The Wheel of Time showrunner Rafe Judkins did an AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) on Reddit. We’ve collected the questions and answers below, although some of the question comments have been condensed for brevity. Warning: there are minor book spoilers.
Q: One of the biggest complaints I’ve seen regarding the premier is the pacing of episode 1. It’s been reported that you wanted/expected a 10 episode season and a 2 hr pilot, so it’s understandable why it had to be so cram packed when cut down to only 1 hour. Is there any possibly of a JudkinsCut being released later on?
A: Ha, I wish. But the JudkinsCut never really made it out of script form. And to Amazon’s credit, a real focus in streaming nowadays for all of the networks is “pace” and “bingeability”. Anecdotally (and apparently statistically now), tons of non-book fans made it through the first episode and right into the series without stopping down or turning it off. Maybe in the next turning of the Wheel, there’ll be the two hour season premiere featuring unlimited scenes of smithing, Coplins, Congars, and more.
Q: Why are you not using any of the WOT swears? Every time the characters use modern colloquialisms it completely throws me for a loop. Those phrases mean a lot to me.
A: Blood and ashes, give us some time. It’s coming. And just wait until you meet Uno…
Q: So, I love the bonus content, from the animated minis, to the interviews, the preview with Logain today, but why under the light are they so flaming hard to locate? Please just have Amazon put everything under a separate tab so the masses can see this content and appreciate it like it deserves!
A: It’s so great! I don’t even know how to watch it. I make them send it to me in my email. Ha. Big shoutout to Rammy Park and Mike Weber who put those together with Jakub Chilzuk in our VFX Department!!
Q: We heard from Marcus Rutherford on Inside The Wheel of Time that you are a prankster. Any favourite pranks committed (by you or others) during the show that you would like to share with us?
A: A true prankster never gives up his secrets.
Q: Are we going to see you at JordanCon?
A: I was supposed to come this year, but then covid. So hopefully nothing gets in the way next year!
Q: My question is: The swordfighting in WoT was one of my favorite parts of the series, particularly with the named sword forms that left a lot to interpretation and gave it a feel of being dance like. What was your approach to incorporating sword fighting and Sword Forms into the series considering how important it is to the plot (sheathing the sword, cat crosses the courtyard etc)? And as a follow up, have you seen the YouTube/Instagram channel Way of the Heron?
A: I haven’t seen Way of the Heron, but you should send it to our stunt coordinator Jan Petrina. We have an actual swordmaster working on the show developing the different sword styles as well. And you get to see a few of them named on screen as well in S2!
Q: I’ve heard episode 4 is when things really kick into gear. What are you most excited for us to see this Friday?
A: There’s A LOT coming on Friday. Personally, for me, I think it’s just amazing to see the Aes Sedai actually coming to life on screen. Kate Fleetwood and Priyanka Bose are going to blow your minds. And don’t get me started on the Warders…
Q: I love the use of characters singing so far. Are there plans to continue that beyond Thom performing?
A: Yeah, song and recited poetry played such a big part in the books, we really like finding ways to weave it into the show too
Q: If you had to play the role of any smaller minor Wheel of Time character who would you choose and why?
A: I would be a Maiden of the Spear who doesn’t get yeeted
Q: So far the series has shown a lot of beautiful cinematography, with the landscapes of Slovenia, Czechia and Croatia beautifully depicting West Andor. If you had no budget/logistical constraints, what’s a location you dream shooting The Wheel of Time at?
A: LOFOTEN ISLANDS. Take me to Tremalking.
Q: It looks like you did a lot more filming in the Two Rivers than we saw in episode 1. Assuming we won’t see that content in future episode flashbacks, are there any thoughts/plans to release some of that footage as bonus content at some date TBD?
A: Yes! I think there are a few deleted scenes headed your way in the coming weeks
Q: When will we learn the identity of the beloved “Steve” (aka Phil Snowden)?
A: THIS IS ALL I CARE ABOUT AND I WISH I COULD TELL YOU THE TRUTH
Q: How can there possibly be “rumors of four Ta’veren in the Two Rivers?”
A: You question Moiraine’s “eyes and ears” network? Watch your back my friend.
Q: With as little spoilers as possible, do you have a particular moment in the series that you’re looking forward to the most to adapt?
A: The end. If I can somehow navigate us there, that would be the dream.
Q: As his presence is important to Perrins balance later in the series, tell me that was not Gaul in the cage.
