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Rafe Judkins on ‘The Wheel of Time’: ‘The connective tissue of high fantasy’

Still from ‘The Wheel of Time’ Special Arrangement  

Rafe Judkins, showrunner of the high-fantasy series, The Wheel of Time, read and loved Robert Jordan’s books the show is based on. “I always believed it would be an incredible television series,” says Judkins over a video call from Prague where shooting for the second season is progressing. “It was only in the last few years after Game of Thrones came out that people could see the reason to spend the resources that are necessary to bring something like this to life.”

Characters are what draw people to high fantasy, according to the 38-year-old screenwriter. “You like to spend time with these people. You want to read about them and watch them because you want to know what happens next. That is one of the pieces of connective tissue between television and fantasy book series. Fantasy books and television shows are able to tell the stories of interesting characters over a long period of time in an engaging manner.”

Showrunner Rafe Judkins on the sets of ‘The Wheel of Time’

Showrunner Rafe Judkins on the sets of ‘The Wheel of Time’  

Huge task

There are 14 books and a prequel in The Wheel of Time series and 2,782 named characters. Judkins says it was difficult to adapt the novels into a show. “It is a huge, iconic piece of fantasy literature. To adapt it into a show was no easy feat and figuring out which pieces we can use and how to combine them was part of my job.”

In the books many of the protagonists are teenagers while in the show, they are older. The reason for this according to Judkins is because he wanted to the show to feel as adult as the book series did. “The series is targeted squarely at adults and so I want the show to be as well. There is something about seeing 15, 16 or 17-year-olds at the core of TV show that make it sound like a YA show and not something that adults should or can be watching.”

Name game

The title of each of the eight episodes is taken from the books, says Judkins. “We put a lot of thought into how each episode title was selected.” While the first season is mainly based on the first book, The Eye of the World, Judkins says the adaptation would be in a way that most sense for the story that is being told. “Sometimes that will mean one season is one book and sometimes that will mean one season is three books or even four books. It depends on the story being told and the best way to bring it to television.”

Some source material, Judkins says, lends itself very clearly to a closer adaptation. “George RR Martin was a television writer before he wrote Game of Thrones. You see a lot of television writing in the way the books are put together. You have act-outs and episode-ends. It is a neat translation between book and television.”

Still from ‘The Wheel of Time’ Special Arrangement

Still from ‘The Wheel of Time’ Special Arrangement  

Best route

Commenting that they were not changing anything unnecessarily in the adaptation, Judkins says, “We are trying to follow the books as closely as we can and figure out ways to bring what makes the books great and the best way to tell the story for television.”

Rosamund Pike has a pivotal role as Moiraine, an Aes Sedai, a powerful being able to harness magical powers. “Rosamund is not just great actress, but also someone I have grown to think of as a friend. We have been working on this for years now. She is always bringing new ideas to the table. She brings incredible focus on her work. She lifts everyone around her with her professionalism and kindness. It makes for a spectacular work and set environment.”

Still from ‘The Wheel of Time’ Special Arrangement

Still from ‘The Wheel of Time’ Special Arrangement  

Big bang

Casting necessitated throwing the net far and wide, including India. “Priyanka Bose plays Alanna Mosvani, an Aes Sedai. We had this amazing moment on set with her where she is controlling the elements around her. She was creating this explosion and she said, ‘you know, Rafe, I am controlling this explosion. I said, ‘well, it is not really you, it is a special effect that we are doing’. She said, ‘No, they are following my hand movements so I am in control. I replied, ‘You know what, Priyanka, you are correct. You are in control of that explosion.’ It was amazing just to see her almost doing a dance of creating these explosions.”

Fans of the books, Judkins says, can expect something that is not a word-for-word translation of the books to screen. “They will see something that captures the characters, people and stories from the books, the heart and brings it to television.”

The Wheel of Time will stream on Amazon Prime Video from November 19 in English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu


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Printable version | Jan 28, 2022 5:16:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/rafe-judkins-on-the-wheel-of-time-the-connective-tissue-of-high-fantasy/article37540547.ece

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