, where snow is a common occurrence in mountainous regions such as the Sudetes and the eastern Alps. My suspicion is that the show will eliminate some of the snowfall in post-production or, more likely, will explain that the snowfall has lingered longer than normal into the spring. With filming now more than half-complete and due to wrap in May, it’s interesting to speculate on castmembers who have not yet been confirmed on the series. As of today, we still haven’t had roles such as Elayne, Morgase, Galad, Gawyn, Elyas Machera, Agelmar, the Bornhalds or Min confirmed (among many others). This may indicate they will not appear until later in the season or they have been working but not been announced yet. In addition, we are still unaware of what role Maria Doyle Kennedy will be playing (although she did react coly to the question of if she will be playing Elaida, whilst ignoring all other suggestions; read into that what you will). On a related note, I’ve also seen some questions recently about why the production has not been casting more North American actors. As of today, the only American actors confirmed on the show are Daniel Henney as Lan and Taylor Napier as Maksim, whilst Jennifer Cheon Garcia is Canadian. There are a few reasons for this. The first is that this is an international production drawing on the broadest possible casting base. There are several actors from the UK and the Republic of Ireland, but there are also actors from Spain, India, Australia, Denmark and the Netherlands. As such, two actors from the USA is not a massive underrepresentation. There are also other factors involved. The production is based in Prague and for recurring castmembers (those not in every episode) with other jobs going on, having to travel back and forth from North America to the Czech Republic between filming blocks might be impractical. The studio may also have budgetary restrictions in place limiting how many flights they will pay for; at least one of the reasons why Conan Stevens did not return as Gregor Clegane after Season 1 of Game of Thrones is because the studio was unwilling to pay to fly him back and forth from Northern Ireland to New Zealand, where he was filming The Hobbit trilogy. For actors based in the UK and Ireland, where Prague is only a couple of hours flight away on cheap airlines, this is much less of an issue. It also depends on the profile of the actor involved. If a major American name expressed a desire to be on the show which would boost its profile, it’s likely that Amazon would pay for that to happen. The Wheel of Time is first and foremost an ensemble piece, less reliant on outright star power beyond the few well-known actors that have been cast already (Kennedy and of course Rosamund Pike as Moiraine). As always, more news as we get it.
  6. Adam Whitehead is Dragonmount's TV blogger. Adam has been writing about film and television, The Wheel of Time, and other genre fiction for over fifteen years. Be sure to check out his websites, The Wertzone and Atlas of Ice and Fire (including The Wheel of Time Atlas!) as well as his Patreon. Please note this article contains very mild spoilers for The Wheel of Time novels. We have some new Wheel of Time cast members! And, as is becoming par for the course with this project, we don’t know who they’re playing! Maria Doyle Kennedy, Katy Fleetwood, Jennifer Cheon Garcia, Daryl McCormack and Peter Franzén have all been announced as joining the cast through a social media blitz of them posing with pictures of their scripts for the Episode 5/6 table read. Of the group, only one confirmed her role: Katy Fleetwood will be playing Liandrin, an Aes Sedai of the Red Ajah who plays a major role in the second novel in the series, The Great Hunt. Jennifer Garcia also added the hashtag “#aessedai” and a blue square to her post, suggesting that she will be playing a member of the Blue Ajah. The rest of the actors have not disclosed their roles, so it may be fun to speculate on whom they might be playing. The big coup of the announcements is Maria Doyle Kennedy. A veteran Irish singer and actress, Kennedy is probably best-known for playing Catherine of Aragon on Showtime’s The Tudors and Mrs. S. on Orphan Black. She’s also had recurring roles on Dexter and Outlander. As arguably the highest-profile casting since Rosamund Pike, she’ll presumably be playing a relatively major role. She’s actually been my personal favourite fancast for about a decade for the role of Elaida do Avriny a’Roihan, Aes Sedai of the Red Ajah and Court Advisor to Queen Morgase of Andor. Kennedy has mostly played positive characters, so seeing her as a villain would be an interesting change of pace. An alternative is Siuan Sanche, the Amyrlin Seat, the leader of the Aes Sedai. Again, Kennedy would be excellent in this role but I think it would be a shame if they lost the idea of Siuan and Moiraine as contemporaries. Kennedy is fifteen years older than Rosamund Pike, but it’s possible they may be considering a change so it’s more of a mentor relationship, which could work. The final possibility to my mind is Verin Mathwin, Aes Sedai of the Brown Ajah and a font of information about the world. I think this is somewhat less likely due to the fact that Verin’s importance in the series tends to ebb and flow and she’d likely vanish for long periods of the story, which would risk losing Kennedy from the series in later seasons (although again this could be changed). Siuan and Elaida remain fairly important throughout the duration of the series and would be meatier roles for Kennedy, although there’s no arguing she’d play the hell of the culmination of Verin’s arc in The Gathering Storm. Jennifer Garcia has done a lot of work in the Arrowverse for The CW and has also appeared in Fringe, Lucifer and The 100. Assuming she’s playing an Aes Sedai of the Blue Ajah, there are several strong possibilities. The most obvious is, if Maria Kennedy is not playing her, Siuan Sanche. Garcia is much closer to Rosamund Pike’s age which works for them being contemporaries. Other alternatives would be Leane Sharif, Siuan’s second-in-command as Keeper of the Chronicles; Anaiya Carel, a senior Blue Ajah sister (and the rumoured secret leader of the Blue Ajah); or Sheriam Bayanar, the Mistress of Novices. Daryl McCormack is an up-and-coming Irish actor who recently starred in the fifth season of Peaky Blinders. His other credits include Vikings and Fair City. McCormack’s casting was actually leaked several months ago, suggesting that he may actually be appearing in the series before the fifth or sixth episode and they just chose to announce him at this point. His potential roles are fairly numerous but could include Galadedrid Damodred, the adopted eldest son of Queen Morgase of Andor; Aram of the Tinkers (given credence by reports that the Tinker wagon scenes have already been filmed); Dain Bornhald of the Children of the Light; or one of the Aes Sedai Warders for the previously announced actresses (Verin’s Tomas has the most story material, but Anaiya’s Setagana or Siuan’s Alric are other possibilities). Another possibility is that they’ve decided to cast unusually young for the roles of Elyas Machera (McCormack’s piercing eyes would be useful in this role), Lord Ingtar Shinowa of Shienar; or Captain Bayle Domon. Peter Franzén is a Finnish actor best-known for his long-running role as King Harald Finehair on Vikings. There are quite a few possibilities for him, including the aforementioned Elyas Machera, Lord Ingtar Shinowa or Captain Bayle Domon. A fan-favourite suggestion seems to be Lord Gareth Bryne, the Captain-General of the armies of Andor. Lord Geofram Bornhald of the Children of the Light is another solid possibility. Raen of the Tinkers is another, although given that Franzén is much closer in age to McCormack (if he’s picked for Aram), they could change the relationship to father and son rather than grandfather. Mordeth could be another possibility, since we know the production is visiting Shadar Logoth. Lord Agelmar Jagad of Shienar is also a reasonable possibility. For both McCormack and Franzén there is also the possibility of one of the Forsaken: Ba’alzamon, Aginor and Balthamel are all potential candidates. Of course, guessing is difficult when we don’t know how many episodes there are in the first season (there are unconfirmed reports of eight, but Amazon have not yet confirmed) and how many books will be tackled per season, which is something we can speculate about another time. As usual, we’ll bring you further news as it appears.
