This is an intentional move on the part of the makers.
Per the show script, as revealed by the WoT showrunner Rafe Judkins:
[A QUICK NOTE: race in the world of Wheel of Time is much less defined
than in our world.
As much as possible, our cast should look like America will in a few
hundred years—a beautiful mix of white, brown, black and everything in
We'll apparently see a 'trend' of certain races in certain regions.
Q. Certain cities definitely trend towards certain demographics, but I suppose the same can be said for the US[?]
RJ: For sure. Fal Dara will look more East Asian, you’ll see plenty of
gingers in the Waste, etc ;)
It's noted in various interviews that this is a very intentional attempt to modernise the series to fit in with present-day concerns about diversity on screen, rather than anything that's reflected in the books.
io9: While Jordan rarely mentions anything regarding race in the novels, the show’s incredibly diverse casting feels like an update as well.
Kehoe: I think you’ve got to. We absolutely have done that and tried to keep it up to date and make it organic, which I think we’ve done very successfully. It doesn’t feel like you force those characters into that situation. As Mike said on various other calls, the [show’s] physical Breaking of the World allowed us to have cast diversity from all over the world. In Emond’s Field, for example, there are people who come from all these different countries. So that’s the way we portrayed our world.
Adapting The Wheel of Time for TV Is an Epic All Its Own
You may wish to note that Brandon Sanderson (who completed the novel series on which the show is based after the original author's death) doesn't agree that this is his vision of what the world looks like in the books, but is happy enough with this as an adaptation of the source material by others.
That's a legit gripe [referring to the multiracial casting]. I don't blame anyone if they don't like this
decision for book/film continuity reasons--just as I would have
trouble blaming anyone for disliking a casting like Jackman as
Wolverine, because he's so different from the source material. Most of
us loved him, but it's okay for someone to dislike the choice.
The WoT casting looks good to me. It's more than it doesn't bother me;
it's more that I actively like how these people look as the
characters. Granted, I have information others don't have. I've read
Rafe's scripts, I've read his treatments, and I get what he's doing
with the series--and in almost every case, I like the choices he's
Deciding to do the Two Rivers with a variety of skin tones but a
unified cultural identity is cool to me because I think it expresses
some of the broad themes of the Wheel of Time. Themes that might be
difficult to get across otherwise without the text, the internal
To me, this is like putting the Harry Potter kids in street clothes in
the third of those films, or making Frodo push Sam away in the LotR
films--both are pretty big deviations from the letter of the story,
but both (I think) achieve something in setting the tone the right way
for a film.