A: ANNOUNCED HERE, SORRY AMAZON SPOILER TEAM — it was not Gaul.
Q: This show is exceeding my wildest dreams, and so is Moiraine specifically!!! Please use this space to gush about how incredible Rosamund Pike is, and tell us what your favorite part of working with her is!
A: THERE IS NO SPACE LARGE ENOUGH FOR THAT TASK. She’s truly an incredible actress, producer, partner, friend, she’s everything you could ask for in a Number One on the callsheet and above all else, she’s the Moiraine we all wished we could have.
Q: What is your opinion on a book to series adaptation taking too many liberties in regards to story? Can a book be too closely followed, or is that what the fans really want, to see their book come to life on screen, just like most of them pictured it?
A: You can never make something that’s like “most” of them pictured it. That’s the beauty of books, we all have our own personal vision of it in our heads, and it gets broken down a bit by watching it adapted. For me, though, I prefer an adaptation that tries to utilize its medium to tell the story best. Like, I prefer Azkaban to the first couple Potters.
Q: Do you have an overall structure to the series envisioned in terms of number of seasons and which books will overlap in which season? Totally understand if you can’t get into specifics, I am just fascinated by the process and would love to hear more about it!
A: Yeah, I have an overall idea, but that’s affected in a big way by a couple key things — 1. episode number per season and 2. actor availability. A lot of the changes we’ve had to make to my initial plan for the show have been based on those two things.
Q: If you had to choose one scene from the first book to film almost exactly how Jordan wrote it. Which one would you choose?
A: If it were just me making the show for myself, I’d honestly do the whole Perrin/Egwene ravens/stedding/Elyas sequence. That really hooked me to the books for the first time.
Q: Do you think you missed a chance to make a really iconic episode set in Shadar Logoth? It’s my favorite section of EOTW and I felt it shouldn’t have been rushed over as you skipped Mordeth, the mydraal forcing the trollocs inside and maybe even padan fain’s experience there as an epilogue. Instead, it felt rushed and disappointing all around.
A: Did we skip all those things?
Q: Are you including multiple forsaken in the series?!
Q: When you decide something can’t make it into the show where it was in the books how do you approach bringing it to the show later in some form?
A: There’s actually a bunch of stuff in Book 1 that we hit in Season 2 already, and things from Books 2 and 3 that we have plans to hit later if we’re lucky enough to get there. I think when you’re adapting it as a series and have so many production/budgetary constraints, you have to be prepped to remix things a little. It’s sadly rare that we can do a scene from the books with the same characters in the same place saying the same lines at the same moment in the books. Often one of those things has to be swapped out
Q: Which outfit would you be most excited about taking home with you? Are there secret photos somewhere of you rocking the body of a Trolloc and Moiraine’s kesiera?
A: I’m not gonna lie. I was Rand Al’Thor for Halloween in 2019. And I was so much skinnier then that I actually FIT in Josha’s costume.
Q: I am curious as to why the ruby was moved from the pommel to the crossguard on the dagger. There have been several changes, almost all of which I can understand why, but that one I’ve not been able to put my finger on a particular reason.
A: We tried it there actually at first, a whole bunch of different versions, but it was never reading on camera. So we just wanted to make sure people could see it.
Q: What is your favorite scene in the books, the one you’re most looking forward to putting on camera?
A: Dumai’s Wells
Q: Can you please tell us what was the motivation to change the book-lore of channeling being linked with the soul? As we are seeing a Saidar channeler being a potential Dragon, do you think it won’t have a massive butterfly effect on the story going forward?
Q: What society or culture are you most excited to depict on screen?
A: I just adore the Aiel.
Q: Is there a particular reason you chose to exclude what Tam says to Rand during his fever dream? Or why you didn’t show Rand traveling back to town from their farm after the attack?
A: Did we?
Q: Who is playing Selene?
Q: Was a big fan of yours on Survivor: Guatemala. Do you still watch the show?
A: Sometimes. But I’m more hooked on Aus Survivor now. Feels more like the original game to me. It basically feels like US Survivor is now a competition of who’s good at looking for hidden things in the woods vs. who’s good at throwing things at things in challenges.
Q: Brandon Sanderson has said you and him have agreed on most of the changes to the show except one. Can you tell us what that is?
A: I think there’s more than that! Ha. But Brandon’s been amazing through this whole process. He’s such a great collaborator, and I will be dead honest when I say that I do more of his notes percentage wise than any other single human being involved with the show.
Q: Where is Steve? Will we see him in season 1?