  7. Adam Whitehead is Dragonmount's TV blogger. Adam has been writing about film and television, The Wheel of Time, and other genre fiction for over fifteen years. Be sure to check out his websites, The Wertzone and Atlas of Ice and Fire (including The Wheel of Time Atlas!) as well as his Patreon. Please note this article contains very mild spoilers for The Wheel of Time novels. To everyone’s relief, Amazon have confirmed that four important characters from the Wheel of Time novels will be in the TV series: Loial, Logain, Padan Fain and Thom Merrilin have made the cut! The actors playing them will probably be not hugely familiar to audiences. Alvaro Morte (Logain) has appeared primarily in Spanish film and television whilst Hammad Animashaun (Loial) is a relative newcomer. Johann Myers, who is playing Padan Fain, has had a longer career and will be familiar to British viewers from series such as State of Play, Black Mirror and Luther. Most of the casting speculation for the last few weeks – including our own – has focused on Thom Merrilin. Some fans and commentators even mused if Thom could be cut from the show altogether, or perhaps introduced later on in a different context. Happily, it seems that Rafe Judkins and his team decided they needed the gleeman up front and center, and cast Danish actor Alexandre Willaume in the role. Willaume has appeared in films such as Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and last year’s Tomb Raider, but is best known for playing Kjartan, one of the main antagonists in the first two seasons of the excellent historical drama The Last Kingdom (well worth catching on Netflix if you haven’t seen it yet). This is appropriate because some twenty years pass between Kjartan’s appearance in the first episode and his last appearance (note: both videos have violence and some strong language) in Season 2, and he is aged up for the role. This leads to an interesting and wider question about adaptations of the written work. Fans of all franchises appear to be constantly bemused that producers don’t cast actors more precisely based on their book descriptions, sometimes choosing actors of a radically different height, age, appearance or, in some cases, gender. This leads to frustration that the producers “don’t get it” or are “changing things for the sake of it,” and to be fair unsuccessful adaptations like The Shannara Chronicles or Earthsea show that this sometimes happens. In other cases – such as the currently shooting TV series based on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, The Watch – the producers have taken the view that the source material is something they can mix and match to produce something new. This sometimes works (as with Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency) but sometimes doesn’t (like SyFy’s Dresden Files). Fans of Game of Thrones, particularly fans of the books who kept abreast of the casting news in early and mid-2009 as the show prepared to shoot its pilot, will remember this well. There was widespread dismay when it was announced that Mark Addy had been cast as King Robert Baratheon. Addy was a good ten years older than the character and, whilst Robert was six foot five and a giant of a man, Addy was almost a clear foot shorter. These concerns were eventually alleviated when the show hit the air: Addy received widespread praise for his dramatic, gruff performance. He made you believe he’d once been a powerful, formidable warrior now gone to seed. The reason for not casting strictly according to the books is mainly practical: if you get down to five or six on an audition shortlist, do you go with the actor who gave the better, more convincing performance or the actor who is exactly the same height as the character in the book but was a less convincing performer? Producers and casting directors will always follow the performance first, the details later. In some cases, they know these details can be taken care of through costuming, or getting the actor some bigger shoes, or (in extremis) they can stand on a box in some takes. In some other cases the author may give a description of a character in a book without fully thinking through the details: Tyrion Lannister is described as quite ugly in the Song of Ice and Fire novels, but he is also charming, charismatic, witty and good at talking to people and winning them over, all of which would be less convincing on screen if he was actively hideous to look at. The producers decided to the cast the decidedly handsome Peter Dinklage rather than staying true to the books. In the case of Thom Merrilin, the producers had to balance practical issues with storytelling ones with faithfulness to the book. They were also helped by Robert Jordan’s vagueness over Thom’s age. We are told that Thom has white hair and people express surprise at his spryness “for his age.” Morgase also muses that Thom was “twice her age” at one point in their relationship (The Fires of Heaven), probably – from context – during the year between Taringail’s death and Thom’s departure to help Owyn (984-85 NE). Morgase was 27-28 during that year, so Thom would have been around 54, and thus 70 when the events of The Eye of the World begin in spring 998 NE. However, The Eye of the World contradicts this by saying that Thom “was in his prime,” which I would submit would not be a descriptor for someone in their mid-to-late fifties. Robert Jordan’s voluminous notes, which he began developing in earnest around the time of A Crown of Swords, also show a later change of heart, noting instead that Thom is 19-20 years older than Morgase. This would have made Thom around 46 during their relationship and about 60 during the events of The Eye of the World. It may even be that Robert Jordan considered making Thom younger. Thom is physically very capable, still doing tumbling tricks and more than holding his own in battle. Rather memorably, he takes on a Myrddraal in hand-to-hand combat and survives, something not even Lan can boast off (true, the Myrddraal was in a hurry and had no time to stay and fight, but still a notable achievement). Thom is also a big hit with the ladies, having relationships with women not only in their forties, but, in the case of Dena in The Great Hunt, in their twenties. Are there charismatic, handsome men in their sixties who can pull those things off? Sure, but making him even a few years younger does make all of those accomplishments more plausible. It's notable that Team Jordan did not canonise the information in Jordan's notes in The Wheel of Time Companion, perhaps preferring to keep things vague and up to the reader's interpretation. In this case, the choice of actor is a good one. Willaume turns 47 this month and, as we saw in The Last Kingdom, can be aged up pretty well as required. More importantly, he’s a good actor and I’m sure will bring the required skills and more: he plays guitar and has been a musician in multiple bands. He’s also sung on stage in the Danish musical version of Shrek (he played Donkey), so he has those skills down as well. Until next time, peace.
