After garnering praise for his roles in Obey and County Lines, rising actor Marcus Rutherford is diving into the fantasy genre with The Wheel of Time.
After being announced as the fan-favourite character Perrin in 2019, Marcus Rutherford has been waiting with bated breath for fans & viewers alike to see his new show, The Wheel of Time. Based on the iconic popular fantasy series, Amazon’s The Wheel of Time is set in a fantasy world where mostly only women are able to harness magic. When a woman named Moiraine has a fateful meeting with 5 young men and women, all of their lives and turned upside down and they begin a harrowing, world-defying journey. Perrin, who is played by Marcus Rutherford, is defined by the phrase “gentle giant.” His desire to turn away from fighting, despite being the biggest one of the group and someone that everyone would assume is the fighter, is what drew Rutherford to the character initially. It’s one of the many aspects of the show that defies everything you think of when you think of a fantasy story (and likely why the series has already been renewed for a second season despite the first not even airing yet).
1883 Magazine’s Kelsey Barnes had a chat with Marcus Rutherford about The Wheel of Time, his connection to his character Perrin, how he feels the tv industry is changing in regards to representation, and more.
Although you’re just starting out in your career, you’ve already been involved in some incredible projects like Bulletproof and Obey and now with The Wheel of Time. Every project is different than the last. What typically attracts you to a role?
To be honest, when you’re starting out you’re just looking for projects [laughs]. Getting a role, in general, is amazing. I have always been quite attracted to characters that maybe don’t fit in in terms of being a bit lonesome or kind of introspective. Obey and The Wheel of Time are completely different, but I think there’s a similarity in the characters; they’re quite introverted and quiet and aren’t exactly the loudest in the room.
Is that something you feel like you connect with?
Definitely. I think as actors we like to pretend that we are nothing like our characters but there are qualities in both of them that I connect with.
I believe it was your interview with Petrie Inventory where you mention being around 17 or 18 and feeling like pursuing acting was a bit unconventional. Obviously now we know you eventually chose to pursue it, but what was it like choosing to follow your passion and dream rather than a more… conventional career?
As you get older, you slowly get into this kind of mindset. I went to a regular state school and acting was never really thought of as being a job. It wasn’t one of those things where my parents would tell me to be a doctor… mostly because I’m not smart enough to be one! [Laughs] I was in London at university and I was doing a course that was good, but I wasn’t enjoying it. I received a message about something that happened in my family and I just remember it giving me this huge wake-up call. Luckily, everything was fine. It just served as a moment of deciding to pursue things that you want to do. I just thought, “You know what, you’re young. You might as well try and see what happens.” I actually got pretty embarrassed at one point.
I felt like I wasn’t giving 100% in my life. I did an internship at a TV production company when I finished uni because I was still telling myself that I needed a proper job or whatever. For that month I found myself just staring out the window of this office and I just thought about how miserable I would be if I didn’t at least try. It just gave me a bit more perspective and insight and I realized you can probably fail at what you don’t want to do, so you might as well give it a shot in something that you’re interested in.
There’s something to be said there! I feel like so many people don’t pursue things out of fear.
Totally. You just realize that in your job or wherever it is you spend a lot of time doing. That was the main thing I took with me when I was working in that office. I spent more time there than with my friends and family so it’s crazy to not try to do something that I enjoyed if I’m going to be spending such a large amount of my life doing it.
And it’s worked out because now you’re about to star in The Wheel of Time which has already been renewed for another season before the first has even come out! I caught the trailer of it before I saw Dune and it looks incredible. I feel like it’s been such a long time coming for you because I believe you were announced as part of the cast in 2019?
Yeah, back in 2019! A lot has happened in the world since so it’s wicked that finally, people are going to get a chance to see it. My friend told me it was playing in the cinemas before Dune which is crazy to think about.
The Wheel of Time is this epic, sprawling fantasy world where only certain women are allowed to use magic. If men use it, they kind of go crazy and become incredibly dangerous. There’s a prophecy that’s existed in every new age that happens with the turning of the wheel. The character Moiraine Damodred, played by Rosamund Pike, takes these kids from their idyllic little village into this crazy, violent, scary world and they all start to realize they have certain abilities and certain powers in a sense. I play Perrin who is very much a gentle giant, he’s the local blacksmith in the village and is very introverted, very quiet, and very considerate with everything he does. Without giving away spoilers, he has a particular struggle with violence. He is a big strong guy, but he finds it very hard to kind of be violent after something specific happens and he’s very scared of what might happen if he does let into that kind of violent side within him. Season one is exploring that journey.
I read that the writer Rafe Judkins said your character was the hardest to write! Can you give me some insight as to why?
I mean, hopefully, it has nothing to do with me as the actor! [Laughs] I think with writing the show, Perrin is just so in his head in the books. A lot of his inner monologue and point of view can last for these very long but also very beautiful chapters. There’s a lot of chapters of just him thinking which is great to have as an actor but difficult to translate that to the screen when you’re limited with time. Judkins has given him certain relationships and storylines that I think really are going to help that audience access that character. Perrin is quite tricky but I think there’s something very rewarding in that as well.