A: There is not a Steve question I won’t respond to.
Q: How are you thinking of showing the range of emotions and other things that Perrin is able to smell? Does Marcus have a special nose acting coach?
A: He actually, genuinely does. Ha. And he’s doing great with it.
Q: What is it like to work with the white ninja steel power ranger Zoe Robins?
A: Zoe is incredible. Her emotional and physical commitment on set are just INSANE. She steps onto set and she just IS Nynaeve. It’s incredible to watch.
Q: Do you have a favorite character arc in the books, and have you begun that arc in the show?
A: Egwene breaking the tower from within. Can I say that? Did we do a spoiler alert? I’m not gonna lie, I’m not 100% sure how AMAs work. But yes, this.
Q: Who will you be cosplaying as next Halloween?
A: Watch out, Maddy Madden.
Q: Which character or characters did you most immediately relate to or appreciate when you first read the book series? For me, it was Egwene and Perrin, and I’m really loving how they’re being portrayed by Madeleine and Marcus!
A: SAME! Those were the chapters I was always checking forward to to see when they came up next.
Q: Are you able to share what the budget for season 1 was?
A: YES. After much secrecy, Amazon has decided that I can reveal it here, in question 2746 of my Reddit AMA. No, sadly, ha. But I can say it’s big, but not big enough. The money always runs out eventually. It’s the nature of TV, ha
Q: How do you manage your mental health while doing such a huge project?
A: I sat in silence for like 30 long seconds after reading this question. It is a good one. Haha.
Q: What was the rationale behind not having the cold open of the first episode be the original EotW Prologue? Thanks for doing this!
A: Ha, we had a lot of different versions of how to start the show always, but my personal opinion was that we shouldn’t really see this Cold Open until Lews Therin was ready to play a more significant role in the show.
Q: A lot of folks who are fans of the book series were expecting a true adaptation of the books to film. And yet said fans got something totally different than the books. Why was it not stated upfront that this would be a retelling of the tale and stating that this was another turning of the wheel? Fans would have been more accepting of this had it been known upfront that these changes would occur if you and others in the know had addressed this up front. The turning of the wheel, differences between the turns of the wheel are set into the actual story, and would have actually supported these changes had they been addressed up front.
A: We may have said 1000 times that this is not a 1-for-1 adaptation and another turning of the Wheel. It simply is. I hope that you still enjoy though, or that if you don’t, you can go back to the books and read again. They make for a great re-read.
Q: Why CGI went up and down? Will be they fixed in the next episodes?
A: COVID was actually very tough on our VFX department because they couldn’t review things as they normally would.
Q: Did we were a certain non Aes Sedai channel to get out of a bit of trouble?
A: I have read this question 30 times now. I truly can say only one thing with confidence — I don’t know.
Q: Hey, you guys started shooting season 2 months before the first season premiere, so I would expect a short turn around, but after that, do you expect that if the show gets a third season green lit, it will have a big gap between it and the release of season 2?
A: We are trying to always keep the gap between seasons reasonable. It’s a big priority at Amazon and internally on the show.
Q: Was there any ad-libbed scene that made it into the final cut? Something that was just too good to leave out?
A: Yes! We have one in Episode 107.
Q: Have you cast Aviendha yet?
Q: What is it like to film in New Zealand?
A: I have no idea, but I hear it’s gorg.
Q: Would like to know why you gave Logain an increase role in the show? He is my favourite character so this is my favourite change so far
A: I think it’s great to really see in real time what it means to be a man who can channel, as it ends up being quite relevant to the show. Trying to approach these mythology things with character as much as we can.
Q: As I am sure you have seen a lot of fans of the books have had concerns about some changes, as I am sure you would have expected. However, a main one seems to be that a woman can be the dragon. Why was this change made if the Dragon is going to be the same anyway as it changes a lot in the world Jordan created e.g. the dragon if a woman can be trained by other woman in the tower etc, or touch Callandor.
A: The change we made was not just with the fact that a woman could be the Dragon, the core change we made was that people are NOT 100% convinced that these 3000 year old prophecies are 100% accurate. I think it feels a little bit more true to the world, and you see the characters questioning the prophecies of the Dragon and the details of it much more in the show than in the books (although there are some scenes in the books that show this as well, we’ve just expanded on that). It seems quite trusting for the Aes Sedai, who trust no one, and especially Moiraine, who trusts less than no one, to believe with 100% certainty ANYTHING that was written thousands of years ago
Q: Whose idea was it to have Perrin be married in the first episode? I think the choice was a smart one, but I’m curious as to how that decision came about.
