Jan Thijs Copyright/Amazon Content Services LLC and Sony Pictures Television Zoë Robins as Nynaeve al'Meara in The Wheel of Time
This article contains spoilers from the seventh episode of The Wheel of Time
Like all great epic fantasy series, Amazon Prime's new show The Wheel of Time has multiple characters who have and will continue to fight for what matters most as darkness swells on the horizon.
Nynaeve Al'meara, played by Zoë Robins, is one of the bravest and boldest of them all — whether or not she's the Dragon Reborn, the person destined to save the world from the Dark One.
"At first, when I was reading her, I was a little bit intimidated by the prospect of playing her because she's so headstrong and fierce and stubborn," Robins, 28, tells PEOPLE about reading the part of Nynaeve. "I'm from New Zealand and we're not really known to be like that at all. Sometimes we can be quite passive and agreeable and just nice, which are not bad things. But I was like, at the beginning, how could I find that route into playing someone like that?"
At the beginning of the series, Nynaeve is one of five young people who follow Moiraine Damodred (Rosamund Pike) and Lan Mandragoran (Daniel Henney) from their village of Emond's Field after it is attacked.
Moiraine, part of a powerful order called the Aes Sedai, has been searching for the Dragon Reborn. Nynaeve wants to return her friends — Rand al'Thor (Josha Stradowski), Egwene al'Vere (Madeleine Madden), Perrin Aybara (Marcus Rutherford) and Matrim Cauthon (Barney Harris) — safely back home. But Moiraine believes that one of the five is the savior from the prophesies. Their journey quickly becomes dangerous: violent trolloc attacks, separation, political machinations and the threat of an evil force that looms over it all.
Jan Thijs/ Amazon Content Services LLC and Sony Pictures Television Inc
The Wheel of Time is based on Robert Jordan's hit book series of the same name. By the end of the seventh episode, which just dropped on Friday, it appears that Rand is the Dragon Reborn, as he is in the books. But the truth of what the prophesy means, or how their journeys will play out, remains unclear.
Nynaeve, who was a Wisdom (or healer) in Emond's Field in the Two Rivers, has proven herself to be an incredibly powerful channeler of the One Power. Her power is just beginning to present itself, as are her feelings for Lan, Moiraine's Warder (a protector who has a spiritual and almost-physical bond with a member of the Aes Sedai).
"The thing I love the most about Nynaeve is just how human she is and how flawed she is," says Robins. "I actually haven't had the opportunity to get to know a character so intimately and spend so much time in their mind."
Robins explains that a major part of Nynaeve's journey is learning about "self-control and learning to let go." It's a lesson that has helped Robins navigate the pandemic, she says.
"For Nynaeve, she likes things how they are. She likes to be at home and have things kind of run routine... I think I like that as well, being an actor and having our career so uncertain, and the unknown being something that we have to constantly get used to," Robins continues. "But playing Nynaeve and, at the same time having the pandemic happen, reinforced the idea that we can't control anything at all. And that was a big, big lesson for me."
Keep reading for more about Robins' audition, what it's like on set and her hopes for Lan and Nynaeve's romance.
Can you tell me about the auditioning process?
I got an audition similar to every other audition that I received. It was through email from my amazing American manager. And I had to put a tape down, as I was in New Zealand at the time... I had the option of auditioning for both Nynaeve and Egwene and I thought, "Well, I want to get more skin in the game," and so I auditioned for both. And it happened very, very quickly... I heard quite soon after that they were interested and that they wanted to see me again. And then I jumped on a call with Rafe [Judkins], our showrunner, on Skype, back in the day when that was a thing, and we spoke for an hour about the world and Nynaeve and the show.
What drew you to The Wheel of Time?
That [call], honestly, was the moment where I was like, "I have to do this." For one, Rafe is so easy to talk to — he's so genuine and such an amazing person. But his passion and creative integrity really shone through with that call. He's been a fan of the books since he was a little boy. So, this is kind of a dream for him to bring to life. The whole world and the mythology and the themes and everything just made me so excited. And the opportunity to work in Prague.
What have you learned watching your costar Rosamund Pike on set?
One of the main things that I find so inspiring about her is that in almost every take, there's something new. She tries something different. And she has a really good bulls--- o-meter, where we'll be doing scenes and at the end of a take, she'll say, "I don't believe this," which is what you want as an actor. You should always be striving for the truth.
What scene has been the most challenging for you personally?
I would say the cold open in episode three was maybe the most challenging, physically. That's when Nynaeve has a fight with a trolloc. And that was shot over a few nights in the dead of winter in the Czech Republic in a forest. I mean, your adrenaline goes and you get really into it, but you have to remember to maintain that energy for 10, 11, 12 hours and not get hurt. Also, it was a really physical episode, now that I think of it. We had a whole fight sequence that we also shot over a week. There were explosives and a lot of dust and leaves and dirt and all of that. So, that was challenging.
In episode 4, Nynaeve channels an immense amount of power to save Lan. How do you think she's processing this connection to the One Power?
She's coming to grips with the fact that she has this newfound power that she had no idea that she was able to access, she's slowly falling for someone, which she can't help at all, and she could potentially, in her mind, be the Dragon Reborn. Nynaeve is not someone who necessarily thinks much of herself. There's this interesting mix of her being very free to speak her mind and she knows her place, but she's also quite humble. So for her to discover that she's able to wield this power is really quite scary for her. Also, at that point in time, she's just desperate to get to her Two Rivers people. So, there's a lot going on for her.
Jan Thijs/ Amazon Content Services LLC and Sony Pictures Television Inc Daniel Henney as Lan and Zoë Robins as Nynaeve in The Wheel of Time
There is a burgeoning romance between Nynaeve and Lan. Why do you think they're drawn to each other?
I think what connects them at the end of the day is they have the same motivation. [Lan's] is to protect Moiraine, no matter what. As her Warder, he will die for her. That's his job, really. So he puts his life on the line for her. And he also has this very special bond where they're connected almost in a spiritual way. Nynaeve has the same thing, specifically with the group of young kids that get taken from the Two Rivers. She will also die for them. So, I think there is this common understanding of each other's purpose. There's this respect that I think actually surprises Nynaeve because it takes a lot for her to respect someone. But she sees him and it obviously catches her off guard, as I don't think she's actually in a position where she's looking to fall in love.
How would you like to see their romance develop?
I don't know what I can say, but I do hope we get more of them because I really liked the scenes. I think the scenes with those two characters together helped showcase their softer sides because they're both quite strong. It's nice to see them soften up and see them smile.
What do you hope viewers will take away from the show?
I hope that people feel something. And I hope that people feel seen. What's wonderful with this ensemble piece is that there's an opportunity for someone to see themselves in one of these characters. Or see a moment or an experience that they've had in their real life reflected back. That's wonderful that art can do that.
The first seven episodes of The Wheel of Time are available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.