Exclusive: Kate Fleetwood hints at Liandrin's dark plans in The Wheel of Time

Kate Fleetwood tells us about how she navigates playing the multifaceted villain Liandrin on The Wheel of Time...and makes us nervous for what's to come in season 3.
Kate Fleetwood as Liandrin in The Wheel of Time. Image courtesy of Prime Video/Kurt Iswarienko.
Kate Fleetwood as Liandrin in The Wheel of Time. Image courtesy of Prime Video/Kurt Iswarienko. /

The Wheel of Time season 2 featured many fascinating villains. Kate Fleetwood plays the Aes Sedai sorceress Liandrin Guirale, a woman with dark hidden agendas who moves through the powerful circles of the White Tower. Over the course of the season, fans discovered that Liandrin's allegiances were to a far more nefarious power than the ones which hold sway over the Aes Sedai: she is a member of the Black Ajah, and she is not to be underestimated.

Liandrin's big turning point came just over halfway through the season, when Lanfear (Natasha O'Keeffe) severed Lanfear's last remaining tie to her family in brutal fashion. When last we see Liandrin, she has betrayed some of our heroes and delivered orders meant to end the life of another. She was conspicuously absent from the season finale, so her next moves are a looming question ahead of season 3.

According to Kate Fleetwood, that should have fans on edge to see what happens next. We spoke with her about how she navigated the complexities of Liandrin's character, working with so many different members of The Wheel of Time cast, cast members she'd like to work with down the line, and more. Read on for our exclusive interview with Kate Fleetwood! (Edited for length and clarity.)

Kate Fleetwood as Liandrin in The Wheel of Time. Image courtesy of Prime Video/Kurt Iswarienko.
Kate Fleetwood as Liandrin in The Wheel of Time. Image courtesy of Prime Video/Kurt Iswarienko. /

WINTER IS COMING: You had to portray a huge range of emotions as Liandrin this season on The Wheel of Time. She's a villain but she's a villain with a lot of humanity. So I was wondering which was more fun for you to play and why: her vulnerability or her villainy?

KATE FLEETWOOD: They're all the same to me, because it's the same person. It's just playing the same person. I mean, I know that's what actors say all the time and it's true. What I really enjoy is the language...the language that they give me is so lovely. They give me a lot of nice sort of knotty language to say. And, you know, sometimes it's hard to say those words. [Laughs] But there's always so much sort of depth...Liandrin is quite a handy character to use, because she gives a lot of other people reasons to behave in certain ways. And so I think that's one of the reasons they can use me in ways that people might be surprised [about] that isn't in the book, is that I can sort of provoke people because of my villainy. I can be a provocateur, which will then make the story move on for another character, so I'm very handy.

I love playing both, but what I really like playing is when it turns on a sixpence and you know, you're playing one thing in one tiny nanosecond and then you spin it and you're playing the opposite in the following nanosecond, and that is a really interesting thing to do as an actor...to be able to be like quicksilver and sort of turn on a sixpence, and so the audience is sort of shocked, or you're shocked...you shock yourself, and you're definitely trying to shock—or you're going to shock—the person you're talking to. So it's about being able to sort of spin on a tiny plate and, you know, then turning in the opposite direction. It's exciting to be able to do that, and I can only do that if I'm given that material. I'm always incredibly grateful to the writers for trusting me with that.

WIC: One of those great quick turn moments that I specifically wanted to ask you about was in Episode 5, there's a moment where Liandrin is handing off Nynaeve and Egwene and Elayne to the Seanchan...and right before she does, she cuts Nynaeve's bonds. And that was such a, like you said, a moment where you're seeing multiple sides of this character all in the same scene. What do you think was going through Liandrin's head in that scene when she cut Nynaeve free?

KF: I think she's saying, "Even when I'm gone, Lady Suroth, you will know I am here." [Laughs] And you know, I talked about this to someone earlier, it's like...Liandrin obviously comes from a deeply neglectful past, and I think her basic MO is to be seen and to be heard, because she grew up in a world where she had no control and she had no voice. And so I think she's just in this sort of deep, entrenched...habit, for want of a better phrase, of needing to always have the last word.

I mean, she pretty much always has the last word, doesn't she, in every scene she has? If I think of it now...very rare that she doesn't have the last word. In fact, one of the only times I can remember her not having the last word is when in season 1, Moiraine says, "I know about the man you keep in North Harbor." And I think that possibly could be the only scene that she doesn't have the last word.

And then of course, there's this other sort of image I have...is that on stage, you know a playwright will create a character [who's] just a silent character who will come onto the stage, put a gun in the drawer and then leave. And then it's like...when's the gun gonna be used? And I think that's what she's doing with Nynaeve, is she's leaving a loaded gun in the room. She's leaving a bomb.

