‘Wheel of Time’ Director Sanaa Hamri Talks Finale, Teasing ‘Rings of Power’ Season 2 and Being Open to Making ‘Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 3’

Sanaa Hamri, executive producer and director of the Prime Video fantasy series “The Wheel of Time,” feels like she’s just getting started.

The Moroccan-born filmmaker began her career in the late 1990s directing music videos for artists such as Prince, Mariah Carey, Sting and Nicki Minaj. She transitioned to television in the mid-2000s, directing episodes of “Desperate Housewives,” “Glee,” and “Nashville.” Hamri made her feature directorial debut in 2006 with the romantic comedy “Something New” for Focus Features. She has since directed the hit 2008 sequel “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2” for Warner Bros. and the romantic comedy “Just Wright” for Searchlight in 2010.

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With an overall deal with Amazon Prime Video, she’s on the Primetime Emmy Awards ballot for directing “The Wheel of Time” episode “What Was Meant to Be.” The second season finale follows Rand al’Thor (Josha Stradowski) and others to an inevitable showdown with their most formidable enemies yet. The cast includes Rosamund Pike, Daniel Henney, Zoë Robins, and Madeleine Madden.

In an interview with Variety, Hamri discusses the challenges and experience working on the drama series, living in London for nine months to helm two episodes of “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” and whether she’s open to directing another sequel to “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.”

Read: All Primetime Emmy predictions in every category on Variety’s Awards Circuit.

How do you reflect on your experience filming “The Wheel of Time?”

“The Wheel of Time” was a tremendous job, with extensive world-building involving the Aes Sedai and various creatures. In the second season, our characters are separated, and each must find their own path, creating a coming-of-age journey into adulthood. By the season’s end, they reunite.

As a filmmaker, exploring these different worlds and films in my home country of Morocco was exhilarating. A highlight was taking the crew and cast to the Sahara Desert. Its beauty and landscape, though remote, provided a stunning backdrop for scenes like Moiraine’s beach sequence where she performs the weaves.

Working with a talented Moroccan crew allowed me to blend my American and European work experience with my African roots, creating something special. The positive reception from fans, especially regarding the theme of female empowerment, where women hold the power, was gratifying.

Directing the season finale, with its intricate choreography and action sequences, was a significant accomplishment. Seeing clips on Instagram reminded me of the incredible effort and collaboration that went into making the show visually compelling and cohesive. It was a remarkable experience.

While people love this show, it hasn’t reached the critical masses. Has that been frustrating for you?

With streaming, it’s really hard to tell who’s watching what. You might have a whole household using one service, and then friends or family visiting and clicking around. Measuring impact is tough beyond the online chatter. Personally, I’m someone who posts and then disconnects. I only use Instagram and try not to focus on numbers, which can be a dangerous approach for an artist. As a filmmaker, I aim to create work that resonates emotionally, trusting that people will rediscover shows over time, just as I often do.

You directed two episodes of the upcoming season of “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power”—how does this experience compare to others you’ve had in the past?

“Rings of Power” is already special because of the Tolkien lore and its strong community feel. Everyone was immersed in that world, from showrunners to producers, actors, and craftspeople. I was based in London for about nine months, my first time living there, and I was completely enveloped in the project.

The secrecy was intriguing, with pseudonyms for everything and only the right people having access to the scripts. From a filmmaking perspective, building on those big fantasy worlds was fascinating. I enjoyed ensuring everything fit within Tolkien’s world, especially working with different creatures, though I can’t reveal details until the show airs.

Seeing actors perform in front of nothing was amazing, relying heavily on visual effects. The collaboration between production design and visual effects was crucial to create a cohesive frame. Overall, it was quite the experience.

Preparation is crucial in filmmaking, especially on a large-scale project like Rings of Power. The art of prep is key to creative success. I would have numerous meetings for every sequence, storyboarding and re-storyboarding, discussing each moment in detail with the cinematographer to ensure we were thoroughly prepared. Once on set, everything moves quickly, so a meticulous approach is essential. While I am an emotional director, I am also extremely technical, which fits well with my filmmaking style, particularly for a project like Rings of Power.

How much time do you spend with actors on something like “The Lord of the Rings” versus visual effects and post-production?

For me, the filmmaking process is about 60% working with actors and 40% with everything else. My process involves rehearsals with the actors to discuss the scenes, walking them through the sets, and then blocking the scenes before we start shooting. This preparation can be intense, mixing costumes and set preparations.

In the evenings, I often work with actors on half-built sets, which is crucial for identifying any missing elements. This allows me to collaborate with production design to make necessary adjustments, like widening a walkway if needed. I love bringing actors onto partially or fully completed sets to ease them into their roles. By the end of these walkthroughs, we’ve essentially completed a full rehearsal without them feeling locked into anything.

Once we start shooting, the actors are familiar with the set and their movements. My technique involves easing them into it while the DP is already pre-lighting in his head. The luxury of a well-run show like Rings of Power is the time we have for such meticulous planning.

This detailed preparation isn’t about money but about careful planning. Whether on a big-budget or a smaller-budget show, the key difference is the luxury of time. Effective time management and prioritizing what’s important are crucial. I bring this meticulous approach to every project, including Rings of Power.

(L-R) ALEXIS BLEDEL stars as Lena, AMBER TAMBLYN stars as Tibby, BLAKE LIVELY stars as Bridget and AMERICA FERRERA stars as Carmen in Alcon Entertainments drama The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.

You directed the 2008 sequel to “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.” Would you be interested in helming a third one?

I would say yes, only to support those ladies. I’m also exploring different genres and telling new, unique stories. I don’t like repeating myself and prefer to move on to different things. For instance, “The Bondsman” is a completely different show from “Rings of Power,” and even Rings and Wheel of Time, though both in the fantasy genre, are very different.

For my next project, I want it to have new elements, worlds, and challenges. I’m passionate about creating content that unites people globally, offers food for thought, and expands the mind, especially in these difficult times. These are the things I’m looking for in my future work.

Perhaps a genre switch of the franchise?

That’s a great idea. The pants are possessed [laughs]. All of those girls are fantastic. I would work with them again.

How proud were you to see America Ferrera get an Oscar nomination for “Barbie?”

It was the greatest moment. I loved her in Barbie; she was fantastic. Barbie was a remarkable achievement. Blake Lively, Amber Tamblyn, and Alexis Bledel—all the girls—have truly become powerhouses in their own right. I also like the idea of the pants being possessed.

This interview has been edited and condensed. “The Wheel of Time” is now streaming on Prime Video.

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