  8. Adam Whitehead is Dragonmount's TV blogger. Adam has been writing about film, video games and television, The Wheel of Time, and other genre fiction for over fifteen years. Be sure to check out his websites, The Wertzone and Atlas of Ice and Fire (including The Wheel of Time Atlas!) as well as his Patreon. Please note this article contains very mild spoilers for The Wheel of Time novels. Way back in the day, the video game industry got surprising mileage out of video games based on novels. Cheaper than licencing actors’ likenesses for games based on films and not constrained by matching release dates (for “release synergy,” a term that destroyed many a promising video game adaptation during gestation), book-to-game adaptations provided a relatively cheap way of enticing fans to try out a developer’s latest project. One of the first licensed video games from a novel was The Hobbit, published by Melbourne House in 1982. Based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, this was a text adventure which cast the player as Bilbo Baggins, embarking on the traditional adventure to kill the dragon Smaug. The game was a huge success and also sparked some very early memes such as Thorin’s rather frequent tendency to sit down and start singing about gold whenever he was bored. The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, released by Infocom two years later, was in a similar vein but had greater kudos because Douglas Adams himself worked on the title as a writer and designer. Novel adaptations went huge in 1988 with War in Middle-earth, another Tolkien adaptation, this time by the visionary designer Mike Singleton. A dynamically-unfolding wargame, the title allowed players to refight the War of the Ring using a variety of different factions and characters, sometimes resulting in radically different results to the novel. The 1990s saw Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series adapted as a trilogy of best-selling games, as well as a version of Terry Brooks’ Shannara series that is best ignored. Arguably the most successful such book adaptation of the decade was Betrayal at Krondor (1993), based on Raymond Feist’s Riftwar series. An expansive, semi-open-world CRPG, it worked as both a very good video game and a very strong adaptation of the books (although, ironically, Feist’s own novelisation of the game is arguably his weakest book). It was in this time period that The Wheel of Time got its own video game adaptation. Released on 11 November 1999 by GT Interactive Software, The Wheel of Time took Robert Jordan’s expansive, vast world, cast of thousands and epic battles and turned them into a…first-person shooter? It was an interesting and bold choice, one that turned off a lot of fans who’d been hoping for a roleplaying game, but once they got over their shock at the design choice, they soon found a very interesting game. The game was developed by Legend Entertainment, who’d previously made relatively straightforward adventure games. The team at Legend decided to make a much more ambitious title and, after their company was slightly oddly bought out by Random House, they decided to focus on a novel adaptation (even more oddly, of a non-Random House series). The design team tore through The Wheel of Time and began to design an adventure game that would retell the story of the novels. It would be expansive and large. Robert Jordan had other ideas. He didn’t want the game stepping on his toes (he was still only halfway or so through writing the series) and he didn’t want the game to use other versions of his characters. The designers came up with the notion of setting the game in an alternate dimension, a Portal Stone world, where events could take place that echoed those of the books but were distinctly not the same. It was also decided to abandon the adventure design in favour of a first-person perspective similar to other games of the time, such as Doom. This was markedly ambitious for Legend, who’d never made such a game before, but they took it in their stride. Budget restrictions meant that they had to look around for a customer engine rather than designing their own, and after considering the BUILD and Quake engines settled on the engine for a game still in development that was extremely obscure, called Unreal. The Unreal developers were surprised that anyone would be interested in licensing their engine and the Wheel of Time team got it on extremely generous terms. As development continued, the Unreal team saw the development of Wheel of Time and some of the ideas fed back into their own game in development. Unreal was released to massive success in 1998 and quickly became the go-to engine for first-person video games. The Unreal Engine today powers a vast number of games, from indie hit The Outer Worlds to the epic Mass Effect trilogy to the mega-successful Fortnite, which have collectively sold hundreds of millions of copies. On its release, The Wheel of Time attracted glowing reviews…but not much sales. Barely 30,000 copies were shifted in the first three months on sale, shooter fans more energised by the then-recently-released Half-Life, SiN and Quake III. Legend’s expertise with the engine saw them hired to make Unreal II: The Awakening, which should have been a huge hit, but by then the excitement had moved onto the online version of the franchise, Unreal Tournament, and Unreal II was not a huge hit either. Legend shut down in 2004. The Wheel of Time game is an odd beast, but a strangely compelling one. It casts the player as Elayna, an Aes Sedai who can barely channel (think of Morgase Trakand) but whose powers have been augmented by ter’angreal. A trusted lieutenant of the Amyrlin Seat, she is dispatched to Shadar Logoth in pursuit of an assassin, the Hound, who managed to penetrate the White Tower itself. As the story unfolds, it is revealed that the Forsaken Ishamael is looking for the seals on the Dark One’s prison. At one point there is a coup by the Black Ajah inside the White Tower which results in the death of the Amyrlin and Elayna’s rise to replace her, along with the revelation that Elayna is really the most powerful Aes Sedai born since the Breaking, her powers sealed off to protect her until she learns to use them correctly. In a final battle, the Hound, now bonded to the dark power Mashadar, tries to kill both Elayna and Ishamael but is defeated. Elayna unlocks her powers and uses them to protect the Seals, ensuring the Dark One cannot escape his prison until the Last Battle and the arising of the Dragon Reborn. The plot is interesting but clearly at odds with the books, with the developers confirming that the game takes place in a Portal Stone world, a parallel universe similar but not identical to the books, and certainly the game is not taken to be canon in any way. From an architectural level, the game is phenomenally well-designed, with some fantastic locations that look like they’ve come straight from the books. The darkness-shrouded streets of Shadar Logoth and the gleaming white walls of Tar Valon are rendered well and the storyline is intriguing, although confusing given the game’s setting in a parallel universe to the books (not something that’s made hugely clear in the game, it has to be said). The cast of characters is well-drawn, and it’s still refreshing to see a first-person shooter based in a fantasy setting