Kate Fleetwood (Liandrin Guirale), Zoë Robins (Nynaeve al'Meara) in The Wheel of Time season 2. Image: Prime Video.
Kate Fleetwood (Liandrin Guirale), Zoë Robins (Nynaeve al'Meara) in The Wheel of Time season 2. Image: Prime Video. /

WIC: So you mentioned earlier that Liandrin is very handy because she can push other characters to act. I noticed that too while watching; it seemed like you got placed with a bunch of different actors this season and always ended up...kind of elevating the scenes because you really were wonderful as Liandrin.

KF: Oh, thank you. Well, lucky me, I get to do lots of play with lots of actors—but not enough! I want to play with everybody. You know, I spend most of my time skulking around corridors on my own. It's nice to play with everyone.

WIC: Are there any scene partners you had who you were especially energized to work with? And are there any actors on the show you haven't worked with yet that you would like to?

KF: Yeah, I mean, I'm always just hungry to work with anybody. But it's really strange [when] you have a show like this because it's such a huge diaspora of characters. So it [is] sort of impossible for everyone to play together. But I'd love to be with the Aiel. That would be amazing wouldn't it, [to] see what happened there? I've never had a scene with...I've had one teeny-weeny scene with Lan and Warders, I've never really interacted with them. Though I talked about Lan obviously, as a provocation to Nynaeve. I didn't have any scenes with Moiraine this year. I mean, I talked about her and I thought about her and I thought about killing her. But I didn't have any connection with her, which is a shame.

But I always get energized working with Zoë Robins (Nynaeve) because we just have this big, really strong bond. I mean, she's amazing and we have a sort of a weird sisterly quality together. It's not weird at all, it's just that you might not suspect [it]...because it's such a complicated relationship. But we really relish it, both Zoë and I, and a lot of the time we just know what that beat is between us. We don't really have to talk it through. We just sort of know where we're trying to connect with each other, and it's very emotional. It's always very emotional. We know how to connect emotionally and I think that elevates those scenes a lot.

I love playing with Mat (Dónal Finn), you know, that was really great because it's so playful. The kind of thing she does to Nynaeve, she sort of ends with a sort of love. If she was a cult leader, she'd be sort of...grooming everybody. She's going through the stages of grooming with Nynaeve, where she's sort of constantly love bombing her. Whereas with Mat she sort of love bombs him a little bit with the cakes and sort of being kind to him, "I'm going to read you this letter I'm going to let you da-da-da-da," and then she sort of just sticks the knife in. She's going to control and manipulate. So she's always sort of playing with everybody, it's just that she toys with everybody differently depending on what she wants them to do, what she wants to get out of them for herself, for her own ends or whatever it is.

WIC: Final question! Obviously Liandrin had a pretty big turn there near the end of the season after Lanfear severed her ties to her son. The last time we see her, she's kind of in a little bit more of a villain mode, giving Barthanes orders to deal with Moiraine. How do you think fans should be feeling about Liandrin going into season 3?

KF: [Thinks for a moment.] What is she going to do? What is she going to do now? I mean if she'd lost her son, what could she possibly lose?

WIC: Well that's ominous.

KF: I mean, and her relationship with Lanfear and all of that...you know, I cant give too much away...but it's the stakes, isn't it? It's always about the stakes. I think that's been, personally, one of the most successful things in season 2, with the Forsaken being introduced it's just made the whole thing, the stakes and the conflict and the fracture and the tension...and everything got much darker and the stakes have just gone, [makes an explosion noise]. The jeopardy is just now so much bigger, you know? That's for everybody, that includes Liandrin as well. We're playing high rollers now, it's high rollers.

The Wheel of Time Season 2
Kate Fleetwood (Liandrin Guirale) in The Wheel of Time season 2. Image: Prime Video. /

An enormous thank you to Kate Fleetwood for stopping by the site to talk about her work! You can watch her as Liandrin in season 2 of The Wheel of Time, available now to binge on Prime Video.

If you enjoyed this interview, make sure to check out our other Wheel of Time post-season interviews with Zoë Robins (Nynaeve), Natasha O'Keeffe (Lanfear), and Ayoola Smart (Aviendha). And keep an eye out for more cast interviews for The Wheel of Time over the holidays.

Next: 10 best fantasy and science fiction shows of 2023. 10 best fantasy and science fiction shows of 2023. dark. Next

To stay up to date on everything fantasy, science fiction, and WiC, follow our all-encompassing Facebook page and sign up for our exclusive newsletter.

Get HBO, Starz, Showtime and MORE for FREE with a no-risk, 7-day free trial of Amazon Channels