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Why The Cast Of The Wheel Of Time Looks So Familiar

It was a long time coming for fans of the novels, but Robert Jordan's sprawling fantasy series, "The Wheel of Time," finally made it to the screen in 2021. The first season of the critically acclaimed Amazon show is based primarily on the first book in the series, "The Eye of the World," though it also borrows from the second and third entries, "The Great Hunt" and "The Dragon Reborn." While fans may have secretly hoped for a one-novel-per-season approach, they always knew that was unlikely — "The Wheel of Time" has a whopping 14 installments, so a streamlining of the source material seemed almost inevitable.

Some of the deviations didn't go down well with Brandon Sanderson (who penned the last three "The Wheel of Time" books following Jordan's death), but fans were generally pleased with the adaptation. The show follows a group of young friends, as well as a powerful Aes Sedai (a female channeler of magic belonging to an organization of the same name) who believes one of them to be the Dragon Reborn. Most think that the reincarnation of the Dragon (a male channeler who went mad and almost destroyed the world) will bring destruction, but Moiraine wants to use the power of the Dragon against the Dark One, an evil cosmic force.

"The Wheel of Time" has been praised as a rare example of a fantasy show with a truly diverse cast, and you've probably seen most of these actors before. Here's why the cast looks so familiar.

Daniel Henney was in two superhero movies

Actor Daniel Henney was seemingly fated to play Lan Mandragoran, sworn protector of a powerful Aes Sedai, Moiraine Damodred. Almost every Aes Sedai has a Warder, and Moiraine's is a man of few words. Lan is the strong, silent type, but Henney brings compassion and subtle humor to the role. It's one that he's wanted to play for over a decade. "I do this vision boarding thing for my career, and I'd saved the cover to 'The Eye of the World' on my phone in 2011," he told Collider. "I didn't know much about 'The Wheel of Time,' but I just loved the look of the cover and the characters, and I thought that was something that I would love to do one day. And here I am 10 years later, playing Lan."

The Michigan native's big break was getting cast as the dashing Henry Kim in the Korean drama series "My Lovely Sam-Soon," which "was touted as being the Korean 'Bridget Jones's Diary,'" per KDrama Stars. He popped up in a Marvel movie a few years later, playing Agent Zero in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." He would go on to star opposite Eliza Coupe in rom-com "Shanghai Calling" and appear in the Arnold Schwarzenegger-led action flick "The Last Stand." Plus, fans of Disney's adaptation of the Marvel comic "Big Hero 6" will recognize him as the voice of Tadashi. Henney is also known for his portrayal of Supervisory Special Agent Matt Simmons on "Criminal Minds."

Zoë Robins was a Power Ranger

New Zealand native Zoë Robins wonderfully inhabits the role of Nynaeve al'Meara, the Wisdom of the quaint countryside village Emond's Field. As the village healer and head of the local Women's Circle, she's a little older than the group of four that leaves the town with Moiraine, and she's something of a misunderstood character, according to Robins. How so? Well, after winning the role, Robins hit YouTube and Reddit and made an interesting discover. "I learned that on first reads, people didn't necessarily understand Nynaeve or why she is the way she is, but after perhaps growing older and coming back to the books or doing rereads, people understood her more," the actor told Entertainment Weekly. "I think that's what I really gravitate to and like about her: On face value, you can take her as just this fiery, angry woman who is quite stubborn, but there are reasons for that."

Robins began her career as a child actor, appearing in the TV shows "The New Tomorrow" and "The Killian Curse" as a tween. She took a break from acting after that and then returned all grown up in 2016 with "The Shannara Chronicles" (she played Zora in the MTV fantasy drama). In 2017, she debuted as Hayley Roster (aka the White Ranger) on "Power Rangers Ninja Steel," the 24th season of the long-running "Power Rangers" franchise. Robins also featured in the 2019 slasher film "Black Christmas," a remake of the '70s film of the same name.

Josha Stradowski played a figher pilot

American audiences weren't familiar with Josha Stradowski before "The Wheel of Time," but viewers in the Netherlands were well aware of the up-and-coming star by the time he debuted as Rand al'Thor, one of Moiraine's candidates for the Dragon Reborn. The Dutch actor was thrilled to be offered a part in "The Wheel of Time," though at first, he had no idea who he would be playing. "It was very secret, so I didn't know what character I was auditioning for," he told Collider. "Then they told me who I was going to play. ... I was aware of his arc and that he was one of the central figures in this story. From that day, I just started working and am still working on trying to find the essence of Rand today."

Stradowski went on to reveal that he and his young co-stars got the chance to bond as they were put through combat and horseback training, though Rand isn't the first action-packed role he's played. In 2020, he starred as fighter pilot Rutger de Man in the Dutch series "High Flyers," a story about a trio of rookies embarking on their careers in the Royal Netherlands Air Force. Prior to his involvement in the military drama, Stradowski was known for playing Pascal Roozen on the high school drama "Spangas," his breakthrough role in his home country.

