The Wheel of Time’s Nynaeve al’Meara knows leadership. As the Wisdom of her village, Nynaeve makes important calls. She guides the Women’s Circle, she heals villagers, and she listens to the wind. And Nynaeve feels fiercely protective of Two Rivers folk. When Moiraine and Lan sweep into town and take four youths away with them—including Nynaeve’s apprentice, Egwene—Nynaeve doesn’t take it sitting down. She employs those leadership skills. Since she caught up to Moiraine and Lan, Nynaeve has been quietly learning what she can about the Aes Sedai’s intentions—while also delivering glares that would kill most humans. Nerdist talked to actress Zoë Robins about Nynaeve’s journey so far. We discussed how Nynaeve feels about Aes Sedai these days and that big moment in episode four, “The Dragon Reborn.”
Nerdist: By the time we get to episode four, Nynaeve has spent a little more time with Lan and Moiraine. Plus she’s around more Aes Sedai. How do you think her feelings have changed about the Aes Sedai and Moiraine in general?
Zoë Robins: I think specifically for Nynaeve, she’s had an idea of who these people [Aes Sedai] are her whole life. We see in episode one, her first encounter one on one with Moiraine, and she’s retelling the story of the Wisdom that raised her going to the White Tower and being turned away. So she’s felt some type of way about these people for a long time. What I think is really wonderful, and what I think maybe some fans missed from that retelling of events from Nynaeve, is that that might not necessarily be the truth. I think what Robert Jordan did so well is the idea of using the unreliable narrator. The jury’s out on whether Aes Sedai did actually do what Nynaeve said. But in any case, that’s meant that Nynaeve has very strong feelings towards these people.
Being around the Aes Sedai and spending a lot more time with Warders than Aes Sedai has humanized them in a way. Her way in to understanding the Aes Sedai is actually through the Warders and her relationship with Lan, which we see a little bit more of. I think there’s a genuine respect there. She sees him for who he is and sees the parallels between his devotion to Moiraine and her devotion to the Two Rivers kids. That’s ultimately where their initial connection sparks.
A quiet moment I appreciated in this episode came when Lan said a prayer for Malkier. Then, Nynaeve shared an blessing in the Old Tongue with him. What was it like to learn those lines?
It was challenging, but also really exciting. I loved it. I remember I was quite nervous about it before shooting. We have an amazing dialect coach called Naomi Todd, and her and I just went up and down the forest hills surrounding the Aes Sedai camp trying to drill the lines into me. Because that has to sound like something that she’s said constantly to herself. And there has to be a certain flow to it. Learning it wasn’t necessarily as easy as one would seem, because it’s not English, so you have to be able to understand, as an actor, what I’m saying, but also as a character, she has no idea what the words mean. It was an interesting process. But I recently just saw that scene all together, and it’s a really lovely moment between the two.
Nynaeve’s experienced a lot since she left the Two Rivers. But when Logain’s army arrives at the camp, it’s not Trollocs coming after them—it’s other humans. Do you think that was an eye-opener for her?
It’s interesting. I think back to how we initially rehearsed and shot those scenes. Originally Nynaeve was killing like five, six, seven men. And that ultimately doesn’t make much sense for who Nynaeve is. She’s a healer first, you know what I mean? Self defense is one thing. She had no problem taking out those Trolloc fools. But Nynaeve is not someone that goes out of her way to inflict pain and hurt people. It’s, again, another circumstance that Nynaeve is put in where she’s forced to act, and it’s not necessarily what she perhaps wants to do, but if a man is coming at you with a spear, and you happen to have a little dagger on you, then, you know…
You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.
Right. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. I think the end of episode four leaves Nynaeve having to reckon with a lot of actions that she’s just done. She’s got to do a little bit of self-evaluation.
Speaking of! Nynaeve channels the One Power at the end of the episode. That scene is intense on multiple levels. What was the experience of filming that moment like?
I feel like all the circumstances that you see on the screen and the beats the characters are going through really helped me to get into that head space. And it helped with just how heightened everything was. You see at the end—obviously, Nynaeve has a moment where she channels and it takes everyone, including herself, by surprise. And I remember that day of just seeing everyone that I love and adore working with kind of writhing around on the floor, and Daniel [Henney] gasping for air and a blood pool around him. It wasn’t actually hard to get to those emotions, because looking around, it’s really quite awful.
And also seeing Moiraine down, you know, someone that Nynaeve doesn’t necessarily think much of, but also I think—she wouldn’t like to admit [it]—but I do believe that she respects her. And seeing her in a state of not having any power, yeah, it’s a terrifying and really uncomfortable moment for Nynaeve. I loved shooting those scenes. I was absolutely spent after it, but I had a lot of fun.
New episodes of The Wheel of Time drop every Friday on Prime Video.