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‘The Wheel of Time’ Star Josha Stradowski Teases that the Blight is “Way More Dynamic” than the Ways

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‘The Wheel of Time’ Star Josha Stradowski Teases that the Blight is “Way More Dynamic” than the Ways

You can find all available episodes of The Wheel of Time streaming on Amazon Prime Video. For even more Wheel of Time, check out the epic book series, also available on Audible

The Wheel of Time Episode 7 “The Dark Along the Ways” finally revealed who among the Emond’s Field Five is Amazon’s version of the Dragon Reborn. Turns out for all the changes the Prime Video show has made from Robert Jordan’s books, Rand al’Thor (Josha Stradowski) is still the Dragon Reborn. The wool-headed sheepherder with a heart of gold is still the reincarnation of the Dragon, destined to defeat the Dark One at the Last Battle or join him. And the good news is Rand figures this out just in time to travel with Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) to the Eye of the World.

Prime Video’s The Wheel of Time is loving adaptation of Robert Jordan’s 14+ book series of the same name. Set in a world on the precipice of another Breaking, the show follows the Aes Sedai Moiraine Damodred’s quest to find the Dragon Reborn before the Dark One does. For the whole season, Moiraine has believed the Dragon is one of five youths from a small, sleepy town called the Two Rivers — but which one? Could it be Egwene (Madeleine Madden), the ambitious inn-keepers’ daughter with a preternatural talent for harnessing the One Power? Perrin (Marcus Rutherford), a quiet blacksmith with the strange ability to communicate with wolves? Nynaeve (Zoë Robins), the stubborn young town Wisdom with a talent for healing and the ability to channel more of the One Power than any other other woman in one thousand years? Or could it be Mat (Barney Harris)? The rapscallion of the group who found himself locked in a battle for his own soul with a cursed dagger?

Turns out it was Rand the whole time! The Wheel of Time Episode 7 reveals that Rand was born to an Aiel warrior named Tigraine Mantear (Magdalena Sittova) in the aftermath of a bloody battle that took her life. His soldier-turned-farmer father Tam (Michael McElhatton) adopted him and raised him in the Two Rivers. Rand has pulled off a few miraculous moves — like breaking free of a Darkfriend’s clutches — but before now the show has downplayed his ability with the One Power (and made it seem that anyone could be the Dragon Reborn).

Decider caught up with Josha Stradowski over Zoom this week to talk to the Polish actor about finally being able to reveal the truth about Rand, what he loves so much about Johann Myers’s villainous Padan Fain, and how much of the Wheel of Time books he’s read so far* he wanted to put into his Season 1 scenes…

*Stradowski revealed that, like the author, he is currently on Book 12, The Gathering Storm.

Josha Stradowski in The Wheel of Time Episode 7
Photo: Prime Video

DECIDER: How does it feel to finally be able to let people know that you are the Dragon Reborn? 

JOSHA STRADOWSKI: It’s kind of nice to have those kinds of secrets you know? That’s the position I’m in, I know a lot about the show that people don’t know, and I’m reading the books as well. So, that’s the kind of interesting place I’m in, but I must say that it’s a relief that I can finally just say that Rand is the Dragon Reborn. It even feels weird to say it out loud.

Well, that moment that Rand realizes he is the Dragon Reborn, he seems absolutely devastated by the realization. Can you take me through how you think he’s tackling it, and what is the big confirmation for him that lets him know that he is, in fact, the Dragon?

Well, throughout the story, throughout this season, there are different moments. So there’s of course the fever dream of Tam, when he talks about how he found Rand as a little baby. And of course in Episode 7, the start of 7, you see that phenomenal fight scene. And there were other moments like recognizing Dragonmount and being recognized as an Aiel man.

But I think what was the key moment for Rand really was when he channeled for the first time trying to protect Egwene in the Ways. From that moment on it was really undeniable. And with Moiraine telling them that whoever goes through the Eye of the World who is not the dragon will die and that being Rand that means he’s forced to finally face the truth. And that is that he’s the Dragon and Min can only confirm that.

I wanted to ask about Min. I love Rand and Min’s relationship in the books and obviously it develops into a very formidable relationship. What was it like shooting that scene with Kae Alexander and how much of what you know is coming did you want to put into the subtext of that scene?

I wanted to attack it as it is. I’m aware of the books but I also know that the elements and fundamentals of the books are in the show, but some things might be different. I talk about it with Rafe of course but at that moment the most important thing is that he’s trying to figure out who he is and what he needs to become.

Min in The Wheel of Time episode 7
Photo: Prime Video

I wanted to go back to when Rand goes to Moraine and he says, “I’m the Dragon Reborn.” Obviously Rand and Moiraine have a famously contentious relationship. Where do you think he sees Moraine going into the next episode? Does he trust her? Where is their relationship going into the finale?

Like you said, the whole relationship has been about trust and I think Rand, from the start, has been the one questioning and standing up to her. And throughout the story that trust…that needs to be built and at times even earned and it’s not so easily earned between them. And that makes sense, because Rand, you know, he’s not someone that follows blindly. But now, facing the truth that he’s the Dragon Reborn, he does realize that he needs her. He needs her guidance. And so, in this moment he decides to trust her.

I spoke to some of your cast mates last week about how it was filming in the Ways and they told me how intense shooting the Ways was for them. How was it for you working in the Ways? Can you tease for readers how the experience of shooting in the Ways compared to shooting in the Blight? Was one more intense than the other for you?

They were both different. The Ways, we don’t do a lot of stuff only interior, but this was one of the few things we actually did inside of a studio like that. The Ways was a lot of walking back and forth and the Blight felt more dynamic. Because the Blight was something they actually built outside somewhere in the Czech Republic and you could actually walk through there and it was very big. And it was outside. It was cold and there was rain so it felt very alive. In the Ways, you step down the stairs and, you know, there’s a coffee machine. You don’t have that in the Blight.

Perrin and Rand in The Wheel of Time episode 7
Photo: Prime Video

Another key moment in this episode is the realization that Perrin has always held a torch for Egwene and Rand seems really upset about that. Can you talk about what you think that added to the dynamics between the three of you going into this finale?

You know, the relationship between Rand and Egwene… In Episode 1 Rand realized that she needs something else and he’s very mature and accepts that. But, throughout the story, all of these characters, they go through just the start of the traumas that they have to go through. So they need each other, and at times Rand and Egwene, they need each other again. They need that love and that comfort and it is a bit of a gray area between Perrin and Egwene. I think it is friendship, but the stakes are so high and it is a lot of stuff going on…it might not really be about that. It’s more about Rand thinking…trying to face the truth really.

I know in the past you have told other interviewers that your favorite character is Padan Fain. I’m very curious why that is. I find him very hard to like or admire.

I like the villains, you know? For me, he’s the Joker of this story. Also when I read him in the books, his material is so… It’s really juicy and it’s evil and I just love the way Johann (Myers) portrayed him.

If I have time for one more fun question. Imagine you’re in the world of The Wheel Of Time and you are allowed to join an Aes Sedai Ajah. Which of the Ajahs would you most likely want to join?

Blue. I must say Blue, right? I have to stay in character, so I would say Blue. Probably join Moiraine.

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

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Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker
USA TODAY Sports

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers

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Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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