Marcus Rutherford starred in some critically acclaimed indie films

When Marcus Rutherford landed the role of Perrin Aybara in "The Wheel of Time," he had very little of note on his resume, though many of his young co-stars were in a similar position. "It was quite a daunting experience for all of us at the start," he told the Radio Times. "I'd only done some really indie films." If you recognize Rutherford, it could be because you've seen one (or both) of the critically acclaimed movies he's talking about: 2018's "Obey" and 2019's "County Lines." Rutherford stars as Leon in "Obey," a wild, romantic drama set amid London's 2011 East End riots that boasts a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. "County Lines," a film about a 14-year-old boy who's coerced into becoming a drug mule for a gang, isn't far behind with a score of 95% on the Tomatometer.

Rutherford actually managed to get some screen time in another TV show while he was making "The Wheel of Time" (the first season began shooting in 2019 but was twice delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic), appearing in four episodes of the London-set cop show "Bullet Proof," but he hopes to be remembered for playing Perrin. He said, "We've not relied on the idea that we're going to be doing these characters for 10 years or whatever, but I think we've definitely thought about where our characters end up and where they're going to go."

Barney Harris was in a Sarah Jessica Parker rom-com

Barney Harris plays Emond's Field native and potential Dragon Reborn Matrim "Mat" Cauthon in the first season of "The Wheel of Time," the actor's most notable credit to date. He made his on-screen debut in 2015 with a role in the Sarah Jessica Parker rom-com "All Roads Lead to Rome." It wasn't the best of starts in terms of critical reception — the forgettable film has a thoroughly deserved 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In 2016, he appeared in Ang Lee's Iraq War drama "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk," playing a squadmate of the titular teen. The film was released to lukewarm reviews, ending up with 44% on the Tomatometer.

Harris has had far better luck on the small screen. He worked alongside the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch and Judi Dench in the acclaimed BBC miniseries "The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses" and reunited with the BBC for the thriller series "Clique," which has a perfect 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. The first season of "The Wheel of Time" was also met with positive reviews, though viewers will have to get used to a different version of Mat going forward because the role has been recast ahead of Season 2. Dónal Finn ("The Witcher") has replaced Harris, it's been confirmed. The transition will be "seamless," showrunner Rafe Judkins told Deadline.

Madeleine Madden found the Lost City of Gold

Australian actor Madeleine Madden had more experience than most of her young co-stars coming into "The Wheel of Time." She made her feature-length debut in 2013, playing Williemai in the Christina Ricci-led drama "Around the Block," the story of an American teacher Down Under who decides to do a production of "Hamlet" with a predominantly Aboriginal cast. She would go on to co-star in the 2015 drama series "Ready for This," which followed six indigenous teens looking to make it big in Sydney, as well as the 2018 TV adaptation of "Picnic at Hanging Rock," which starred "Game of Thrones" alum Natalie Dormer.

The year 2019 was a huge one for Madden. She played Sammy in the critically acclaimed family flick "Dora and the Lost City of Gold," and she also began filming the first season of "The Wheel of Time," taking on her most central role yet. The Aussie star plays Egwene Al'Vere on the Amazon show, a strong channeler who emerges as an early favorite for the Dragon Reborn after the gang meets Moiraine. Madden told The Beat that she went down a rabbit hole while researching the role. "It's just such an expansive world," she said. "You can just get lost on forums and the wiki, you know, which we've done. ... A lot of the fans have shared their notes and favorite parts of the books, which has been really, really, really incredible for us."

Kate Fleetwood played a First Order officer

The role of Moiraine's frenemy Liandrin Guirale, a sister of the Red Ajah (a branch of the Aes Sedai that doesn't take Warders) is played to perfection by British actor Kate Fleetwood, who went from daytime TV to working on some of the biggest franchises in Hollywood. Fleetwood's career began in earnest in 2001 when she snagged roles on the medical drama "Holby City" and the long-running London-set soap opera "EastEnders." She established herself on the U.K. television scene as the decade went on, plying her trade on shows like "Silent Witness," "Murphy's Law," "Midsomer Murders," "Foyle's War," and "Waking the Dead."

She's a well-known face at home, but those outside the U.K. are more likely to recognize her from her feature film appearances. Fleetwood had a minor role in the Cate Blanchett-led biography "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" and would later show up in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" as Mary Cattermole, the witch being interrogated by Dolores Umbridge when Harry and co sneak into the Ministry of Magic (she's the one who kisses Ron Weasley, who's disguised as her husband). She also played a First Order officer in 2015's "Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens." Other notable film credits include "Les Misérables" and the Best Picture nominee "Philomena."

Priyanka Bose was in a Best Picture nominee

Priyanka Bose plays the part of Alanna Mosvani, an Aes Sedai of the Green Ajah who's known for having two Warders, "Because one Warder is never enough," the Indian actor joked on Instagram. "Happy to share one of the most passionate experiences of my life, with these incredibly talented cast and crew," she captioned the post. "I am proud to represent a little part of my diverse country here." Alanna is an ally of Moiraine in the White Tower, home of the Aes Sedai and Moiraine's destination after setting out from Emond's Field with her Dragon Reborn hopefuls.

