From the art of The Vatican to Lawrence of Arabia.
The showrunners of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power are bringing us back to Middle-earth. Now, with the entire season now out showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay have been sharing influences and the creative process behind their most-beloved and most-challenging aspects of the show.
From many interviews across the web, here are some of those in their own words.
On Building Relationships
“From the beginning we wanted to build a relationship between Sauron and Galadriel.” – J.D. Payne, Co-Showrunner
“I hope after the last episode airs, viewers watch the whole season again, which is now a different experience… We were concerned about a situation where the part of the audience steeped in lore is six or seven episodes ahead of the characters. If deception is an important part of the journey, we wanted to preserve that experience for book readers too.”
“Season one opens with: Who is Galadriel? Where did she come from? What did she suffer? Why is she driven?” says Payne. “We’re doing the same thing with Sauron in season two. We’ll fill in all the missing pieces. Sauron can now just be Sauron, like Tony Soprano or Walter White. He’s evil, but complexly evil. “
Galadriel’s in this place of betrayal and anger and mad at herself and at him, and Sauron’s really coming from this place of, “No, no, no, no, no. This is good. It’s all been leading up to this. This is what we’ve been doing all season. By combining our powers, look at what we’ve achieved. We could do so much more together.”
Halbrand’s first lines to Galadriel on the raft are: “‘The tides of fate are flowing. Yours may be heading out.’ That’s the same line that Galadriel says to Frodo when the ring comes into her orbit in LOTR. She’s repeating the first thing Sauron ever said to her.” – J.D. Payne to Vanity Fair
“We began filming before telling Charlie Vickers he was Sauron. After filming episode two, we talked to Charlie during the pause we took because of COVID, and then episodes three through eight he was fully aware.” – J.D. Payne to Vulture
“It’s not an option calling him Annatar because the audience would know ahead of the character.” – McKay on The Ringer podcast. McKay also admits the clues are all there from the start, “in his very first shot, he’s looking over his shoulder with one eye. His second line is ‘Looks can be deceiving.'”
Vulture asked: “Why introduce Sauron through the form of this human disguise?“ Patrick McKay responded: ‘One of the earliest ideas we had for the storyline came from the moment in The Fellowship of the Ring when Galadriel is tempted by Frodo’s offer of the Ring. She talks about how well she knows and understands Sauron, and there’s a quote where she says, “I know his mind, and he gropes ever to know mine, but still the door is shut.” She clearly has a darkness — that turning down the Ring is a test she feels she has to pass to finally go West — and that the darkness in her is linked with her feelings about Sauron.’
“We wanted to do an origin story for Sauron. We didn’t want to make a show that was about the hunt for Sauron, but we love the idea of Sauron as a deceiver who could, hopefully, deceive some of the audience.”
Seems that the showrunners were trying to pull off a mic-drop moment only the greatest directors have ever successfully done, per this Empire magazine question from Patrick to James Cameron:
On Inspirations That Few Viewers Spotted
Patrick tells The Ringer podcast that the entire concept of Galadriel and Halbrand meeting at sea is based on the Neo-classical Romanticist painting “The Raft of Medusa” which hangs in the Louvre, and is surprised nobody picked up on the connection. The painting depicts the real life story of an actual boat named the Medusa that crashed at sea and led to cannibalism among the survivors on the raft.
“There’s something that Milton does in Paradise Lost where he makes Satan a really compelling character. In some ways, he’s the first antihero… and you (the reader) are unconsciously won over, so that you perceive your own fallenness and your need for redemption.” – Patrick McKay
“For my final audition, I had to do a speech from Paradise Lost. Literally, as Satan.” – Charlie Vickers, who plays Sauron. “By no means is this the definitive portrayal of Sauron. I think there’s comfort in the fact that it’s just adding another colour to what is already a really colourful page.”
In Episode 7, we see Galadriel and Theo hiding under a log. But that’s where the connections to Bakshi’s and Jackson’s films end. “It was written that they were hiding under a log, so it was ultimately led by the scripts I don’t think we ever consciously went back to the films and said ‘we want to do it like that'” says Alex Diesenhof, the DP for the episode, in Newsweek.
On Mithril and Legends
One of the most controversial ideas put forth in The Rings of Power is the source of Mithril’s magic. Fans worldwide — from the Tolkien Professor, Corey Olsen, to the Tolkien Society, to nearly all lore YouTubers — universally loathed this effort to expand the Legendarium. The Showrunners justify their choice:
“What if there’s a grand unification theory that could connect the light of the Two Trees of Valinor, which went into the Silmarils, to the rings? The three elven rings were at least partially made of mithril… It was a way to connect many parts of the canon, including the elves fading.”
J.D. Payne, co-showrunner
“Mithril is unusual in Middle-earth. It’s Tolkien’s vibranium, or adamantium, or like the one in Avatar, unobtainium. I would trust Elrond’s read on this piece of lore.”
“I think we’re quite used to the elves doing exactly the right thing and knowing exactly what to do. And that’s not necessarily the case here. [Galadriel] knows that if she [reveals Sauron to Celebrimbor], the rings wouldn’t get made. She needs the rings to be made so that the elves can stay in Middle-earth and continue to fight him. But I don’t know whether that’s the right thing to do!” – Morfydd Clark
These witches are lesser conjurers than one of the wizards would be, and are bested here, but they escape in another form. While the visual language is a little similar to the Nazgûl, we’re also thinking about Macbeth and we’re thinking about the old crones and the three witches and just trying to come up with something strange and weird. We know they come from Rhûn, and we know there are magic cults in Rhûn, which is one of the things Tolkien writes about. So maybe there’s a slightly different kind of magic and we can peel back the layers in future seasons.
J.D. Payne continues that we haven’t seen the last of the three witches, “were they just temporarily vanquished? I think that’s a story point that people can be thinking about… That’s him seeing into the Unseen world. The ring takes you into that place where you can see the true form of things.”
The showrunners tell Joanna Robinson at the Ringer podcast that they are shocked nobody has compared the reveal of Elendil to its inspiration from Lawrence of Arabia. In the classic film, considered one of the top 5 films of all time, the shadow scene represents the title character Lawrence adopting his savior-ego complex and leading the Arabs to potential freedom. In Rings of Power season one, Elendil loses his children to politics and war, but will eventually lead some Númenorians to safety and freedom.
Above: Lawrence of Arabia, Rings of Power episode 2
“If you look back over her trajectory this season, it seems like Isildur’s sister has been pulled into the Pharazôn camp, and that could mean big things for Númenor moving forward. Could she touch the Palantir and increase her sympathies toward the faithful, Or take issue with the idea that the queen has been using an Elven artifact and go the other way?” – via Vulture
“There was more about Isildur not wanting to be a sailor. We could do a whole season on that.” J.D. Payne to The Ringer
Númenor’s aesthetic is directly based on the classical Raphael portrayal of Athens as seen in the Vatican, McKay tells the Ringer podcast. Tolkien famously based his myth of Númenor on the ancient Grecian stories of Atlantis, made popular by Plato in his Athenian storytelling. In Letter 163 J.R.R. Tolkien admitted, “I have what some might call an Atlantis complex. … I mean the terrible recurrent dream (beginning with memory) of the Great Wave, towering up, and coming in ineluctably over the trees and green fields.”
Responding to Fan Criticism
Hollywood Reporter asked the writers to respond to five constant criticisms of the lore, paraphrased here:
Dwarf women have beards. “Tolkien has answered this particular question both ways.”
Elves all have long hair. “If Tolkien ever wrote a comprehensive style guide to hairstyles, I would love to see it.”
Galadriel is too masculine. “Her nickname [by Tolkien] is “Nerwen,” which means “man-maiden.”
Costumes are too new. “Guess what? Sometimes clothes are new.”
Pacing is too slow. “Tolkien will take his time and let you sink into characters, into a journey, and… I hope people will have the patience to settle in for a Tolkien epic.”
“The storytelling will be different next time, not because of the response to the show, but because of the experience of making the show for us. We’re certainly listening to the critics and to our audiences. You don’t want to give any one voice too much weight, but figure out what people are responding to.” – via Vulture
“We felt it was very important that season one be about reintroducing Middle Earth in this new era. Introducing all of these kingdoms, and all of these peoples and all of these characters and knowing what was important to them, and what they had at stake.” – Patrick McKay, who still needs to introduce 16 leaders of men and dwarves to be corrupted by the rings of power.
“People of the world will think everything, love/hate & in between, I’m quite sure, but it certainly seems like everybody’s talking about it and people are watching. I think we always knew there would be a lot of chatter from all corners, and it’s good to be talked about.” – Lindsey Weber
“It’s not a mystery it’s a character journey. Watching fans fight each other bums me out. Sauron enjoy seeing us tear each other part” – J.D. Payne
“Some portion of audience don’t want to go in journey of discovery. That surprised us. We thought fans would enjoy Galadriel not having husband and child.” – Patrick McKay on The Ringer podcast
“The guys really wanted to devise a story that would work from service level the first time and then would work on a whole new level when you saw it again with the full knowledge of the season.” – Lindsey Weber
“What matters to us is if it’s entertaining enough that people are digging into it and debating it. One of the big things we learned was even when it’s a small scene, it always has to tie back into the larger stakes. It has to be about good and evil and the fate of the world or it doesn’t have that epic feeling you want when you’re in Tolkien.” – Patrick McKay
“Bezos is a huge fan of Tolkien and has a great knowledge of the lore. The whole idea of why we got the rights to begin with was to tell the story of good versus evil — of people coming together from all different worlds to fight evil, really. Leaning into light was the other thing that was really appealing to everybody — bringing something to our global customer base that is hopeful and has light and that a family can watch.” – Jennifer Salke, president of Amazon Studios
Good Things Are Worth Taking Time
“We wanted to explore what it meant for Galadriel to, who had been right a lot, to be wrong, really, really wrong for a minute. We wanted her to have to live with those consequences, and in a way that she couldn’t fix in the short term.” – Lindsey Weber, Executive Producer formerly from Bad Robot, on why the volcano wasn’t the triumphant climax of season one.