with a female protagonist. The use of ter’angreal instead of the normal array of guns from a shooter is something that does feel contrived, but it works quite well and makes for an exciting action game. Trollocs, Myrddraal, Black Ajah and Whitecloaks make for fun enemies to engage in combat with, and there’s a nice feeling of dread in the battle of wills with the Hound, your character’s nemesis. Originally there was going to be a whole “evil campaign” with you playing the Hound, but this was cut for time and budget reasons. The Wheel of Time is a surprisingly solid game (especially by the conservative standards of the time), but it can’t be denied that a Quake-style 3D FPS feel like an awkward fit for Jordan’s huge, narrative-driven fantasy epic. The game feels like it should have been an RPG with a lot more choice and consequence, drawing more on Jordan’s vast world. The ambition was there, but sadly the budget and required time was not. Arguably we wouldn’t get a novel-to-video game adaptation that really hit that spot until the release of The Witcher (based on Andrzej Sapkowski’s books) in 2007, and in particular its second sequel in 2015, almost certainly the greatest CRPG released this century. We must pause, of course, and remember that although Legend’s Wheel of Time was the first official, licensed video game adaptation of the series, it’s not the only one. In 1993 The Wheel of Time MUD (multi-user dungeon) was launched, a relatively primitive, fan-made dungeon game with a text interface. It was quite popular with the MUD scene. More recently there’s been a number of “mods” – fan-made modifications of commercial games – focusing on a Wheel of Time theme. The most notable is The Gathering Storm, a mod for Mount & Blade, and there’s been various mods for Skyrim, introducing weapons and armour from the Wheel of Time world. There’s also been a number of abandoned mods, such as ones that were in development for several years for Civilization IV and Rome: Total War, and rumours of one for Crusader Kings II. The completion of the books seemed to erode fan enthusiasm for more mods, and the scene has been quiet for a few years now. Of course, with The Wheel of Time now heading to the television screen, the question arises if a new video game could be on the cards. Given modern game budgets are now averaging towards the high tens of millions of dollars and development time is in years, it’s questionable, but if the Amazon TV series is a huge success it may be something we’ll see before too long. Hopefully this time it will be a game that gives the setting and Robert Jordan’s writing the scope and scale it deserves. Further Reading: The Wheel of Time video game producer (and budding fantasy novelist), Glen Dahlgren, has published several interesting articles about the game: a 20th anniversary retrospective, a very in-depth account of the making of the game and the game's original design document. All well worth a read.
  9. Adam Whitehead is Dragonmount's TV blogger. Adam has been writing about film and television, The Wheel of Time, and other genre fiction for over fifteen years. Be sure to check out his websites, The Wertzone and Atlas of Ice and Fire (including The Wheel of Time Atlas!) as well as his Patreon. Please note this article contains very mild spoilers for The Wheel of Time novels. How do you transfer a story from the pages of a novel or comic to the TV or film screen? It’s an interesting question, one asked many hundreds of times over the last century or so, and one which has never really gotten a reliable answer. Some films have used the book only as light inspiration, with the same basic premise and maybe some character names but otherwise doing their own thing. This paid off with films like Jaws and The Godfather, but not so much with Shannara or Earthsea. Others have slavishly adapted the source text almost line by line, but this has also backfired with the likes of Zack Snyder’s Watchmen. It appears that the best way of adapting a book to the screen is to take the story, characters and story and transfer them, but also being aware that a screen story needs to be more streamlined than a novel. Where a novel can sprawl luxuriantly and bring in dozens of new characters at will, a film or TV show can’t afford to do that. Where a novel can pause and delve deep into a character’s internal monologue to show their thoughts and reactions to an event, a visual adaptation can’t do that without resorting to cheesy voiceovers (viewers of David Lynch’s Dune will be aware that this doesn’t really work either). One approach, favoured by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens in their adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, is to strip the story down to basic tacks and then rebuild it for the screen. For Rings, they decided first what was the story actually about: clearly, this was the Ring and Frodo’s quest to destroy the Ring in the fires of Mount Doom. That wasn’t enough story to fill a trilogy, so they began with this story as the core and kept adding more elements back in from the book. They needed a major subplot, so just used that from the books: Aragorn leading the people of Rohan and then Gondor into battle and his quest to become king. A primary cast was needed, so the cast from the books was added, with a strong focus on the Fellowship, and subplots for each character. In this way they rebuilt the story using the same ingredients, but being aware of the limitations of the medium. By the time they got to the Scouring of the Shire and Tom Bombadil, they were aware they were exceeding the time limit and budget of each movie and made the painful choice to remove them. They also simplified other elements for time, such as using the Army of the Dead to save Minas Tirith rather than using them to liberate the port of Pelargir and then transport Gondor’s southern army to the battlefield; the latter idea (from the novels) would have required considerable exposition, more time and more money to work on screen. This process was mostly successful, which makes it more disappointing that for the Hobbit trilogy it was abandoned (due to studio interference requiring three three-hour movies out of the very slim source material, to Jackson’s distress, according to some sources). A similar process was used for the early seasons of Game of Thrones, although this was complicated by the source material being incomplete. In the case of Thrones, it seemed that the first half of the series, which adapted the first three novels relatively faithfully, was very successful and the latter half, which was based more on very loose outlines and chose to mostly ignore the fourth and fifth books, was much more critically mauled. For such adaptations there seems to be a thin line between the necessary creativity and invention to transfer a story from one medium to another, and outright hubris where a scriptwriter feels he or she is better than a novelist who has already enthralled millions of readers for decades and starts making changes for changes’ sake and to put his or her stamp on the story. The upcoming Watch TV series, based on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, has been open about using the books as a very loose inspiration for the show, which will feature Pratchett’s characters in dramatically different situations and roles to the novels. It