A: Well, firstly in the longer version of the script I’d had Perrin being the apprentice to the town blacksmith, who he then accidentally killed during the Trolloc attack. It really was important to me that he have an iconic moment of violence in the first episode that would underpin his long term journey with violence and whether he’d choose the axe or the hammer. So I’d made that blacksmith his mom. But as we had to trim a bunch of page length down in the scripts, it became a simpler story to tell it as his wife, and also felt natural that if these characters were in their early 20s in a small mountain village, that one of them likely would be married. There’s a scene in the books where Perrin talks about if he’d stayed in the Two Rivers he might’ve married Laila Dearn, and voila, Laila was born. My only sadness is we couldn’t have seen more of her. Helena Westerman who played her was AMAZING
Q: Bran is skinny!!! How can you sleep with yourself, he is an inn keeper!
A: Bran is skinny will always be a regret. But Michael Tuahine was just too much Egwene’s dad to not choose him.
Q: How did you assemble the writing team for this show? What qualities about these writers let you know that they were the perfect fit?
A: Tried to find a group of diverse thinkers for it — people who’ve read all the books, people who read some of the books but dropped out eventually, people who loved fantasy but not Wot, people who don’t even know fantasy at all. Also, people who write differently than me, sot aht they could strengthen the overall scripts. It’s such a great group, I’d go to war for any of them.
Q: What is your favorite episode?
A: It’s in S2.
Q: What ended up being the most unexpected expensive thing about production or post?
A: The hidden costs are the worst ones. Wig fixes. The millions of dollars that go to wig fixes make me cry at night.
Q: What is your favorite episode of the season?
A: Genuinely as we wrapped each one, I felt like it became my favorite. So right now it’s 108.
Q: How did you come up with your designs for the Forsaken? Fan art, book descriptions or just your own personal depiction on how they should look and feel?
A: All of the above.
Q: What’s your favorite Wheel of Time book, and what other fantasy series are you a fan of?
A: TSR. I love so many series — LoTR, ASoIaF, Earthsea, right now I’m reading Malazan and Divine Cities.
Q: My question is about Loial. We’ve seen several of the leaked images that are way different from the book descriptions. Personally, I’m into the changes. I’ve also heard that Hammed brings the character to life. Can you talk about the process of bringing this beloved character to the screen?
A: Hammed is INCREDIBLE. For his physical appearance, we really tried to find ways to do a nod to what is in the books while making him a character that doesn’t require VFX for us. We just can’t afford at our budget level to do a fully VFX core character well. So it would mean that he ends up getting cut from scenes so that we don’t have to spend on him, and I didn’t want that, as I love Loial and I love Hammed.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration for the series, and why is it the Weekly Wheel News? 😂🤣😂
A: It’s my inspiration, my nightstand read, my first-thing-in-the-morning-phone check, and more.
Q: I recently read the article where you speak on how much you had to fight to keep the Weep for Manetheren scene in. Are there any other scenes with a similar weight of significance you fought for? Vague details are fine.
A: There’s a Nynaeve/Lan scene that I fought literally every human being on the show and at the network for, so I hope book fans like it, hahaha.
Q: I want to ask how you’re balancing all the feedback you’re getting with your own vision. Was reading Brandon Sanderson how he has given a lot of feedback, and while not all of it was incorporated, he always felt heard and that you had valid reasons for not listening to some of it. From the outside, it looks like you’re balancing it really well, but curious on your insight.
A: I think the worst showrunners are either insecure or oversecure. You’ll either not listen to anything at all or you listen to absolutely everything. I feel relatively secure, so I try to really listen to and value the people around me and their artistic input, but then also stick true to what I believe is the right way to pull this off long term.
Q: Thank you for including the Tuatha’an. Will we get to see my other favorite character, Verin?
A: You will. I swear it until the last hour of my life.
Q: I sense a lot of foreshadowing in the show so far. Are there things that we are missing and should we be paying closer attention? Also, very well done surprising book readers with Dana! I know you won’t answer this one but was can you officially confirm that Nynaeve kept the trolloc blade to threaten Lan? It is a very Nynaeve move and I fully support it.
A: Yeah, I’m actually surprised how many little easter eggs a lot of the hardcore fans have still missed. Although, I don’t have visibility into a lot of the boards, so I’m sure people somewhere have found them. She obviously used that Trolloc blade on Lan. You can see it matches.
