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Why Wheel Of Time's Daniel Henney Hit An 'Impasse' Playing Lan Mandragoran - Exclusive

Looper recently had a chance to sit down for a chat with Daniel Henney, who plays Lan Mandragoran in Amazon Studios' "The Wheel of Time" series. As we discussed Season 2, we asked Henney how well he knew the massive collection of source material (14 monstrous books for the primary tale). The actor revealed that he didn't know the books well at all when he first got the gig as the Aragorn-esque character. However, he immediately began to do his homework, diving into the first few books with gusto. When he started getting scripts, though, it created an interesting challenge.

"I got to a point where it was affecting my ability ... when the scripts would come out," Henney explained, "because when you read Lan in the books, he reads very differently than the characters in the show. He's really different, so I found myself sort of at an impasse."

Henney has a point. While his on-screen character is overall similar to his stoic printed counterpart, there are some key differences in the scripts flowing out of the writer's room of showrunner Rafe Judkin's production. One fan Reddit feed posted after Season 1 sheds light on a few of these alterations, such as Lan's less expressive book personality or the fact that he can be very sassy with Moiraine. Most fans aren't too harsh, with the above-mentioned feed primarily existing to justify that Henney's adapted character is still excellent.

Reconciling the two-Lan conundrum

Lan may be altered to a degree for the Amazon Studios series — as is to be expected with any adaptation. Still, the changes were initially challenging for Daniel Henney to work around when reading the books. "I don't like when I get in conversations where I feel like Lan from the books wouldn't do that," he declared. "But I'm not Lan from the books; I'm Lan in the show — so which one am I? It's a weird moment."

As a solution, Henney decided to put a pin in the book reading. "Now, I go with the scripts, and I'm still reading the books, but [I've] slowed down the reading," he said, adding a bit later, "I had to set the books down for a second and just go with our show."

The struggle to reconcile adaptive differences with source material is a common one. Peter Mullan didn't read any Tolkien before portraying one of the greatest on-screen Dwarves in all of cinematic Middle-earth history in "The Rings of Power." The venerable actor explained that it wasn't ignorance but a deliberate acting style choice. "Anytime I've done anything that was an adaptation of a book," he said, "I would never read the book beforehand. It's not to be willfully ignorant by any means; it's that you are working on the script. I know other actors wouldn't feel this way, but for me, you have to work within [the boundaries]."

Henney has faced multiple challenges while filming The Wheel of Time

The source material wasn't Daniel Henney's only challenge while filming the show. The actor also provided insights into other key areas that have caused trouble. COVID was one of these. Even for Season 2, the production was still shut down three different times. The recent SAG-AFTRA strike also made it difficult to promote the show, and some of the stunt work (where Lan features heavily) has been a lot to learn — even if stunt coordinator Jan Petrina has nothing but praise for Henney's abilities.

In the end, opting to read scripts over books was just one decision the actor had to make to ensure consistency in his on-screen persona. Despite the choice, his Lan remains a serious, compelling, and important part of the story.

Henney also took the time to reassure fans that he isn't avoiding the books indefinitely. He plans on resuming the admittedly daunting reading project at some point, confidently stating, "I'll definitely finish the books."

All episodes of Seasons 1 and 2 of "The Wheel of Time" are available to binge now on Prime Video.