Attending a film festival turned out to be a fortuitous experience for Dutch/Polish actor Josha Stradowski. At one such fest in Ireland, he met casting director Kelly Valentine Hendry who, several months later, asked him to audition for a project she was casting: Amazon’s fantasy series The Wheel of Time.
The Amsterdam-based Stradowski’s sent her a taped submission, which eventually led to in-person chemistry reads in London. The next thing he knew, the young actor found himself on set, shooting inside a 350,000 square studio in Prague, playing a lead in a show that was billed as Amazon’s answer to Game of Thrones.
Based on Robert Jordan’s popular fantasy novels, the eight-episode The Wheel of Time has plenty of magic, sorcery, and world-spanning adventures. The story centers around five young men and women — Stradowski’s character among them — one of whom is prophesied to be the Dragon Reborn, who will either save or destroy humanity.
Now, on the eve of the show’s debut, Stradowski spoke to Casting Networks about the audition process that landed him the role of Rand, a village sheepherder who just might be a hero.
With a high-profile project like The Wheel of Time, how do you prepare for an audition when so little information is given to you? There was no script, no sides, just some scenes.
Everything was very secretive. The only thing I knew was that I was auditioning for The Wheel of Time. The character was secret, and the context of the scenes was also quite secret. There were many scenes — seven, eight scenes on that final chemistry day. It was an interesting process because I didn’t have much information, so I had to go with my intuition. In a way that was freeing, because the dialogue was so well-written, the choices came quite naturally. Afterward, I told my agent, I don’t know what this is, I couldn’t find the name of the character anywhere, but I know this guy, and he’s really something for me.
The day of the chemistry read must have been quite memorable. You’re meeting people who are also going up for your part, other actors vying for their respective roles, all being mixed and matched for different scenes. How was that experience?
It did feel very important. I wasn’t there to become friends with all the people I was competing with, though I didn’t see it as competition. Your only competition is you. But I do remember that day, and it was one of the most nerve-wracking days ever in my life. The urgency was definitely there. I wanted to do my best. My very, very best.
You starred in the 2018 Dutch film Just Friends (Gewoon Frienden) and the 2020 Dutch TV series High Flyers (Hoogviliegers). I imagine The Wheel of Time has been a whole different beast to film.
I’ve never worked in such a big production in my life before. In that way, it’s definitely a game-changer. The cables, the cranes, the drones, the sets — it’s all huge! It’s absolutely mind-blowing. Even up to this day, with Season Two now in production, the whole thing still keeps blowing my mind. But when we’re on set, doing the work, or even when I auditioned for the role, the essence for me is the same. You portray your character in the way that you think is the essence of that character.
So for you, your commitment level to the role during the audition process vs. being on the set shooting after you’ve won the part is the same, right?
For me, auditioning feels like an opportunity to learn and discover what kind of projects I want to do. I never see it as a competition (with others trying out for the same role) because it’s either meant to be or not meant to be. Auditioning is an opportunity to show your performance. Sometimes it might turn into something, or you might not get that part. Or maybe that casting director thinks of you for something else later, like Kelly, whom I met at a film festival in Ireland, who got me this job. If you think about it in that way, it’s magic. If I hadn’t gone to that festival, I wouldn’t be sitting here now.