This is not a spoiler: in the new season of The Wheel of Time, Rosamund Pike's stately character copes with her lost connection to the one power. But on a recent night in Prague, Pike herself lost all her power because of higher forces. Her cohorts were witnesses, and there was nothing they could do to help her.
If only she didn't throw such raucous karaoke house parties.
As Pike tells it, she was in the middle of a killer rendition of Pulp's "Common People" when the lights went out in her home. She ran to the fuse box. Nothing. She scurried for candles, assuming it was a neighborhood electrical issue. Then she looked outside and realized what had happened. "The police didn't think to ring the doorbell, or maybe they tried to, and it was too loud," she says. "So their next move was to cut the power to the entire house. They were just standing, arms crossed, waiting for you to notice them. I actually thought it was a cool move."
But Pike didn't pull the tempting "Do you know who I am?" card. Surely the officers would have reconsidered had they known the answer.
For starters, Pike is an Emmy-winning, Oscar-nominated star with prolific film credentials that span nearly twenty-five years. She's also a coexecutive producer and the headliner of the sprawling epic fantasy series The Wheel of Time, which begins its long-anticipated second season on Prime Video September 1. But those are just the boilerplate IMDb facts.
"She's everything you think she'd be," raves Daniel Henney, who plays her loyal warder, Lan Mandragoran. "She's the most intelligent, articulate, creative, elegant, beautiful, obsessively curious, sensitive soul you'll ever meet. She's also one of the best actresses right now. There's no let-down."
And when it comes to all things Moiraine Damodred in The Wheel of Time, there's no let-up. From the outset, she's a Gandalf-esque figure in the Aes Sedai, an all-female tribe of enchanters, warriors and healers. Her mission: to guide a young quintet (Zoë Robins, Madeleine Madden, Josha Stradowski, Dónal Finn, and Marcus Rutherford) through perilous dangers in a quest to discover the potential reincarnation of a prophesied figure ("The Dragon Reborn") who can either save the world or tear it apart. (Said figure turns out to be Stradowski's Rand al'Thor.)
Upon its November 2021 premiere, The Wheel of Time — based on a 1990–2013 fourteen-book series — became a massive hit and ranked number one on Nielsen's original series chart. With 1.16 billion collective viewing minutes clocked in the first few days, it also became Prime Video's most-watched series premiere that year. "The fan base is so passionate, enthusiastic and supportive, even though we do alter the source material in some profound ways," Pike says.
Those changes include Moiraine's arc in season two. Departing from what transpires in the books, she embarks on a solo journey while grappling with her lost spiritual connection, which affects both her search for the missing Rand and her bond with her greatest ally, Lan. "She's doing a lot of soul searching at the top of season two, and I think [the writers] were interested in what it would look like to see Moiraine divested of her greatest asset," Pike says. "What it does is make her feel ashamed and less-than. She's in a very, very vulnerable place."
She adds with a laugh, "It's quite funny really, because trauma is not what I signed up for! I signed up for fireballs and fantastic displays of, you know, strength and power!"
Pike's time on this Wheel began in 2019. That's when executive producer Mike Weber, who had just worked with her on Beirut (2018), suggested to his other executive producer, Marigo Kehoe, that the actress would make for an ideal leading lady. "She's got that sense of maturity and can play so many different roles," Kehoe says. "And she loved the idea and the books and said yes. It was quite simple."
Well, not that simple. Pike admits that she's long been gun-shy when it comes to television. "I'm always anxious about committing myself for a long period, because I worry about the characters I'll miss out on meeting," she says. "So it took a long time even to commit to this."
But all the potential red flags — an adaptation of a sweeping book series, a dense mythology and a prolonged on-location shoot in Prague — proved to be appealing.
"I'd been doing roles that were tough on me emotionally," she says, citing the characters of slain war correspondent Marie Colvin in A Private War and chemist Marie Curie in Radioactive. "I think I wanted the escapist joy of a fantasy world. Ultimately The Wheel of Time was very compelling as a chance to play in this massive playground where you can explore all these key human emotions, but you've got the framework of cloaks and daggers and mountains and horses and magic."
As one might expect of an Oxford University graduate, Pike studied up and went all in. First, she uprooted her entire family — her partner, businessman Robie Uniacke, and their two young sons — from her native London to live full-time in Prague. "When I attach myself to projects and you get me, you really get me," she notes. She also read five of Robert Jordan's books (Brandon Sanderson finished the series upon the author's death in 2007) and immersed herself in the world of Aes Sedai. She even learned how to speak Czech.
The rest of the cast responded accordingly.
Robins recalls that when Pike walked into the studio for the very first rehearsal, "We all just instinctively as a group stood up like she was a queen," she says. "I think honestly, it just speaks to the respect that we all had for her work." Echoes Madden, "She didn't say anything. I don't even know if she clocked it, to be honest!"
Even so, Pike is fully aware of her status as the top name on the call sheet. "She's always so accessible," Madden says. "She's someone that you can always go to with anything because she's a shoulder to lean on." And lest anyone think that she's an intimidating aristocratic presence, Henney reports that she also encourages a loose vibe on the set. "She'll say, 'Hey, let's run these lines like we're in South Carolina sitting on a porch!'" he says. "We'll just laugh in these accents and before you know it, we've got the scene memorized." (She also does a spot-on imitation of Henney's Midwestern mom ordering food at a Wendy's drive-thru.)
As a producer in season one and a coexecutive producer in season two, she's also heavily engaged in everything from the music editing — what else would you expect from the daughter of two opera singers? — to perfecting the movements of the Aes Sedai, who weave smoky strands of magic. "She's constantly communicating with the actors as well as me to make sure we all have the same cohesive image," says Sanaa Hamri, an executive producer who directed four episodes in season two. "She's like a fine-tuned ballerina with precision, meticulousness and thought into the future." And Kehoe raves that Pike convinced her friends Sophie Okonedo and Meera Syal to guest-star in season two.
That's just the on-set due diligence. Pike also hosts dinners, holiday gatherings and after-hours drinks. For her epic fortieth birthday party in a pre-lockdown 2020, she organized a massively elaborate scavenger hunt in which the cast, crew and loved ones traipsed around Prague to find clues and engage in wildly goofy and slightly uncomfortable activities. (Think pranks, dancing in public places and making speeches on Charles Bridge.) "It was crazy," Henney recalls. "She had a team lighting fireworks off a bridge! I was like, 'For you, this is legal.'"
And this past season, following a shoot in Morocco, Pike says she got to fulfill one of her "lifetime ambitions": taking over the intercom on an airplane to gleefully announce that she and Henney were throwing the crew a party in Marrakesh. "I got to say, 'This is your captain speaking!'" She wasn't wrong.
To read the rest of the story, pick up a copy of emmy magazine HERE.
This article originally appeared in its entirety in emmy magazine, Issue No. 9 under the title, "Beyond the Limelight."
The interview for this story was completed before the start of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes.