'The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power' cast on the epic series

The first two episodes are streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.

Benjamin Walker, Morfydd Clark and Robert Aramayo in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.
Benjamin Walker, Morfydd Clark and Robert Aramayo in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

Enid Grace Parker

Published: Fri 2 Sep 2022, 8:28 AM

Last updated: Fri 2 Sep 2022, 4:16 PM

It’s been almost ten years since The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies released, and the epic moment The Lord of the Rings fans have been waiting for is finally here. A new series set in the Second Age of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fictional Middle Earth, thousands of years before the events of the writer’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, just dropped its first two episodes on Amazon Prime Video.

Critics have been divided in their initial reactions to The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, a sweeping fantasy drama from creators Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne, featuring an ensemble cast that includes Morfydd Clark, Benjamin Walker, Charles Edwards and Cynthia Addai-Robinson.

It remains to be seen if this epic production costing around $465 million to make and featuring characters from Tolkien lore (many making their debut screen appearance), as well as completely new characters inspired by his classic literature, lives up to hardcore Tolkien fans’ expectations.

New and old will band together against all odds and across great distances to guard against the feared re-emergence of evil to Middle Earth. Fates collide and disparate characters are tested in the face of impending evil, in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power which will no doubt draw comparisons to Peter Jackson’s iconic trilogy (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King) as well as the filmmaker’s three Hobbit movies.

The vibrant cast and showrunners of The Rings of Power are sure the series will set a new precedent for future interpretations of Tolkien’s literature.

In a series of virtual press conferences that City Times was a part of, key cast members spoke of the thrills of working on the epic new show and how Tolkien’s work gives a hint of unexplored territory, always a fertile ground for creativity.

Exploring Middle Earth

Galadriel is an iconic Middle Earth character from the elven race, who has been depicted in both live-action and animated films as well as on stage and radio, songs and poetry. She was portrayed by Cate Blanchett in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy as well as the Hobbit films.

Commenting on expectations that went along with the role and whether she took inspiration from Blanchett’s work or drew on Tolkien’s novels, Welsh actress Morfydd Clark (Saint Maud, Love & Friendship), who plays a younger Galadriel in The Rings of Power, said, “It was definitely both. I felt really lucky that I had those films and Cate Blanchett playing the character that I somehow ended up playing; I could see where my character was going. So I always had that in my mind that I knew where she’d end up, but my character didn’t. But you just have to shut out that noise and completely commit to it. And then we all went back to the books; I hadn’t read The Silmarillion before. I just dived into that and there was just so much, not just on Galadriel’s particular character, but kind of the whole… what Middle Earth felt and was like to live in during the Second Age that we were exploring. So that was just fascinating and it became quite comforting; I’d pop on the audio book every night and go into Middle Earth!”

Creating authentic characters

Charles Edwards (The Crown, Henry IX) plays the elf Celebrimbor, a ring-maker who was tricked into forging the rings of power by a disguised Dark Lord Sauron. Edwards spoke about the challenges of bringing a sense of authenticity to the characters in a fantasy world.

“The truth of any story comes when you’re in the scene with your scene partner. You’re just doing your job and communicating your truth to each other and listening. That’s the reality of it; that’s what acting is - mainly listening! So that never troubled me - you are who you are and you’re presenting those characters to the best of your ability.”

Edwards remarked how he’d been a big fan of Tolkien’s works when he was younger, adding, “The more reading I’ve done, the more endless his corridors are. It is staggering for the imagination.”

Benjamin Walker who plays High King of the elves Gil-galad, said, “We had a universal vocabulary that united us as a species. Tolkien basically wrote a language and then wrote some books around it. And so, language is so important not only to us and our relationship with Tolkien, but to the elves. It’s almost like a weapon that they use, you know; this kind of beacon of light that radiates how they communicate with the Valar (immortal beings). So we did quite a bit of research and study with language, and research and work is ongoing (laughs).”

The Rings of Power is premiering in multiple languages and in more than 240 countries and territories worldwide. What is it about the series that gives it a global appeal?

Edwards responded to the question posed by City Times, “It’s back to Tolkien. It’s his global appeal that has been proved time and time again. Within the epic worlds that he creates there are these moments - the conditions of what it means to exist; love, redemption, testing yourself, how far you would go to save the personal being you love. And what’s wonderful about it again with this huge epic backdrop is - there are these small, almost domestic moments which are very moving because we all recognize those. And I think that’s what makes him a global language.”

Welcome to Númenor

Also interacting at the conference was Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Power, Chicago Med) who portrays Míriel, the queen regent of Númenor, a great island kingdom gifted to the men of Middle Earth by the immortal Valar, that is eventually destroyed.

“When we are first introduced to Numenor it’s a time of relative peace; it’s a kingdom at the height of its power and prosperity. But there is definitely a sense of a shift, a fork in the road moment. But as in any good drama it’s a bit more complicated than that,” she said.

Númenor is also the birthplace of Isildur, a character that was featured in a flashback in the Peter Jackson films. Isildur fails to destroy Sauron’s ring, which leads to his resurgence in the Third Age when the events from The Lord of the Rings take place.

Maxim Baldry (Years and Years, Hollyoaks) called Isildur a “sort of misfit” in the first season of The Rings of Power. “He’s a sailor trying to fulfill his father Elendil’s dream of becoming a sea captain. But he doesn’t really want that. There’s an element of being lost, and he’s just trying to find himself.”

Harfoots & dwarfs

Expect out-of-canon characters in The Lord of The Rings: The Rings of Power - like Harfoots. Sara Zwangobani (Home and Away) plays a Harfoot, Marigold, who is a matriarch of the tribe.

“The Harfoots are an ancestor to the hobbits. A migratory tribe, nomadic, they follow the seasons in order to survive and they stay hidden from the wider world due to what happened to them in the Great War that came before. One of their magic qualities is being able to stay hidden. They also have a really specific set of rules that they live by in order to keep them safe.”

Dwarfs that inhabit Tolkien’s Middle Earth bring a sense of much-needed lightness to an otherwise heavy storyline.

Sophia Nomvete plays Princess Disa of the underground kingdom of Khazad-Dûm, while Owain Arthur plays her husband, Prince Durin IV, a character Tolkien fans will recognize. Nomvete shared, “Khazad-Dûm is thriving at this point so we see Disa and Durin in a position of some power I guess. Looking after the kingdom and looking after each other. There is so much domesticity but equal amount of responsibility so we see them navigating through all of the above in the first season. I think what’s really exciting about Tolkien is that there are so many epic moments to play with but some of the finest moments in the story are the moments at home.”

Arthur corroborates this viewpoint. “This show is so epic you need breathing space to kind of enhance that, I suppose. You’re just following this journey that’s been written; by the time you get to the dwarfs, you do breathe and you kind of sit back off the edge of your seat and just enjoy watching the domesticity between this power couple,” he said.

Vast and bottomless mythology

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay hope both fans and non-fans take to the show.

Patrick said, “J.D. and I have been working together for 25 years. We are huge fans of The Lord of the Rings - we grew up with the films and the books. When we heard that Amazon had acquired the rights and was working with the Tolkien estate we raised our hands as loudly and as often as we could. When you think about the breadth and depth of that mythology Tolkien created, it’s vast and bottomless. It’s an ocean of ideas. We hoped that maybe if we sewed all these disparate pieces together from all of the books it would be something that would work for fans and non-fans alike.”

J.D. said, “Tolkien gave us all those wonderful clues to start with - and sometimes he would suggest a culture, or a people, or a storyline and characters would emerge out of that culture from the details that he gave us… So really it was a joyful process of collaboration with the professor!”

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