(Re)imagining Nynaeve al'Meara On Screen
This article contains spoilers through Lord of Chaos.
From love to hate, from frustration to respect, Nynaeve al’Meara frequently elicits strong emotions from Wheel of Time fans. Questions inevitably abound regarding precisely how Nynaeve’s character will be interpreted by the scriptwriters, the showrunners, and by Zoë Robbins herself.
Join us as Atarah al’Norahn, Elia LePhant, Eliza al’Shaw, Juliya Karisu, and Thaddius al’Guy discuss what they consider to be Nynaeve’s defining moments, her motivations, and the impact they hope Nynaeve will have on viewers.
Q: What Nynaeve moment(s) from the first two books are you most excited to see Zoë Robbins play on screen?
Juliya: I can’t wait for her first appearance—hopefully tugging her braid and looking grouchy. I also want to see the scene where she’s discovered by Lan and Moiraine after following them for a while without them knowing. And I’m really looking forward to her Accepted test!
Elia: The first time she heals someone in the first book, and when she is tracking Moiraine, Lan, and the Emond’s Fielders, and Lan acknowledges her tracking skills.
Thaddius: There may have been a lot Nynaeve did in the first two books, but I absolutely want to see the scene where she tracks Lan and Moiraine down after they leave the Two Rivers.
Eliza: I’m looking forward to the scenes with Moiraine! Nynaeve has had to fight to prove her worth in the role of Wisdom, and Moiraine is the first person who Nynaeve can’t bully into submission. Moiraine is more knowledgeable and more powerful. Watching Nynaeve’s determination to better herself, to be better than Moiraine, are some of my favorite moments in the series.
Atarah: I don’t think I’m alone in saying that Nynaeve’s scene with Lan in the Blight is one of my favorite moments in the first book—even in the entire series. But there are a lot of other quiet but powerful moments that I’m really looking forward to seeing. One is the scene in the Blight where Moiraine invites Egwene and Nynaeve to set up the ward with her. Nynaeve is so hesitant, but is beginning to truly face the possibility of a life she had never even begun to imagine.
Q: Is there anything new you think the television adaptation will bring to Nynaeve’s character for you? What do you hope Zoë Robbins will bring to the role?
Eliza: Zoë has fire! I can’t wait to see her portray Nynaeve’s stubbornness. But I don’t want her love to be lost; it’s not new, but it’s a much harder thing to show without the internal monologue, and also hard to show without making the character look fickle. Nynaeve is motivated mainly by love so I hope that comes across.
Atarah: Passion. It’s such a defining feature of who Nynaeve is and what drives her always: passion to heal, to help, to learn, to be better, to love, to live. I hope that Zoë will be able to bring these to life, both for longtime fans of the series and for newcomers who have never before encountered the force that Nynaeve is.
Thaddius: Well, suffice it to say it will bring the character to life for me and let me see a fully 3D version of the character that I’ve been reading about for twenty years. I’ve never seen anything that Zoë has been in, but I hope she can deliver the core of the character that I know so well.
Elia:I hope Zoë gives more dimension to Nynaeve’s character, especially in the beginning. I would like to see her be more human, and give us a better understanding about why she acts the way she does, and why she does the things she does. On paper, Nynaeve can seem very extreme and unreasonable, so I would like to see Zoë make her “real” for us.
Juliya: I hope they will make Nynaeve a little more likeable. I love her a lot, but many book fans are completely the opposite and don’t like her. I hope Zoë will do a good job of being fierce and stubborn, but also kind and loyal.
Q: What’s the one emotion you most hope Nynaeve’s character will evoke from viewers?
Thaddius: Hope. She spends a lot of her time fighting with herself about her own abilities via a mental block on using the One Power, and I am looking forward to seeing Zoë work her way through that obstacle and overcome it, letting people know that while things may be hard, you will get through it.
Elia: Awe at her strength of will.
Juliya: Admiration—for her skill and talent, as well as her willingness to try anything to help people.
Atarah: I hope that viewers will feel respect for her drive and her skill. I really hope the screen version of Nynaeve prompts emotion in fans as strongly as she does in the books.
Eliza: I want people to be rooting for her, even when they’re frustrated with her. She can be infuriating sometimes, but with such a big heart people will love her anyway.
Q: Is there a scene or a line from the first two books that you see as absolutely central to Nynaeve’s character in The Wheel of Time—something you can’t imagine being cut?
Atarah: I think some of the scenes surrounding her Healing will be really important. For example, the scene where she isn’t able to do anything for Tam and her despair at it, but also her determination to carry on and save as many as she can. I also really want to see the scene in which Moiraine exhausts herself hiding the group, before they reach Shadar Logoth; Nynaeve is determined to set her to rights again, despite her dislike. I think these kinds of moments are really pivotal for showing Nynaeve’s character and spirit, and if these specific scenes don’t make it in, I think that there need to be ones with a similar feel.
