The Wheel of Time’s Marcus Rutherford on Nottingham’s flourishing acting scene
Five Things: The Amazon Prime fantasy epic star also opens up about learning how to sword-fight and the most treasured items he’d most probably save if his house caught on fire.
Marcus Rutherford might have bagged himself a leading role in Amazon Prime’s new fantasy epic series, The Wheel of Time, but he’s still a Nottingham boy at heart. Now based in Prague, where the show has been filming for the last couple of years, he remembers his acting roots fondly.
“I went to this place called The Television Workshop, which is a Shane Meadows-affiliated club back home,” the 26-year-old says. “I trained there from 16 to 19, and it really set the bar for me in terms of everything I’ve learned.” With alumni including Jack O’Connell and Vicky McClure, Nottingham’s TV workshop is one of those rare, not-so-London-centric places which nurtures young talent such as Rutherford.
After dropping out of university in London, he took up bartending to make ends meet, and picked up acting jobs whenever he could: short films, music videos, and finally, 2018’s Obey. The independent, low budget feature led Rutherford to his agent and finally, to The Wheel of Time. His risk had paid off.
The series, whose first three episodes premiere today, is based on Robert Jordan’s epic fantasy novels of the same name. It follows Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) as she takes a select group of kids on an odyssey of sorts to find The Chosen One – or in this case, The Dragon, who is prophesied to either save the world or burn it to the ground.
It’s a bona fide epic of fantastical proportions, filled with plenty of horse riding and swordfighting, skills Rutherford learned – fast – on the job.
“The scale, man…” he sighs. “The things I’ve done before I’m really proud of, and low budget stuff can be equally fulfilling. But here, they’re literally building villages for only two days’ worth of filming. We’ve filmed in Slovenia and Croatia – it’s been mindblowing. The magnitude of this is very different for me.”
In The Wheel of Time, six-foot-five Rutherford plays Perrin, a gentle giant and blacksmith whose relationship with violence ebbs and flows.
“He knows he can get incredibly angry and quite destructive. I think he’s also quite scared of that, which is quite refreshing in fantasy – a character who’s big but also reluctant to just pick up a weapon and start fighting or killing everyone. He’s quite thoughtful and considered.”
Given Rutherford has been hopping around Europe over the best part of the pandemic, we asked him what items he holds near and dear at all times, from film cameras and play scripts to proper Nottingham clobber.
Eye of the World
This is the first book in The Wheel of Time series, which has sold, like, 90 million copies. I’d never even heard of it before the show! Since I picked it up, my life has changed. It’s been amazing and I think it signals the start of something. Touch wood, we get to do it for a long time. This has been a big moment for me, so that book holds a lot of value.
Obviously the scripts are amazing, but when you have the books there’s so much extra stuff you can learn. It was really refreshing to read about these cool characters in a completely different world.
Television Workshop play scripts
This drama club in Nottingham set the bar for me in terms of everything I’ve learned. I’ve come to do this international job for Amazon and they’ve been able to cast all over the world, but I’ve bumped into people who went to that same drama club in a little basement on this job. But it’s the least surprising thing ever – the talent there was ridiculous. The generation before me was Jack O’Connell, Vicky McClure, Joe Dempsey and people like that. This thing was on my doorstep and I was so lucky to go there. Everything I’ve learned, I still carry with me. It was an invaluable lesson.
This was something that I picked up through doing this job, even though I’m not great at taking pictures or posting them. It’s such a lovely thing to have, especially when you’re constantly meeting people from around the world and getting to see different places. We just came back from Southern Italy and I think we might go to Morocco for a bit in the new year, so being able to capture those moments in an actor’s life… There might be times where I’m sitting at home, waiting for the phone to ring. That’s cool, that’s what being an actor is. So when you’re travelling and seeing new things, it’s really precious to have a nice camera with you.
T-shirt from an independent Nottingham clothing brand
This is from a shop called Mimm in Nottingham. It reminds me of home and doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s quite cheeky. That little area where the shop is, there’s also an independent cinema, some really cool little restaurants and the drama club I went to. It was a little… I don’t want to say Shoreditch, but a trendy bit in Nottingham where I’d always find myself. The T‑shirt has that out-of-London character about it and always reminds me there’s so much talent from where I’m from. I take it everywhere.
Childhood family photo
I feel bad because my mum’s not in this picture. Maybe I need to find another one – she’s going to be livid! It’s me, my sister and my dad in the garden when we were growing up. I have no idea when I got it framed but it’s a perfect size for me to always take wherever I go. I took it with me to uni, when I’ve moved flats and lived in box-rooms in London. I’ve been moving from place to place quite a lot recently and I haven’t really had a base, especially because of Covid. Little things like this can make it a bit homely and make a world of difference. It’s a reminder that I’m just Marcus from Nottingham.
The Wheel of Time launches on Prime Video globally today.