Part of an Aes Sedai’s strength comes from the ability to call on the elements to control confrontations and intimidate enemies, and Pike had to exude that power beyond just the visual effects of magic in The Wheel of Time. “When Moiraine is channeling, which is the first channeling that we shot for the show, we didn’t just send it off to VFX and be like, ‘Give us a simple light show,’” says Judkins. “It was starting with Rosamund and a movement coach… who has helped create the channeling look for the show.”
The Wheel of Time takes great care to pull its interpretation of magic directly from the source material. “We went through everything in the books, and passages were pulled out discussing what it feels like to embrace the Source,” Judkins says. “I basically told [Rosamund Pike], ‘I want to look in your eyes and believe that you are moving the elemental forces of the planet with your power, so you need to believe it; you need to feel it!’ So she designed what she felt would let her tap into that, and then we bring VFX and lighting into it.”
There are even different magical disciplines within the Aes Sedai indicated by the color worn by their group, called an “ajah,” which Judkins admits was a delicate concept to interpret. “The risk is that they look like Power Rangers, and what we’d like to achieve is that this is something that you’d want to dress up for for Comic-Con,” he says. “Everyone, I think, should be taking a quiz when the show comes out of ‘Which ajah are you?’ online and keeping those distinctions alive between the ajahs.”
But Judkins wants to reassure fans that Moiraine’s blue ajah focused on justice and the healers of the yellow ajah such as Nynaeve will be well-represented. “Even though we don’t meet a lot of them necessarily in the first season, the degree of detail that has been given to their costuming and the casting of the roles and everything for each of those groups to make the ajahs distinct has been almost excessive to make sure that they feel right,” says Judkins. “But yeah, they wear their colors.”
The Aes Sedai provide the flash in the foreground and the influence in the background of The Wheel of Time, giving the tale its own flavor despite the inevitable comparisons to The Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. The cycles of history that give The Wheel of Time its name is determined by an ever-repeating Pattern, as it’s called, and it’s the Aes Sedai, both with their channeling and with their intelligent manipulation, who pull on the threads of the tapestry.
The Wheel of Time premieres on Amazon Prime Video November 19, 2021.
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