The actress discusses how she physically acts out magic in the new Amazon fantasy show and why she enjoys playing enigmatic characters.
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Ages come and pass, but the moment has finally arrived: The first three episodes of The Wheel of Time premiered on Amazon Prime Video this week. Based on Robert Jordan's best-selling book series of the same name, the show is set in a fantasy world threatened by the evil Dark One. Moiraine (Rosamund Pike), a member of the female-only mystic order known as the Aes Sedai, searches for the reincarnation of the Dragon — a prophesied messiah who could save the world from the Dark One.

Ahead of the premiere, EW spoke with Pike about playing Moiraine, figuring out how to depict the "channeling" of magic, and what attracted her to the show.

Rosamund Pike
Rosamund Pike as Moiraine on 'The Wheel of Time'
| Credit: Jan Thijs/Amazon Studios

Stream it! The Wheel of Time, free with a Prime Video membership at amazon.com

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You've worked in a lot of film genres: modern dramas (A Private War), period pieces (Radioactive), even a Western (Hostiles). How did you decide to embark on this epic fantasy series and play a mystic on a dangerous mission to save humanity? 

ROSAMUND PIKE: It's not that I was particularly looking to go into a television series, but when a character is compelling, it draws you in — whatever the format. There was just something undeniable about the material and the fan base. I explored the world deeper and saw that it was written with this very strong element of a female power structure, which I thought was very interesting. Then I got interested in the idea that Robert Jordan had served in Vietnam and wrote this book almost as a therapeutic exercise, to make sense of the world in chaos that he'd seen torn apart while he was there. He was writing these stories that strive for a balance. He created this world where there had been a power that was shared by men and women alike, but men had abused that power and it had been corrupted and taken away from them, whereas women were still in possession of it. I thought that was very interesting and allegorical.

Your character on The Wheel of Time, Moiraine, is a magical mentor — but the younger characters don't really trust her. What did you find compelling about playing her? 

At first, we only see a fraction of the layers that Moiraine is going to display as the seasons go on. She doesn't reveal all her cards; in fact, she reveals very few. What she says to Egwene [Madeleine Madden] in episode 2 — "We always tell the truth, but it may not always be the truth you think you hear" — that's a very key piece of advice when dealing with Aes Sedai because they can still mislead the truth. Moiraine is very driven. By the time we meet her in this series, she's been on a mission for 20 years with a single purpose; she's pursued this mission at the cost of friends and any personal desires. She's very noble in that respect, but it's almost terrifying.

The female-only mystic order known as the Aes Sedai is one of the most interesting components of The Wheel of Time. How would you describe Moiraine's view of men?

The Wheel of Time doesn't pit women against men. The Red Ajah, who show up at the beginning of episode 1, they don't trust men. But Moiraine has very good relationships with the men in her life. Her relationship with Lan [her bodyguard, or Warder, played by Daniel Henney] is really one of the things that drew me to the character, because I think it's one of the most interesting male-female relationships that I've ever put on screen. It's not sexual, but it's deeply committed. There's a huge loyalty there. I think a lot of people will end up watching season 1 and wishing they had a Warder; it's sort of an ideal relationship. They can each feel what the other feels, it's an emotional telepathy, which is really interesting to play. You can see that Lan and Moiraine are a real team.

When an Aes Sedai bonds a Warder, he can go longer without food or water, and he has a sixth sense for danger. They also feel what the other feels. We get the opportunity, in the first big battle scene, to show how in sync we are with one another when fighting.

Rosamund Pike
Kate Fleetwood as Liandrin and Rosamund Pike as Moiraine on 'The Wheel of Time'
| Credit: Jan Thijs/Amazon Studios

Stream it! The Wheel of Time, free with a Prime Video membership at amazon.com

Moiraine is very committed to her cause, but that's not always easy for the other characters to understand, especially these village kids.

A lot of what these young Emond's Fielders have heard about Aes Sedai are stories passed on in the culture. These people from Emond's Field, until the night of the great battle at the end of episode 1, they thought Trollocs were creatures from fairy tales — they existed only in stories, as did Aes Sedai. An Aes Sedai would not have been seen in the Two Rivers for over 100 years. It's like something from your childhood fairy tale suddenly coming to life in front of your eyes, and you just don't know. All the stories have shown that they're wicked and do bad things. She seems quite reasonable, and yet you've been taught to mistrust. So how do you process that?

It draws comparisons to your roles in Gone Girl or I Care a Lot, these women who are more than they appear. What do you like about playing characters like that? 

I quite enjoy characters who people don't know where they stand, because it creates dramatic tension. You can keep an audience on their toes and it doesn't matter if they don't like you or they mistrust you, as long as they still find you fun to watch. If they don't, then you're in trouble. But also, Marla Grayson [in I Care a Lot] and Amy Dunne [in Gone Girl] were able to weaponize their very dangerous minds. Moiraine doesn't have that, but she obviously has this tremendous physical prowess in terms of being able to channel the One Power. I've never played a character who's got that kind of physical might, so that was fun for me.

Rosamund Pike
Rosamund Pike says she enjoys playing characters like Moiraine on 'The Wheel of Time,' who are mysterious and 'people don't know where they stand'
| Credit: Charlie Gray

You're doing a lot of physical motion in the scene where Moiraine is fighting off the monstrous Trollocs. How did you want to sell the magic? 

There were a lot of references flying around between all of us about what channeling the One Power would look like. My mission was to create a physical language for it that would allow you to believe I was channeling something, even if you never had any special effects. The very fact that [Jordan] calls it "channeling," it's like something is passing through your body. He describes it very vividly, almost like a drug, like you grabbed something intoxicating and the feeling of it entering your veins is so delicious — but at the same time so poisonous, because it feels so wonderful that you want more and more unless you're trained to control it. What is the physical cost of passing huge volts of electricity through your body? That's what interests me, not just the kind of fireball you can unleash.

The Wheel of Time is an epically long book series, and the show has already been renewed for season 2. What's exciting about committing to a long-form project like this? 

I wanted to give my family stability, and so we've moved entirely to Prague. It shows the commitment I feel to this character and this show, that I've moved my children to school in Prague and we're living here. We've got a cast from literally all over the world, and all of the core cast are living here. We're all away from home, and so we've become close with one another. I've only had this closeness once before, with Pride & Prejudice, where there was a feeling of something magical in the core cast. I feel it again in this show. I think it bodes well.

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Episode Recaps

The Wheel of Time
The Wheel of Time (TV series)

Based on the bestselling series of novels by Robert Jordan, this fantasy show follows the mystic Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) as she searches for the reincarnated messiah figure known as the Dragon Reborn, who can save the world from the Dark One

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