will be interesting to see how both fans and general viewers react to such a reinvention. How The Wheel of Time handles this remains to be seen, of course. In other news this week, Amazon decided to confirm what they’d already revealed a few weeks ago, via the table-read for the series: Irish actor Ian McElhatton has been cast in The Wheel of Time. However, they also confirmed what role he will be playing: Tam al’Thor, Rand’s father and all-round good egg, a brave and honourable soldier, devoted husband and father, capable farmer and a skilled swordsman. It’s a nice reversal of roles for McElhatton, who for many years was best-known for playing the devious and sly Roose Bolton on Game of Thrones. McElhatton’s interpretation of the character was different to the novels (where Bolton is more clearly a villainous wrong ‘un, fond of being leeched to take away imagined toxins and treating everyone with disdain), but still a ruthless, amoral power-grabber whose biggest mistake was trusting his psychotic son, Ramsay, with too much power. McElhatton now gets to play arguably one of the most upstanding, honourable and capable characters in the whole series. It is interesting they went with a known name for the role, as, if true to the books, it may be a couple of seasons before we touch base with the character again. McElhatton’s profile has increased since Game of Thrones, with him being cast in HBO’s critically-lauded mini-series Chernobyl earlier this year and I imagine he could take his career in any direction he chose. Rafe Judkins did note that his first instinct was not to cast anyone who’d been in Game of Thrones, but he overrode that decision because McElhatton nailed his audition. Given how Thrones used up a sizeable portion of the English-speaking acting talent available in the UK (from where Wheel of Time is drawing a lot of its cast), it’s also unlikely this is the last time we see a doubling up of actors who’ll have been in both productions.
  10. Adam Whitehead is Dragonmount's TV blogger. Adam has been writing about film and television, The Wheel of Time, and other genre fiction for over fifteen years. Be sure to check out his websites, The Wertzone and Atlas of Ice and Fire (including The Wheel of Time Atlas!) as well as his Patreon. Please note this article contains very mild spoilers for The Wheel of Time novels. The arrival of the Wheel of Time TV series marks an interesting time for the fandom. The Wheel of Time has always had a passionate and fervent fanbase, ever since The Eye of the World arrived to strong sales in January 1990. It was one of the first epic fantasy series to benefit from the emergence of the Internet, with fans debating theories and swapping plot ideas on CompuServe and in early chat rooms before moving onto forums like Wotmania, Theoryland and, of course, Dragonmount. For twenty years, fans were able to discuss their ideas, favourite characters and, of course, ships. A few times there were also able to discuss things with Robert Jordan himself, on the old Tor Q&A page and then a blog hosted on Dragonmount before his sad passing in 2007. In more recent years, they have been able to discuss things with Brandon Sanderson and, occasionally, Robert Jordan’s team of editors and advisors. The Wheel of Time fandom has been traditionally friendly, welcoming and vibrant. Many couples have met through their fandom of the books and children have been born as a result. Other fandoms have splintered off: some of the earliest discussion of series like A Song of Ice and Fire, The Malazan Book of the Fallen and even Harry Potter can be found on ancient, archived Wheel of Time forums before those series acquired their own websites and followers. The fanbase wound down a little after the final book in the series, A Memory of Light, was published in 2013. The years of theorising and musing came to an end and fans were able to see what they had guessed correctly and what they had not. Some fans have kept up some discussion, such as over the nature of the ending and how much material was in Robert Jordan’s notes and how much had to be created by Brandon and the editors, but for the most part the fandom entered a much quieter state. Now it stands to be reinvigorated. Amazon’s Wheel of Time television series will bring millions of fresh fans to the series who have never heard the phrases “Aes Sedai,” “One Power” and, of course, “Easing the Badger.” Tor and Orbit will issue the books with new covers to tie in with the TV show, piled high at the front of your local bookstore or even supermarket, probably with some cover quote trying very hard not to mention Game of Thrones as a comparison point. Forums are bracing themselves for thousands, if not tens of thousands, of new members, and working out spoiler policies for newcomers. In some cases, this has already happened with early adopters rushing to read the entire series before the TV show hits (likely in early 2021). This has happened before. The immense box office and critical success of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy saw even Tolkien’s supposedly-ubiquitous books sell an extra 50 million copies in just a few years (considerably more by now). When Game of Thrones debuted in 2011, George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books had sold about 12 million copies. Last year, the books passed 90 million in sales, showing how having a huge TV show based on your books can impact their numbers. TV shows based on Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy and Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher series are due to arrive in the next two months (on HBO and Netflix, respectively), and the publishers of both are readying new tie-in editions of the books. The Wheel of Time is already one of the biggest-selling epic fantasy series of all time. Its lifetime, worldwide sales are at around 90 million, roughly equal with A Song of Ice and Fire and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, so I’d expect the success of the TV show to catapult it over the 100 million line relatively easily. If the show is a success, Wheel of Time merchandise will become as unavoidable as House Stark bumper stickers and poster maps of Middle-earth. The Wheel of Time will go from that topic you keep trying to interest your real-life friends in to the hot show they’re eager to talk about every week (possibly whilst you lament the casting choice for Cenn Buie or the cutting of your favourite minor character). We can expect new fan art, fanfiction and theories, this time about what or how the TV show is going to change things from the books. This might not quite be as intense as that for Game of Thrones – one benefit of The Wheel of Time already being complete – but it will still breath new life and new energy into the franchise and get the old fandom wheel turning again. In other news, shooting is ongoing, although there’s been little to hint at what the cast and crew might be up to right now. Madeleine Madden did post a picture of her trailer door on Twitter whilst Daniel Henney (Lan) has been hitting up guitar shops and train stations in Prague on his days off and Josha Stradowski (Rand) has been getting into some classic literature. There’s also been a flurry of casting rumours, which we’re not going to get into until Amazon have confirmed the details. Until next time, peace.