Q: I’ve heard some people claim that the show is doing away with the concept of Saidar and Saidin altogether. Can you speak on that as well?
A: You’ll hear the word saidin this season.
Q: My biggest question so far is how the Whitecloaks have been so effective against the Aes Sedai, when in the books they were usually more of an annoyance rather than a true threat to women who can channel. Are ways to incapacitate channelers that show up later in the books being employed by the Whitecloaks?
A: You’ll find out more about this in Season One, and then even more in Season Three if we get there.
Q: Can you talk a little about the processes you use to figure out how current changes will affect future seasons?
A: I have Sarah Nakamura (our incredible WoT goddess) talk me through the long-term ramifications of any changes so that we know what’s going to happen. Sometimes to drive her crazy I will send a casual email that’s just like — “Hey, can you work up a long-term ramifications list for if we kill Thom?”. And just keep going like it’s a totally normal day as she collapses as a human being. Then tell her we’re not going to kill him. I think it helps keep her on her toes, but she probably disagrees, haha.
Q: Thank you so much for including a Bella name drop in episode 2. Can we assume that you, as a proper fan boy, will be keeping her entire story arc in place as the creator’s avatar on Randland?
A: Literally, everyone in horse department knows everything about Bela. There are many elderly czech men who have an eye on Bela’s long-term arc in the show and they don’t even know what the Wheel of Time is.
Q: My biggest concern for the series is that it will move too fast just how GoT season 8 did. Do you have a plan to make sure that the seasons will feel fully fleshed out by the time they end and not rushed? Also by the time the series end do you have an idea of how to end it in a fulfilling way?
A: Yeah, it was certainly a worry of mine that the show moves too fast, but I think that hopefully that will help give momentum to non-readers as they get through some of the stuff that is more similar to other fantasy projects and start to get to dip into the really unique WoT stuff. Throughout S1 as well, we do always try to find times to stop down and check in with the characters emotionally, as that’s the most important thing to understanding the show.
Q: Are there plans to provide closed captions/subtitles for the bonus content, specifically the animated shorts? The three that have been released so far is some of my favorite WoT lore and history, however the audio quality and the way it was mixed, it was legitimately impossible for me to actually understand the Warder video in particular. I know bonus content doesn’t usually get subtitles for Reasons™, but it would be great to be able to get all of the deep dive content and have it be accessible to those like me who don’t have perfect hearing.
A: Yeah, I’ll let Amazon know if you don’t have that as they’re usually really good about accessibility stuff, thanks for flagging it!
Q: Is the CGI we saw while Moiraine was channeling how it’s going to stay through the whole series, or will it change and progress with time? Also, Daise Congar was perfect, and I haven’t seen enough comments about that.
A: THANK YOU FOR NOTICING DAISE. We have to use the One Power to do all kinds of things on the show, so you’ll see it progress and change in how it’s used throughout.
Q: Rafe make sure you get enough sleep. Don’t burn yourself out.
A: WHAT WHY WOULD I DO THAT COFFEEEEXISTS
Q: Are you aware of the large amount of negative reviews from top critics, and what their main critiques are? What have you learned from them and what are you doing to resolve these complaints for future seasons? Putting aside the ones who are comparing it to game of thrones or just hate fantasy, many of them complain about pacing being too fast, packed with too many plot points in each episode, and most importantly, the character development is lacking and viewers are not invested in them (making key events less impactful).
A: Yeah, I think it’s always important to hear people as they take in the show and comment on it, but not be chasing approval. If you try to make a show that EVERYONE likes, you’ll have an actual pile of trash at the end. Better to make a show that some people truly love (even if others think it’s a pile of trash ha). In terms of pacing, it’s a balance you have to strike. We as creatives are always wanting more time to intro the characters, spend time with them, understand their emotions, etc. And the network will want the show to be brisk and pace-y so that no one ever has a chance to turn it off. Both things are valuable, and maybe Amazon was right about pace as the first three episodes of WoT have one of their highest completion-rates in history, which is perhaps the most important single piece of data on a tv show today.
Q: We’ve seen the show present two songs so far that are original to the show, but present some history. Are we going to get any of the more common songs like “I’m Down At The Bottom of the Well?” And are you familiar with Reflections of Sound Music, who wrote music and lyrics for many of the songs mentioned in the books?
A: I don’t know them, but flag them to Lorne Balfe, our amazing composer, he’s been great about trying to include fans in the music