I’m not sure if you read the books prior, but did you find it difficult to show the process of having to demonstrate these long chapters full of Perrin’s thought process and, in a way, his belief system?
I was lucky because I had played some roles where they were quite similar to Perrin. In Obey, I’m in pretty much every shot but I don’t actually say that much in the film, so I’m guessing that’s kind of what Rafe may have seen when I was auditioning. It’s quite tricky, I think you have to really hit those moments and just realize that for a character like Perrin, a particular look or maybe even a smile can be incredibly powerful. He goes through quite a traumatic journey so I always remind myself that when there is a scene in the script where he smiles, it’s going to be incredibly powerful because a lot of the time he’s in his head and frowning for most of the show. You just have to find those little beats and really cherish those moments because you don’t have a whole monologue to say what you’re feeling so a smile, a hug and a laugh can be 10 times as powerful.
It’s like slowly peeling back layers of an onion as you show his humanity and how he lets his guard down.
That’s absolutely it. That’s one of the beautiful things because these characters go on crazy journeys and bump into a myriad of different characters and unlock different sides slowly, so I think he’s a really cool character to play. With some of the characters, you know how they are going to be from the start but with Perrin, you slowly see him kind of changing throughout the story and even more so in season 2 which is really cool. for the story and in season two, which is really cool.
I think, especially in fantasy, the bigger guy is often just picking up weapons and fighting right away, but it’s interesting having a bigger guy as one of the leads who is actually quite quiet and considered about everything he does. He’s reluctant to embrace warfare and is constantly questioning if it’s the best solution. You don’t see that as much.
I was going to mention that this book was really ahead of the times. Women being the ones to wield magic? That’s crazy for the time period it was written. What was it like exploring those themes?
I met Robert Jordan’s widow on-set and she said Perrin reminded her of Robert the most which meant a lot to me.. But also was a lot of pressure.[Laughs] When Roberty came home from Vietnam, he had PTSD and was struggling with what he saw while over there. There’s a real connection to Perrin in that sense which I think will resonate with fans as well.
Now, given what you know about Perrin’s arc through this season, is there a piece of advice that you would give him as Marcus to Perrin?
Without giving away too many spoilers, I would say for him to trust his instincts and to realize that he’s a very good young man deep down despite everything that’s happened to him. To be more confident and to trust his instincts. That’s what I would say to him and give you a non-spoiler comment on season 2! [Laughs]
When approaching a character like Perrin, was there anything specific you did to flesh him out?
It’s quite lucky to have such an extensive amount of material like the books because, like you said, there’s chapters where it’s just Perrin and what he’s thinking for whole chapters and to have that much to delve into is really, really exciting. On a show of this magnitude, there’s such a distinct and detailed amount of work that goes into it to ensure everyone feels like the characters, from the jewelry that you wear to the costumes to the sets. Before you step on set so much prep has gone into it in order for you to feel like this character. It doesn’t even feel like we’re pretending because everything is so large in scale!
In a past interview, you mentioned that art and film need to be representative of society because that’s basically how we educate society and change perspectives. Do you see the way representation is changing in film?
I can’t remember what I was trying to say but I think diversity can sometimes be misconstrued as representation. There might be shows, particularly in the UK, where you might be loads of Black or minority faces on TV shows, but they might be specifically about gangs or stories of being like immigrants. It feels very one-dimensional. It looks diverse but the actual storylines and the characters aren’t of a huge variety and can actually just perpetuate stereotypes further. I think America is still quite far ahead in terms of those things. I was watching a show called Ramy and there are so many levels to it. A few years ago it would’ve been about this Muslim guy and his family and heritage but it’s just about his life. He’s just human like anyone else.
Things like that show me that it’s changing bit by bit. Even with something like The Wheel of Time, not that we’re changing everything, but I realized that I didn’t see characters like this growing up in fantasy. I love Harry Potter and Lord the Rings, I think they’re incredible, but there weren’t people who looked like me in those franchises. Having The Wheel of Time out there means that small kids can resonate with these characters, whether it be me or Zoey or Maddie or whoever is in the show and that’s really, really exciting.
Lastly, if you could manifest something for yourself this year & next, what would it be and why?
Oh, wow, big question.
I like to end it on that because I feel like I get polar opposite answers.
Maybe be part of a project that shows a different side of me. Outside of work, I’d say to reconnect with some old friends that I’ve been busy to chat with because of the whirlwind of this job and being based out in Prague and everything like that. I kind of kept in touch but I feel like there’s a few people that I really need to kind of catch up with properly, so that would be lovely. I know the people close to me for years, like when I worked in cafes and bars and such, so I need to make sure I’m still around those people. They mean a lot to me.
Interview Kelsey Barnes
Photographer Lee Malone
Grooming Maria Asadi
Catch The Wheel of Time on Amazon Prime on November 19th. Follow Marcus Rutherford at @marcus_rudda