  11. Adam Whitehead is Dragonmount's TV blogger. Adam has been writing about film and television, The Wheel of Time, and other genre fiction for over fifteen years. Be sure to check out his websites, The Wertzone and Atlas of Ice and Fire (including The Wheel of Time Atlas!) as well as his Patreon. Please note this article contains very mild spoilers for The Wheel of Time novels. Filming is now well underway on Amazon’s Wheel of Time TV series and for this month’s “WoT Wednesday,” Amazon gave us a special surprise: a clip of the table read for the first two episodes. For those who are unfamiliar with the process of making television, a table read is held for each episode or, if the season is short enough, the entire season, with all of the actors present. The table-read helps actors learn each other’s voices, get into character and feel comfortable with the dialogue, and also helps the producers make sure they’ve got the timing correct for each episode. This is less crucial for a streaming service than it is for a network show selling adverts, which has to be 44 minutes on the dot, but Amazon still seems to keep things more strictly within a time limit than, say, Netflix or HBO. The table read is also often the first time the actors have read the script, rather memorably in Kit Harington’s case for the final season of Game of Thrones. The clip is the first time that we get to hear the actors embodying the characters they’ll be playing on the show, confirming that they’re going with a fairly ordinary English accent as the default accent for the Two Rivers, and perhaps all of Andor (as Robert Jordan indicated many years ago). Moiraine also has a somewhat “posh” accent, as you’d expect from a noblewoman and Aes Sedai. Barney Harris gets the biggest laugh as Mat Cauthon, cautioning his friends to be wary of Moiraine as she can “shoot fireballs,” so they should heed her advice. Combined with a line about crossing the river, this seems to confirm that the first two episodes will, between them, cover at least all of the events of Winternight, the battle at Emond’s Field and our main characters’ flight from the Two Rivers by cover of night. Exactly how much of the book the first episode – which we known has the working title Leavetakings – covers has been fiercely debated, especially as the second episode is called Shadow’s Waiting, suggesting it focuses on events in Shadar Logoth, although some have suggested that Episode 2 ends with the characters reaching the cursed city. Episode 3 is called A Place of Safety, which could be an ironic alternate title for Shadar Logoth itself. Of course, such speculation is not helped by the fact that, as of yet, we don’t know how many episodes there will be in the first season either. We do know there will be at least six, but not how many more than that. A nine-month shoot is more suggestive of ten to twelve episodes, but that remains to be confirmed. The clip is also interesting in that it gives us a look at some actors who have not been officially announced yet. Immediately recognisable is Irish actor Michael McElhatton, best-known for playing the villainous role of Roose Bolton in Seasons 2-6 of HBO’s Game of Thrones before recently appearing as a Soviet general on Chernobyl. McElhatton is infamous for his menacing stare and voice so could be playing a villainous role, but has also appeared in far more lighthearted and comedic roles. Bearing in mind that the table read is for the first two episodes, the most immediately appropriate casting would be for the role of Padan Fain, the friendly peddler whom, it turns out, is not quite as friendly as first appears. Other likely possibilities would be Tam al’Thor or Thom Merrilin. Less-likely but also possible would be Geofram Bornhald, especially if they introduce him in Baerlon rather than later on, or Ishamael/Ba’alzamon if they get as far as the boys’ first shared nightmare. Another possibility, that McElhatton might be playing Ishamael in the prologue, is discounted by Rafe Judkins’ Q&A of a year ago where he seemed to be suggesting that the prologue would not appear until later in the series (along with the events of New Spring), and an earlier statement that the first episode opens with Tam and Rand on the road to Emond's Field. The prologue is iconic and not using it to start the show might be considered sacrilegious, but there are at least two good reasons for not doing so. The first is that casting an actor as Lews Therin, using them briefly for one season, and then potentially not using them again for another two or three seasons is bad business practice, since it’s possible the actor will move onto other projects in the meantime and it’s expensive to put an actor under contract to not accept other work. Game of Thrones suffered from this problem, casting Ser Gregor in the first season and then having to use (two!) different actors later on because the original actor had been cast in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy in the meantime. More likely, given the show’s determination to make the identity of the Dragon Reborn more of a genuine mystery to TV watchers, is that the segue from Lews Therin to Rand is a bit on the nose and they want to keep things vaguer. One other actor who has been likely confirmed for the production is British actress Naana Agyei Ampadu, who recently appeared in a recurring role on British sitcom GameFace and in a minor role on the Steven Spielberg movie Ready Player One. Ampadu's casting was announced by her own casting agency on Twitter, who then quickly deleted the tweet, presumably because the release had not been okayed by Amazon. Dragonmount has asked Amazon if they could confirm McElhatton's and Ampadu's casting in the show, but they declined to comment at this stage. Tracking down other actors involved in the production is more difficult than you’d think, as several productions are currently shooting in and around Prague. Fear the Walking Dead actor Fernando Rojasbarr seemed a likely candidate, for example, until he revealed on his Instagram that he’s actually shooting a film called Zátopek. The movie Ophelia also wrapped shooting a couple of months ago, with some actors delaying posting any information to social media until recently, which briefly led to speculation that Tom Felton (Harry Potter’s Draco Malfoy) might be in Wheel of Time until the misconception was cleared up (he's not). That said, northern Irish actor Stuart Graham (Michael Collins, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) is in Prague at the moment and may be the grey-hair guy briefly glimpsed at the read. A similar age to McElhatton, he could also be a good guess for Thom Merrilin, Tam al’Thor or Padan Fain. Or he might be in town for one of the other projects mentioned above. We'll see if we can get his casting confirmed as well. As for the shoot itself, which is now about to start it's fourth week (of around 34-37 weeks, with shooting due to conclude in May), production has moved to western Slovenia where the Great Soča Gorge, near the Italian border, is being used to stand in for part of the Two Rivers. The spectacular scenery, with the eastern Alps as the backdrop, certainly seems to fit the book descriptions. Actors Daniel Henney (Lan) and Josha Stradowski (Rand) shared some pics they'd taken from the shoot via Instagram.Eagle-eyed Wheel of Time fans are now scouring the video for more clues to the identity of the other actors, and we’ll bring you their findings as soon as we can.