Bose brings confidence and energy to the role of Alanna, her biggest to date. She's been working as an actor in her home country since 2007 when she played a dancer in the neo-noir crime drama "Johnny Gaddaar" ("Johnny the Traitor"), but she's also been in a number of English-language productions, including a Best Picture nominee. In 2016, she played the biological mother of Dev Patel's Saroo Brierley in the true-story film "Lion," which was nominated for six Academy Awards in total. Fans of British TV may also recognize Bose from the ITV drama "The Good Karma Hospital," in which she portrayed Dr. Aisha Ray.

Peter Franzén was king of all Norway

Fans of History's "Vikings" will no doubt recognize Finnish actor Peter Franzén, even though he looks a lot cleaner on "The Wheel of Time." In the fantasy series, he plays Stepin, the Warder of the Aes Sedai Kerene Nagashi (Clare Perkins). His arc serves to show viewers just how deep the bond between an Aes Sedai and their Warder can become, with Franzén called on to display more emotion than he did in 49 episodes of "Vikings." The Finn played the brutal and persistent King Harald Finehair on the Michael Hirst show, though it wasn't the first character that he tried out for.

"I did audition for the first three seasons, I even auditioned for Ragnar's part when the show was in its baby steps," Franzén told Winter is Coming. The coveted Ragnar Lothbrok part was filled by Australian up-and-comer Travis Fimmel, a breakout role for him. Franzén didn't lose any sleep over it, however. "The more years that I got to play Harald though, it sort of dawned on me that this was the part for me," he said, adding, "Harald became a very interesting character." While the majority of his other appearances have been in his home country, Franzén did pop up in the Sean Penn action thriller "The Gunman" in 2015, and before that, he was in an episode of "CSI: Miami."

Álvaro Morte fronted a binge-worthy Netflix show

When he was cast in "The Wheel of Time," Spanish actor Álvaro Morte immediately felt a "great responsibility towards the people who love the series so much." He plays Logain Ablar, a powerful male channeler who claims to be the Dragon Reborn. He doesn't fit the bill as far as Moiraine is concerned, but his immense power is a serious concern for her and the other Aes Sedai. Speaking to Esquire Spain, Morte revealed that he wanted to put his own spin on the character. "I have tried to do my own version because I think the job of the actors is to bring something creative to the role," he said.

Logain Ablar is pretty far removed from Sergio Marquina (aka the Professor), the character that Morte is best known for. The Professor is the mastermind behind the plot to break into the Bank of Spain in "Money Heist," a binge-worthy thriller series that was picked up by Netflix in 2017. The Professor and his team plan to use the Royal Mint to print billions of euros. The fifth part of the series dropped on the streaming service to critical acclaim in 2021. You may also recognize Morte from the 2018 mystery movie "Mirage," which also found a home on Netflix.

TV was new territory for Rosamund Pike

Rosamund Pike is best known for her roles in films like "Die Another Day," "Pride & Prejudice," "Jack Reacher," "The World's End," "Gone Girl" (for which she received an Oscar nomination), and "I Care a Lot," but the Brit rarely appeared on TV prior to her casting as Moiraine Damodred. "It's not that I was particularly looking to go into a television series, but when a character is compelling, it draws you in — whatever the format," she told Entertainment Weekly. "There was just something undeniable about the material and the fan base."

In "The Lord of the Rings" terms, Moiraine is the Gandalf of the operation. The powerful Aes Sedai shows up in the quaint village of Emond's Field and takes a bunch of country-dwellers on an unexpected journey, informing them that the Dark One's forces will bring the world to ruin if they don't help in the fight against him. What sets Moiraine apart from Gandalf is that she often keeps her cards close to her chest and her agenda hidden, all the more impressive considering an Aes Sedai cannot lie.

According to Pike's co-stars, the actor has really made the character her own. "There is no other Moiraine in my eyes," Zoë Robins told The Beat, and Josha Stradowski called her "a leader by example" in the same interview. Pike's other notable film credits include "Doom," "Wrath of the Titans," and more recently, Amazon's "Radioactive," in which she portrayed Marie Curie.

Sophie Okonedo played a real-life hero

"The Wheel of Time" viewers now know the Oscar-nominated actor Sophie Okonedo for her turn as Siuan Sanche, the current leader of the Aes Sedai. The Amyrlin Seat (as both the throne and the position are known) is elected by her sisters, and once the vote is cast, the winner remains in charge for life. Siuan comes into the story late in the first season, a confidante of Moiraine who's in on her secret quest to locate the Dragon Reborn. Our first glimpse of the Amyrlin Seat came in Episode 6, "The Flame of Tar Valon," but where else have you seen the Brit in action?

Okonedo is best known for her turn in 2004's "Hotel Rwanda," in which she played Tatiana Rusesabagina, the wife of real-life hotelier Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle). The pair housed and protected over 1,000 refugees during the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Both Okonedo and Cheadle were nominated by the Academy for their work on the film. The following year, Okonedo appeared in the Charlize Theron-led flop "Æon Flux," and she would later play a role in Will and Jaden Smith's "After Earth," another big-budget fail. She was also in the disappointing remake of "Hellboy" in 2019, though her TV exploits have been far more fruitful. She's worked on everything from "Doctor Who" to "The Hollow Crown" and "Ratched."