As Lan Mandragoran, Daniel Henney has – so far – spent much Season 1 of Amazon Prime Video’s “Wheel of Time” series fighting tooth and nail to keep safe not only his Aes Sedai Moiraine, but the young people from the Two Rivers, one of which just might be the Dragon reborn.
Recently, though, Lan was brought to raw emotional depths following the death of a fellow warden, who killed himself after his Aes Sedai died fighting the fake Dragon reborn. The final scene in Episode 5 – “Blood Calls Blood” – it was like his beating heart was ripped out during a funeral ceremony for his warder brother Stepin.
“It was really scary, because it’s a departure from Lan in the books,” Henney told TheWrap of approaching the emotional sequence. “And so, I was sort of trepidatious going into it, but with our amazing team — with our writers and producers — we all sat down and talked about it, and we thought that it was really going to help cement sort of the idea of the bond between warder and Aes Sedai and how much that meant, and how it can be feudal at times.”
To get into the right headspace, Henney said he spent a week doing “sort of just emotional exploration” and tried the scene on his own as he worked out what to show from Lan in the episode’s closing sequence.
“I knew I wanted to be sort of guttural and gritty and masculine, but I really saw it as a wonderful opportunity to showcase emotional depth for him,” Henney said. “I mean, we live in a society that sort of doesn’t allow men to show emotion sometimes, and I don’t agree with that. I’m a very emotional person, and I think that it’s a beautiful thing. He’s lost his good, good friend and mentor, and he’s possibly blaming himself for not having done more. And also, on top of that he’s dealing with the fact that this could happen to him and Moiraine, and she’s dealing with it, too and they feel each others’ bond during that funeral. So, there was a lot. For me, it was a long playlist of my favorite sad songs and sort of trying to think of things that would get me there emotionally. And then, every time we do a take I’d slip off into the hallway and just throw my headphones on and try to stay in the moment and then [I’d] run back in and do another take and beat my chest. And that’s how it kind of happens.”
Although Lan was back to being the stoic Lan in “The Flame of Tar Valon,” the sixth “Wheel of Time” episode which dropped last week, there was a lot of subtly going on as Henney’s warder character reacted to everything from Morainne masking their bond, to watching her lie to the young people from the Two Rivers. Henney told TheWrap about working to get those scenes.
TheWrap: Let’s talk about Episode 6. So, this episode had so many twists – the (temporary) severing of the bond between Lan and Moiraine, in particular. How did you guys figure out how to play that scene? Obviously, it’s quick, but it’s still a big moment because it leads to more reveals about her character.
Daniel Henney: Well, the idea of masking the bond was something that we were aware of, and something we knew we were going to have to confront. … I don’t have a lot of scenes in that episode, but I just had a couple. So, I knew that we [Henney and Rosamund Pike who plays Moirainne] had to bring weight with those scenes. And that had to be the subtext that firstly, knowing what she was going through with these White Tower politics, knowing the weight of that, knowing that he’s been on board for this entire journey, and he’s aware of everything. And so, when she masked the bond, it was just sort of playing opposite to that emotion and understanding what that meant. So, it was really tricky, but a lot of this is done just sort of subtextually between Rosamund and I, and we’re just hoping that people can sense that in the scenes.
Going from that … The exile scene for Moiraine obviously was huge, [and he has] that deep connection with her. Since we didn’t get a scene where we got to see your side of things, you must have explored that, right? Maybe you did do a scene and they cut it, I don’t know.
No, no, there was no scene, I think.Well, there might have been something where I was just kind of staring off into the distance, and those scenes are always the first ones to get cut out if we’re running too close to time and stuff like that. So, I think honestly, they’ve been on this mission for 20 or more years, and in the beginning of the episode – 106 – she’s confronted by the Amyrlin Seat. And she asked her a couple of times, you know, what she’s been doing for these years. And she says, ‘I cannot tell you, I cannot tell you.’ And Lan is completely aware that there’s a bigger goal beyond all of this. And so, at the end of the episode, when they had to sort of play that red herring, and she was exiled … he knows that it’s for the greater good, and he knows that they have the same goal, which is finding the Dragon reborn, and getting the Dragon to the Eye of the World, and so, I think he’s understanding of everything she has to do.
It just seemed for her, the exile hits her harder than she expected it to.
Yeah, yeah, it definitely hits her harder. I just think they’re both at a point where they have no choice, to be honest with you. That’s how we play it. And Lan is very mission-oriented at this point, he’s just trying to execute, trying to get them to waygate. At the end of the episode, you see when she says,’Just make sure they’re there.’ And that’s sort of his duty. It was tricky to play. It’s tricky to play all those moments.There’s just a ton of subtext. Hopefully it worked.
Oh yeah, and the scene right before they go through where Nynaeve, I think it was, asks what happens to the rest of us that aren’t the Dragon, and Moiraine’s like, ‘Can’t say for sure.’ And I think the camera pans to your character. What is he thinking in that moment?
It’s horrifying, isn’t it? Because he knows what’s at stake. Look, we always hope that, that’s not what’s going to happen at the end. I think that there’s this sort of — this positive outlook that something could happen. We’re seeing sort of these amazing abilities come from these kids, and I think that Lan and Moiraine are aware of that. So, I think there’s sort of a greater hope, beyond the obvious of what could happen. But, in that moment, in particular, I mean, it’s really just – it’s heartbreaking, because it’s a terrible thing to have to deal with.
Can you give us a taste of what’s coming up now that we are officially going for the Dark One, we’ve gone through the ways. And of course, Matt decided to hang out on the other side, because Mat’s Mat.
Mat’s Mat. I think that actually played well. I know that’s not part of the books, but I think it plays really well. It ups the stakes for our younger cast and I think playing the idea of him being left behind – it always adds something to the subtext of the actors moving forward. But, I think Episode 7 is really, really fun — one of my favorites — because we get through the ways and you’re going to get to explore a little bit of Lan’s history and where he’s from and his culture, which is really exciting. Without giving too much away, there’s some love in the air and love’s always fun. So, we get to experience that and also, you know, as the episode winds down … Well, I, I can’t give too much away… 107 is one of my favorites for sure.