  12. Adam Whitehead is Dragonmount's TV blogger. He'll be writing a regular column called Adam's Wheel of Television. Adam has been writing about film and television, The Wheel of Time, and other genre fiction for over fifteen years. Be sure to check out his websites, The Wertzone and Atlas of Ice and Fire (including The Wheel of Time Atlas!) as well as his Patreon. Please note this article contains very mild spoilers for The Wheel of Time novels. Principle photography – or “the actual filming” – began today on Amazon Prime’s Wheel of Time television series. The shoot is expected to run through to the end of May 2020, with months of post-production to follow. When we will see the show on air is still open to question, but late 2020 to early 2021 seems reasonable. Showrunner Rafe Judkins took to social media to both celebrate the news of filming beginning but also commemorate the passing of Robert Jordan, who sadly passed away on this day in 2007 at the age of 58. Robert Jordan had been diagnosed with cardiac amyloidosis, an exceedingly rare blood condition (affecting only one in a million people), and had spent almost two years undergoing experimental treatment. During this time, he had mustered as much energy and creativity as possible to create an outline for the ending of The Wheel of Time in the form of writings, draft chapters, dictation on cassettes and copious notes, which was later used by Brandon Sanderson to deliver an ending to the series. Whilst millions of Wheel of Time fans worldwide remember Jordan on this day, they also have questions about the television adaptation. Last week, the cast shared their first group photo, taken in Prague on the day of the read-through of the script for the series. Notable by his absence was the actor playing Thom Merrilin, who hasn’t been announced yet. This led to a storm of controversy and online hot takes as people furiously debated if the character would appear in the show or if he’d been cut. To be fair, a large number of other characters expected to appear in Season 1 also haven’t been announced, even those that Rafe Judkins has confirmed are in the script. According to Judkins’ previous comments, both Tam al’Thor and the false Dragon Logain Ablar will be in the show and neither actor has been confirmed yet. Assuming that Season 1 adapts at least The Eye of the World, we can also reasonably be expecting Min, Elayne, Gawyn, Galad, Elaida, Morgase, Gareth Bryne, Geofram and Dain Bornhald, Jaret Byar, Padan Fain, Agelmar, Ba’alzamon, Basel Gill and Mordeth to be cast. Sure, a few of those characters might be held back until Season 2 to save money (Min, Elayne, Gawyn and Galad have to be front-runners here), but certainly not all of them, and some of them fulfil important plot functions: without Padan Fain or Ba’alzamon, Season 1 doesn’t really have a primary antagonist, and calling the second episode Shadow’s Waiting without including Mordeth would be a bizarre choice. [See our article "5 WoT Characters likely to have Expanded TV Roles"] Thom Merrilin’s status on the show is likely to be leaning more towards a recurring role than a regular one. We know that episode two is called Shadow’s Waiting, which implies that the Shadar Logoth adventure will take place in the second or third episode. In the novel, Thom drops out of the story a few chapters later, which means that Thom will be leaving the series less than halfway through the first season (which is expected to run for 8-10 episodes at the lower end). Hollywood crediting practices can be complicated, but generally speaking, a studio will announce the regular cast for a new show first and with a great deal of fanfare. On this basis we can expect that Barney Harris (Mat), Madeleine Madden (Egwene), Zoe Robbins (Nynaeve), Marcus Rutherford (Perrin) and Josha Stradowski (Rand) will get a billing as series regulars, with Rosamund Pike (Moiraine) and Daniel Henney (Lan) probably getting the much-coveted “featuring” or “and” credits given to actors with a lot of experience and credits to their name. The status given to secondary and recurring cast varies dramatically from project to project. In many shows, recurring and guest stars (actors in several episodes of a series but not all, or just one) would not be announced ahead of time at all. For Game of Thrones, HBO were keenly aware of the media and fan interest in the property and announced even relatively minor Season 1 recurring characters like Lysa Arryn and Ser Hugh of the Vale with a surprising degree of fanfare back in 2010. It’s unclear which route Amazon will take, although I suspect their marketing plans to announce something new about the series every month means we will get some more news before the show launches. This does lead back to a bigger question though: is Thom even going to be in the series at all? For fans, cutting Thom is unthinkable. He shows up near the start of The Eye of the World and is a useful font of knowledge and information for the young characters (and exposition for readers) about the wider world, especially useful given Moiraine’s secretive nature. He has his own secrets, which in time give us more information about the Aes Sedai, the Red Ajah and the royal family of Andor, not to mention his involvement in the Cairhienin civil war in the second book. In the third book he reluctantly teams up with Mat Cauthon once again and then remains an active part of the story until the very end. As one of the original “seven samurai” who sets out from the Two Rivers at the start of The Eye of the World (with Nynaeve “making the eight,” so to speak, when she catches up with them in Baerlon), Thom is an iconic character from the books and, for many fans, cutting him should be as ridiculous an idea as dropping Legolas from the Fellowship of the Ring. That said, once the initial anger passes, an argument could be made that Thom doesn’t do a huge amount. He provides a fair bit of exposition, sure, but that could be provided through other characters, such as a more garrulous Moiraine. He spends entire books of The Wheel of Time as a background character, and even sits out the eighth book altogether. He does have some more important things to do at the end of the series, but for some readers these can come a bit out of left field and other characters could perform the same tasks. That’s not so say that I honestly expect them to cut Thom as a character, but when it comes to the core cast, he’s arguably the most disposable. They could also split the difference and keep Thom, but not introduce him until the TV show reaches the events of The Great Hunt or even The Dragon Reborn. With shooting now underway, I wouldn't be surprised to see leaks and more hints getting out about other castmembers, so we may find out if Thom is in the show, one way or another, soon. As ever, we will find out in time.
