The journey to the White Tower in Tar Valon hasn’t been straightforward. From the moment the Two Rivers youths left their village, nothing’s been the same. They’ve faced Trollocs, an evil black fog, Darkfriends, and more. Even an organization that’s supposed to be fighting for the Light has sinister and violent undertones. In the latest episode of The Wheel of Time, the Children of the Light, a.k.a. Whitecloaks, capture Perrin (Marcus Rutherford) and Egwene (Madeleine Madden). We talked with Madeleine Madden about Egwene’s experience in the episode, from what she’s learned from Moiraine to standing against Whitecloaks.
Nerdist: Perrin and Egwene have been spending time with the Tuatha’an. While Perrin has some, you know, guilt and things, on his mind, Egwene’s seemed a bit lighter. What do you think she learned from her time with the Tuatha’an and hearing about the Way of the Leaf?
Madeleine Madden: Something that’s always sparked Egwene’s curiosity and fascination with the world is the different people and cultures that exist within it. That’s something that’s always drawn her out of the Two Rivers and has made her want to leave and explore the world. I think this diversity of people—but also its diversity of ways of thinking and perception is really fascinating to her and really resonates with audiences and readers of the book. She understands a bit more about the turning of the Wheel and the spirituality that exists within the world and these people that preach living a life of nonviolence and the way that that has changed them and the people around them. Egwene’s like a sponge. And every experience that she has, she carries with her and it informs her massively.
Speaking of, what a perfect segue. When Child Valda questions Egwene, the way she handles him and talks around his questions—do you feel she’s channeling some of what she’s observed in her time with Moiraine?
Yes. Absolutely. She learns so much from Moiraine, which she will carry with her for the rest of her life. The way that Moiraine strategizes and the way she plays her cards and the way she speaks very carefully and uses her words… That’s something that she definitely picks up on. And also her ability to access the One Power. It’s a wonderful nod to Egwene’s initiation into the Women’s Circle, how Nynaeve tells her to trust the river. And when she does trust the river, she floats and drifts down the river. That’s something that Egwene taps into and remembers when she’s channeling against Valda to protect Perrin. She’s learned so much from Moiraine, and she’s learned from one of the best.
Mentioning Perrin, we got to see so much more of their friendship in recent episodes. Egwene is so fierce about protecting him when they’re with the Whitecloaks! What was it like working through all of that with Marcus?
Marcus is just one of the most talented people I’ve worked with. I remember in our audition, we just kind of connected instantly in the scene. I was like, “Wow.” I felt that the chemistry was really strong, which is what these two characters need. I think we find them at the beginning of the series—Perrin’s holding a bit of a candle for Egwene and that causes a bit of a rift within his marriage. And so when they’re separated on the road, all these feelings kind of come up. Even though Perrin is physically bigger and stronger than Egwene, it’s actually her that’s protecting him a lot of the time, because he’s so broken and riddled with this guilt.
I think they survive to protect each other. Fleshing out these characters in these scenes with Marcus has just been so much fun. We’re so close. Our characters have formed this really wonderfully strong bond because of the time that we’ve spent together. So, he’s brilliant. I mean he can just tap into these very dark scenes and places so quickly. And then as soon as they call cut, he’ll be like cracking a joke or saying something silly. He just has an amazing ability to be able to go to those places, and then just go back to being good old Marcus.
When the Whitecloaks capture Egwene and Perrin, they brush out Egwene’s hair. It’s the first time we’ve seen her hair unbraided in the series. Is that intentional symbolism since getting one’s hair braided is so important in the Two Rivers?
Of course. Absolutely symbolic. Symbolism is such a major thing in The Wheel of Time. One of the things that Robert Jordan was renowned for was his attention to details. So, we also have to pay attention to the detail as well.
The scene of the Whitecloaks stripping Egwene and quite violently brushing her hair out is really disturbing. This is such a violation. She’s not seen as a person. The symbolism of the braid is so important to not only the women in the Two Rivers but the men as well. The weight that that carries of being initiated into this Women’s Circle and also what it represents of “we are always with you, we always stand by you.” That is something that we see Nynaeve is very stoic about, her braid, and so is Egwene. So when her hair is violently brushed out, it just shows how stripped down she feels and I guess alone and violated and naked.
That whole scene. “We’re going to put you in white and make you pure… so we can torture you.”
Yeah, exactly. The Whitecloaks quite violently scrub her down and are very rough with her. But then when it comes to her hands, they’re very gentle and clean the nails and handle them with such care for Valda. I remember reading that and being so disturbed by it.
Well and as Egwene escapes from Valda, she takes his trophies—the Aes Sedai rings Valda’s taken from severed hands. Can you tell me about Egwene pausing during this intense moment to take the Great Serpent rings?
Absolutely. She’s a real upholder of justice and she feels that returning these rings to these women’s sisters in the White Tower is giving them a proper sendoff and treating them with respect. She has such respect for the Aes Sedai and how important these rings are and what these women went through to get these rings. But then also what they went through in their final moments. I feel like her taking these rings and giving them back to the Aes Sedai is honoring what these women went through.
The Wheel of Time airs new episodes on Fridays on Prime Video.