Elia: I would like them to spend some time on her inability to channel freely the way Egwene can in the first few books. The frustration and anger she feels towards her block will be powerful to see, and it’s an important part of her character. I also would like them to really highlight the fact that she developed her own style of Healing that no other Aes Sedai does, and also her relationship to the weather, as it foreshadows later events in the series.
Eliza: I thought about this for a while, and for me many of Nynaeve’s great moments in the early books actually come from what the boys remember about her—hitting people with her staff, spending all her time trying to heal someone. I’d love to see those scenes acted out as flashbacks rather than just talked about. But for Nynaeve herself I’d say the entire arrival at Baerlon should be just as written. Her outrage and how she challenges everything Moiraine says, even threatening to expose her as Aes Sedai—it just shows her strength of character, how she doesn’t automatically fall under Morraine’s command.
Juliya: Absolutely—the scene between Lan and Nynaeve where he tells her “I will hate the man you choose because he is not me, and love him if he makes you smile.” I want to see Nynaeve’s heartbreak and disappointment, but also her resolution in moving forward.
Thaddius: The scene towards the end of the second book when by only studying for a mere moment, she learns how to unlock the a’dam.
Q: How do you imagine Nynaeve’s first entrance on screen? What kind of feel do you hope it will have?
Eliza: I would actually really like to have Nynaeve first show up in the background, doing something to one of the Village Council men—a typical Wisdom Nynaeve sequence that you might not notice the first time unless you are a super fan. But as for her arriving on screen, I want her to feel as if she seemingly pops out of nowhere. Her presence on screen should feel big. This will depend much on the reaction of people around her (especially Mat), but also will need Zoë to command that scene, for her to feel older than the boys and Egwene without necessarily looking much older.
Juliya: As I said earlier—I want her to be tugging her braid, or holding her big walloping stick, hopefully grumbling about Moiraine and Lan showing up. I hope the scene captures how pretty but also capable and strong she is.
Atarah: In the books, we first see her interacting with Rand and Mat, and I hope they’ll do something similar in the show. As important as her relationships with Moiraine and Lan are, I hope that they show her in the context of the Two Rivers, and interacting with Two Rivers people, before they introduce the Nynaeve-Lan-Moiraine dynamic. It’s her determination to protect the people of Emond’s Field that draws her out of the Two Rivers in the fist place, and I really want her place in Emond’s Field to be established, very firmly, from the start.
Thaddius: I imagine her giving Rand (or especially Mat) grief about something that they had done.
Elia: I would love to see Nynaeve listening to the wind, and showing her growing unease and concern at what she is sensing. Perhaps she is out in the forest, observing the dying trees and plant life.
Q: Which other character are you most interested in seeing interact with Nynaeve on screen? Is there a relationship dynamic from the first two books you’re particularly interested in watching play out?
Thaddius: The relationship between Nynaeve and Moiraine. Nynaeve always was the one to be in control of situations, and as Moiraine comes in and takes control, Nynaeve has to learn to deal with it in her own way.
Elia: I am very excited to see her relationship with Egwene play out with Madeleine Madden! I think they will bring a real sisterhood to the characters on screen, due to their friendship in real life. Of course I am also looking forward to her relationships with Moiraine and Lan as well, especially from The Eye of the World. I can’t wait to see the tension between her and Lan develop into love, as we don’t get much from the books themselves. I think developing their relationship on screen will be much more satisfying to viewers.
Eliza: Obvious, I know, but this has to be Lan. The first couple of times I read the book, I felt their romance came out of nowhere. Now I’m older and have picked up on the subtle hints in the early chapters of the first book. The scene after Shadar Logoth when she tracks Lan, again, and the little back and forth they have around that particular skill—I’m looking forward to that.
Juliya: Definitely Lan. I’m excited for the romance, not going to lie.
Atarah: I’m curious about how they’ll handle her relationship with Rand in the first season, considering how intensely important it becomes later in the series. Nynaeve becomes one of the only Aes Sedai Rand can bring himself to trust; how will they begin setting that up? And of course I can’t wait to see Nynaeve and Lan on screen together. And I look forward to seeing how the relationship between Nynaeve and Egwene develops on screen—from a hierarchical relationship, in which Egwene is Nynaeve’s apprentice, to more of a relationship between equals, and then to a complete reversal of that initial hierarchy when Egwene becomes Amyrlin.
With so many unforgettable Nynaeve moments in the books, the show creators certainly have plenty of material to work with in creating and shaping a powerful, enduring screen presence for her character. What do you hope to see from the television adaptation of Nynaeve?