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Rosamund Pike upends fantasy tropes with 'Wheel of Time' heroine

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Rosamund Pike upends fantasy tropes with 'Wheel of Time' heroine
Rosamund Pike stars in "Wheel in Time." File Photo by Rune Hellestad/ UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- Gone Girl and I Care a Lot actress Rosamund Pike says she generally isn't a fan of fantasy novels, but she signed on to star in Amazon Prime Video's screen adaptation of The Wheel of Time books because it seemed to add a new dimension to the genre.

"Traditionally, any guide character in a fantasy world is usually a man, and it was very intriguing to have this mysterious stranger -- who comes to town and changes the lives of people forever -- be a woman," Pike said at a recent New York Comic Con panel.

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Based on Robert Jordan's best sellers, the eight-episode, first season of the saga begins streaming Friday.

Pike plays Moiraine, a member of a dynamic order of magic-conjuring women, who takes five young villagers under her wing, believing one of them may fulfill an ancient prophecy and tip the balance of Light and Dark forever.

"In a spiritual sense, I thought it was the right time in my life to explore a sort of power outside of myself," Pike said.

"The whole idea of channeling and tapping into something elemental was very appealing to me at this particular moment in my life, and being able to create a language to express that connection really interested me a lot."

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Pike said he also saw the story and her character's role in it as a fascinating opportunity to explore the natures of strength and influence.

"Taking on the responsibility of showing someone who wields great power -- how they do it, how they use it, when they restrain from using it, what the flip side of it is, what it means to be that person who knows they can use it and what they're like when they're not using it -- all those things interested me," the actress said.

Showrunner Rafe Judkins said he wanted to create an epic that is inviting to newcomers, while also honoring the "heart" of the novels to please longtime fans.

"The book series is obviously massive -- not just in terms of the length and the content of it, but also what it means to people," Judkins said.

"Millions of people around the world read these books and had some kind of formative experience with them."

Judkins described the books as "revolutionary" when they were published in the early 1990s because they featured numerous powerful females leading the action, and the stories were told from the points of view of different characters from chapter to chapter, instead of having a single narrator.

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The writer-producer wanted to adapt the novels for the screen, in part, because they were inspired by Eastern philosophies, such as Hinduism and Buddhism.

"In our world, reincarnation exists, and the ultimate goal is not for good to defeat evil. It is to restore balance to this world that is out of balance," Judkins explained.

"The [real] world around us now is fairly polarized, and to have a show that is talking about what it means to find balance is super-relevant to the time."

Daniel Henney from My Lovely Sam Soon and Big Hero 6 plays Moiraine's trusted partner, the renowned swordsman al'Lan Mandragoran, in Wheel of Time.

Henney recalled a videoconference he and Pike had about two years ago before filming began, when they discussed their characters' non-romantic bond in the series and found they both were eager to explore "a new idea of what love is" in this story.

"Pushing the boundaries of love and seeing a new relationship on screen, how they know everything about each other and care deeply for each other -- they are almost like twins in a way," Henney said.

"There is nothing sexual or more going on."

Marcus Rutherford, who plays telepathic blacksmith and woodworker Perrin, said The Wheel of Time crew worked tirelessly to create "breathtaking" sets that would give the show a sense of other-worldly authenticity.

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"From Episode 1 right through to the end, I never ceased to be amazed by how epic the sets were," Rutherford said.

"I think our set designer is a bit of a genius. Maybe in this genre, it is hard to create things that are new and original, but every room, inn, tavern, city or world these characters went into had their own sort of culture and language and their own character. "

Co-starring Maria Doyle Kennedy, Madeleine Madden and Sophie Okonedo, The Wheel of Time already has been renewed for a second season.

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