The Wheel of Time show will change the books but keep “the heart” of the story


We have some time on our hands, so we’re gobbling up any piece of information we can about the upcoming Wheel of Time series in production over at Amazon Studios. It will hopefully become one of the better series of the next decade, but for now, production has stopped on account of the coronavirus, like pretty much every other movie and TV show out there.

Luckily, there are still some tidbits coming out to hold us over. First, showrunner Rafe Judkins made a surprise appearance at a virtual Wheel of Time convention called JordanCONline:

The panel includes familiar faces from the Wheel of Time community, including Jennifer Liang, Shannan Lieb, Matt Hatch, Adam Whitehead, and Daniel Green. They asked some insightful questions, and Judkins revealed details about how the production hiatus has affected the show, as well as what to expect moving forward:

  • Although shooting isn’t yet complete on The Wheel of Time season 1, season 2 is already in the planning stages. This downtime might actually be good for it. “The nice thing about this is that we will now have all eight scrips going into prep for season 2, which will let us do such a better job with it and it lets me focus more on the scripts and the editing that we’re doing right now because were not shooting.”
  • Why did Judkins want to be involved with this series? He cherishes the story and believes it is his job is to “protect the spine and the heart of what the books are,” ensuring that someone else doesn’t do a bad job. That’s pretty similar to why Brandon Sanderson completed the series after original author Robert Jordan died before finishing it.
  • The Amazon team has been working with Harriet McDougal (Robert Jordan’s widow), Maria Simons (Robert Jordan’s assistant and member of Team Jordan), and Brandon Sanderson to make sure Jordan’s legacy is preserved.
  • The crew pores over interviews with Jordan, talks he gave, and book signings to help with the pronunciations of certain names and locations.
  • Official screenshots will be released before we see any footage.

Judkins also talked about the need to change some things when translating Jordan’s books to TV:

"If my job is to protect the spine and the heart of what’s there, sometimes that is changing things because sometimes if you did them exactly as they were, a new audience to it wouldn’t actually understand the heart of what’s there because a lot of it is expressed inside someone’s head or it’s expressed by a character that gets a POV that we can’t really do on television. It’s those kind of things. You know a huge cast member coming for one scene and then not appearing for three books later causes all sorts of logistical problems."

Next up is an interesting Instagram Live conversation with Salli Richardson-Whitfield, one of the many talented directors behind the show’s first season. Richardson-Whitfield talked about her time working on the show in Prague. While she said what she could, it’s clear that the higher-ups at Amazon don’t want many details revealed, but of course a few things slipped out.

“Just to give you the scope, most shows will take maybe seven to nine days to shoot. This TV show is anywhere from 15 to 20 days an episode,” Richardson-Whitfield said. She teased some major crowd sequences — around three or four — with around 300 people, animals, horses and carriages to work with. The far-flung locations are impressive, too. Clearly, the series isn’t sparring any expenses.

Richardson-Whitfield is directing the fifth and sixth episodes of this first upcoming season, and may have to return to Prague to film more after this hiatus comes to an end.

Another bit of fun news comes from Cinesite, the visual effects and animation company working on the show. CEO Antony Hunt told Screen Daily that “it’s business as usual” even during the shutdown.

If you want to see what kind of talent Cinesite is bringing to the table, the company recently released a reel showing off some of the work they did on Netflix’s The Witcher as well as Marvel movies like Avengers: Endgame and Ant-Man and the Wasp. There’s no Wheel of Time footage, but the quality certainly bodes well:

Speaking of special effects, we’ve wondered how the show would render the magic in Robert Jordan’s fantasy world. The act of channeling involves weaving together threads of magic summoned from an all-powerful energy source.

Judkins said before that he’s been “giving a bunch of VFX folks long diatribes about channeling, weaves, threads, earth vs. air, etc.” Apparently, the early stuff has started to come in and it already looks incredible. Judkins reportedly screamed when he saw Rosamund Pike, who plays the Aes Sedai Moiraine, channeling for the first time. It sounds like the visuals are in god hands.

Finally, Amazon Studios is doing what it can to help fans through this time. The official Twitter account for the show, @WOTonPrime, is starting a Book Club for those interested in re-reading the series together!

The event begins at 10:00 AM PDT on May 6! The first session will discuss the Prologue and Chapters 1 and 2 of the first book in the series,The Eye of the World. It might not be a trailer, but it’s a great opportunity for people Wheel of Time veterans and newcomers alike to engage online with a respectful community of passionate fans, as for example the kind that make awesome trailer like this one:

Until the next update.

dark. Next. Let’s dreamcast Amazon’s The Wheel of Time show!

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