Rafe Judkins jumped in for a Q&A on Instagram Stories about changes the production had to make for Amazon’s adaptation of the Wheel of Time. This comes right after a #WotWednesday post by the production’s official Twitter account.
— The Wheel of Time (@WOTonPrime) December 23, 2020
We’ve transcribed Rafe’s answers to the questions which appeared on his Instagram stories:
Q: Who’s the most significant S1 character you invented for the show?
A: There’s no one fully invented. Anyone “new” is either a character pulled from somewhere in the series and changed or a composite of groups or types of characters personified in one individual. Other than STEVE. Obviously.
Q: How difficult was it to change or leave out characters from the books for screen adaptation
A: Sometimes very difficult, obviously. People who drive the story or shed light on our characters’ back stories or the world of the show always will be more likely to make an appearance. But some people are there in glimpses or subtle nods just for our enjoyment. Some extras were named as characters and given things / looks from the books, so keep your eyes peeled
Q: How many times did i give you blank stares when discussing possible changes?
A: This one is obviously from Sarah N. There were moments when a thrilled room full of writers would go “we’ve cracked it! It’s amazing! But can ‘insert book canon person/place/thing’ be ‘insert noncanon idea’ instead?” And Sarah’s resounding, withering stare would tell us to go back to the drawing board. RIP Perrin talking to a bear.
Q: In the books we always enter the story on the wind, will that be a convention we see a lot?
A: We’ve tackled the wind in the Pilot inr what I think at least, ha is an unexpected but rewarding way. Excited to see what you all think of it.
Q: Do you have to change character personalities for a screen adaption?
A: We try not to. Most of our job is about making sure that we create a story and scenes that can tell the audience about character motivations and WHY they’re doing something they’re doing when we can’t just drop into their head and say it like you can in a book. This often results in some of the biggest “changes”, but they’re ultimately put in to make sure that the character on screen is as emotionally true as possible
Q: Were there any changes in earlier drafts of scripts that were scrapped in final version?
A: Yes, tons. We are never afraid to try something and see if it works. But then that has to also go through Sarah and Me (I drive the writers as crazy as anyone with sticking to the books). It also then goes to Brandon Sanderson, Harriet McDougal, and Maria Simons, who’ve been huge helps in checking us and helping us go back to the drawing board on changes (or many times, saying “that works” and giving us permission to release a tiny sigh of relief)
Q: Are there some major characters that appear in the first book that won’t appear in the first season?
A: Yes. And some of them are still slated to appear in later seasons (again, approaching the adaptation of the series, not just each book individually). A few of these characters I bet you already expect this for, and one, at least, I think will surprise you.
Q: Have there been any major locations or cities you’ve had to cut for budget/time/logistics?
A: This is perhaps the biggest source of changes for us. Even with the massive amount of money Amazon has kindly given us to bring this world to life, to go to as many unqiue cities/villages/locations as they do in the books is simply impossible. We have chosen to do a few places extremely well (both culturally and with production design) instead of doing dozens of places cheaply and badly. This results in many changes that have huge ripple effects (if you can’t go to Baerlon, do you still meet Min? Do you still encounter the Whitecloaks? Do you still have dreams of Ba’alzamon? Etc). I’m betting that most things that feel the most unnecessarily changed to people from the books (even if they’re hugely separated from that specific location) will be borne out of a location specific change.
Q: Do you attempt to keep book dialogue? Or start from scratch?
A: Every writer receives a document when they begin their script put together by our book expert, Sarah, that breaks down every scene in the episode and gives specific dialogue and scene references from the books for it. Especially for scenes that aren’t from the books at all, we will find scenes from the books with the same characters together or talking about the same thing thematically. That said, predictably, almost all the dialogue in the show is not from the books so as to sound as natural as possible with our locations/actors/scenes as they’re played.
Q: How far through the series did you consider when making changes (in terms of repercussions)?
A: We have to consider it for the entire series. Which has led to many in room conversations/screaming matches where someone is like “The Yellow sister Healing someone in this scene CANNOT be Chesmal Emry. Are you kidding me? Do you know anything about Chesmal Emry. What did you just google a random Yellow sister name and pick one you liked? Fuck you and your yellow sister, it’s not going to be fucking Chesmal Emry, I guarantee you that.”
Q: Have you made changes that hurt you/Sarah to make, but were necessary for the screen?
A: The writers room floor is littered with my tears. Truly though, I don’t want people to be unprepared for how different the show is to the books. To do a proper adaptation, it has to be. As a thought exercise, just imagine we can only do four of the cities from EoTW. So from Emonds Field, Taren Ferry, Baerlon, Shadar Logoth, Whitebridge, Four Kings, Breen’s Spring, Caemlyn, Fal Dara, which do you choose? What are the knock-on effects for character and story from the ones you don’t go to? Which characters haven’t met each other now and how can you reconnect them? We have amazing writers and hugely helpful support in Brandon and Harriet to tackle these changes. But they’re not small. Gird your loins, my friends.
Q: What made you change Thom playing the lyre to a guitar?
A: Thom is a good example of changes made for the show. For one, I want characters to appear when we have the time to spend to properly introduce them and get enough scenes for them to attract a great actor for the role. You will never see scenes on this show where four random people appear, say two lines, and then disappear for seasons. It just won’t get you the caliber of actor you need and it doesn’t properly intro that character to the audience. So for Thom, we wanted to give him a proper introduction, and we also wanted him to have a strong masculine energy that made a counterpoint to Moiraine. We saw actors of all ages, races, and vibes to play Thom but when Alex Willaume’s tape came through we knew he was Thom and moved toward his vibe for the character which was younger and grittier than books Thom. The guitar looks much more fitting in his hands and with his voice than a lyre. When he stomps onto stage in the show, it’s a MOMENT, and that’s what we wanted for Thom. Never fear, multi colored cloak is still in existence, but different than you imagine. Isis (our costume designer) nailed it.
Q (from Twitter): How much of the monster / trolloc / fade / dragkhar design is being done practically, vs digital effects? Mostly makeup and prosthetics? And with that, how closely does the design match the text? (Totally smooth faces on fades, varieties of trollocs, etc.)
A: We have worked hard to use as many practical effects and pieces as possible for Trollocs/Fades, but don’t want to spoil all the secrets until you watch the BTS after the 1st Season.