  13. Adam Whitehead is Dragonmount's new TV show blogger. He'll be writing a regular column called Adam's Wheel of Television. Adam has been writing about film and television, The Wheel of Time, and other genre fiction for fifteen years. Be sure to check out his websites, The Wertzone and Atlas of Ice and Fire (including The Wheel of Time Atlas!) as well as his Patreon. Casting for Amazon’s Wheel of Time TV series is in full swing. The latest to join the Two Rivers party is Korean-American actor Daniel Henney, who has been cast as al’Lan Mandragoran, the Uncrowned King of Malkier, Diademed Battle Lord of the Malkieri and an all-round, fan-favourite character. In many respects, Lan is the closest analogue Wheel of Time has to Aragorn, the uncrowned King of Gondor in J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel The Lord of the Rings and memorably played by Viggo Mortensen in Peter Jackson’s film adaptation. Like Aragorn, Lan is the heir to a fallen lineage, who constantly questions himself and his abilities compared to his legendary ancestors. However, whilst Gondor still exists and Aragorn knows he can reclaim his throne when the time is right, for Lan he has no hope. Malkier has been destroyed utterly by the Shadow, absorbed by the Great Blight, and there is little to no chance that it will ever rise again. Instead, Lan throws himself into his war against the Shadow, spending the first twenty years of his life in fierce combat training with Bukama Marenellin, the sole survivor of the band of Malkieri warriors who bore the two-year-old Lan from his homeland. Lan becomes skilled in the art of swordplay, eventually being acclaimed a blademaster, and declares war on the Blight. He wages his personal war for years, becoming respected and honoured for his drive. Only one event takes him away from his mission, when the Aiel cross the Spine of the World and the nations unite at Tar Valon to fight the Battle of the Shining Walls. When Lan’s mentor Bukama is killed as a result of political machinations in Kandor and the manipulations of the Black Ajah (as related in New Spring), he is offered the chance to join Moiraine Damodred in her mission to find the Dragon Reborn and avert the end of the world. He agrees, becoming her Warder, and for two decades they scour every corner of the Westlands for any sign of the Dragon Reborn. Finally, destiny and the Pattern call them to the town of Emond’s Field in the Two Rivers district of Andor. Lan’s obsession with defeating the Shadow leads him to train the young men from the Two Rivers in the art of combat, but his mission acquires a new focus when he meets Nynaeve al’Meara, the village Wisdom, a resourceful and skilled young woman with a singular determination. Lan is a major character in The Wheel of Time, although one (as with many) who sometimes sits out entire books in the series. His arc from The Eye of the World through A Memory of Light is one of finding hope and something to live for, and for finding reasons to live beyond pure revenge. Daniel Henney is an interesting choice for the role. Born in Carson City, Michigan to a Korean mother and an Irish-American father, he was a star basketball player in high school and then a professional model. His career took him all over the world, but his South Korean heritage saw him picking up a lot of work in the Seoul film and TV industry. He crossed over into acting via the Korean TV drama My Name is Sam Soon, where he played Dr. Henry Kim. An acting career in South Korea beckoned, but was complicated by the fact that Henney spoke no Korean. He had to learn his lines phonetically whilst frantically cramming language lessons. Several successful roles in South Korea followed before he got his first acting gigs in the USA in 2009, on the TV series Three Rivers and in the film X-Men Origins: Wolverine, where he played Agent Zero. His US career has included guest star roles on Hawaii Five-0, Revolution and NCIS: Los Angeles, and voice-over roles in Big Hero 6 (which he reprised for the spin-off TV series) and Mowgli. He is best-known for playing FBI Special Agent Matt Simmons in the Criminal Minds franchise, appearing in 47 episodes to date. He also played the same character on the spin-off Beyond Borders, for a further 26 episodes. Henney was initially reluctant to appear on a long-running US drama series with a heavy workload (especially as he remains active in Korean TV and advertising), but was impressed by the scripts where his character was positioned as both an action hero and also a more sensitive family man in a successful relationship. He felt that Asian roles in US dramas tended to be less traditional and was happy to play a role that in the past would have gone to Caucasian actors. At 6 ft 2, Henney is certainly tall enough to fill the imposing shoes of Lan Mandragoran and his acting resume is nothing to sniff at, including comedy, action and romance. At 39 (40 in November) he is also a reasonable fit in age for Lan, who is 44 or 45 when the events of the first book begin. Henney is also a big book fan (his favourite author is Japanese author Haruki Murakami) and a major geek, complete with his own He-Man action figure collection. He is also a huge dog fan, with his dogs making frequent, unexpected appearances on his YouTube Q&A videos. Henney's videos are interesting, as they show a lot of thought and contemplation has gone into his career choices and how he embodies the characters he's playing. It'll be interesting to see the inevitable video where he talks about the decision to take on the role of Lan. So we now have our Lan Mandragoran, and I'm sure all Wheel of Time fans wish Daniel Henney well in the role. But there are still a lot of characters still out there to be cast, including Tam al'Thor, Thom Merrilin and Padan Fain, and we'll be waiting to see if we get any more casting tidbits in the next few weeks. Until next time, farewell.
  14. There's a technology called Digital Noise Reduction (DNR). When used properly, it removes grain and pops from old film stock to make for a better image when it is scanned in HD or 4K. It's very useful for getting old movies and TV shows upgraded to modern high-def. When used badly, it goes haywire and starts "smoothing" everything on screen, making it weird and soft-looking. On people, it can remove a lot of the detailed features, especially of the skin, and make people look slightly off-putting and fake. Fox used it particularly badly on their recent HD remastering of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (especially in Season 1) and it has that effect. If you fiddled around with it and reduced its effect to just a character's face, it could achieve the same fate as the Aes Sedai ageless look. We know now from RJ's notes that yes, Taim was Demandred and, yes, it was changed because the fans figured it out. So that could be kept the same, and Shara kept firmly off-screen altogether.
  15. Here's my attempt at such a map or diagram of the White Tower.
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