“JD and Patrick talked about Stalingrad and Battle in the Streets, not sort of full epic but more hand-to-hand and brutal with surprising twists and turns.” – Lindsey Weber
Mystery Boxing The Obvious
When quizzed about the Gandalf-like similarities of The Stranger’s voice and accent Patrick McKay responded: “The specifics of these things matter so much. Daniel Weyman, who plays The Stranger, developed a voice with vocal coach Leith McPherson that has a little twinge of the Irish lilt the Harfoots have. Whatever name he may one day be known as is not actually important at this stage of his journey. What matters at this stage is… his own relationship to power and good and evil and darkness and light.”
“I was playing what was put in front of me. I felt I could really play it honestly.” – Daniel Weyman, who is following his nose to Rhûn, wasn’t told his character’s name at first.
“There’s even references to Gandalf himself possibly coming much earlier in some different form — he ‘walked among the elves’ — there’s a story to be told with a wizard in this age feels in harmony with Tolkien’s canon.” – Showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay
“Apples have a lot of mythological resonances in cultures really across the world. There’s, obviously a biblical idea. I mean, it’s also commonly associated with the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The taking of fruit in a garden setting is something that portends kind of a loss of innocence, a leaving of Eden and heading into the difficult world. But rather than eat the apple, he holds on to the apple, as you know, holding onto the friendship.” – J.D. Payne
Sticking to the Plan
Lindsey Weber, Rings of Power producer who previously produced Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker, told the Ringer that “their (Patrick and J.D.) passion for and knowledge of Tolkien—combined with their clarity of vision for the whole series, across multiple seasons—was uniquely impressive.”
“We don’t want to make something disposable,” Payne says. “Carrying the responsibility of this material and this man’s life’s work, we aspire to making something that’s special and not like anything else you’ve seen before. … It’s not ours. We have a responsibility to this world and this history and this mythology that this guy created that means so much to these people and want to do right by it.”
McKay tells Vanity Fair in a season-ending interview: “In the fourth episode, she asks him for advice, and he says basically, “the way you beat your enemies is to figure out what they need and figure out how to give it to them. Help them master their fear. And then you can master them.” And that’s exactly what he’s doing to her the entire season — maybe what he’s going to do to everybody over the following seasons. That’s his modus operandi.”
Here’s some reactions from the writers of Season 1 of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, now streaming all episodes FREE with your existing Prime membership that most people already have for free shipping.
It’s been a month since the final episode of Season 1 aired. TheOneRing.net staff have had time to reflect, to go back and binge-watch the whole thing, and to process thoughts.
As we begin the journey to Season 2 (which could be a long one!), here are some of TORn staffers’ reactions to the first season of Prime Video‘s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. As you’ll see, we’re an independent bunch with a wide variety of opinions!
Prime Video Hosts J.R.R. Tolkien Homecoming in London’s Leicester Square for theWorld Premiere of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Ahead of the September 2 Premiere
The highly anticipated Prime Video series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power honoured J.R.R. Tolkien by ending its epic global tour in the United Kingdom with its world premiere in London’s Leicester Square. Prime Video brought nearly 2,000 people—including cast, producers, and fans—into Middle-earth in advance of the series’ September 2 debut.
The London premiere represented the final stop in the series’ five-city world tour that started in Los Angeles and included Mexico City, Mumbai, and New York City before culminating in Tuesday’s historic Leicester Square premiere.
A fully immersive, Ring-shaped carpet took cast, crew, and guests on a narrative journey through five realms of Middle-earth, as they interacted with media and fans on their way into the Odeon Luxe and Cineworld in Leicester Square. The center of the 2,000-foot-long circular carpet was anchored by an exquisitely hand-crafted 40-foot-tall structure representing the five realms depicted in the series: The Elf capital of Lindon; the Dwarven realm of Khazad-dûm; the island kingdom of Númenor; the Southlands, the world of Man; and the Wilderlands, the home of the Harfoots. Five customized lanterns representing the five realms lit the way for cast down the carpet, each with different light sources: Fire and coal for the Dwarves, the Harfoots’ fireflies, Númenor’s oil lamps, the Southlanders’ caged candles, and Elven glow.
A living environment was created with a multitude of plants, grass, moss, vines, and 100 large-scale trees. A multilevel environment, mimicking the mountainous and hilly topography of the world, was created with various levels and vantage points, with greenery that will be repurposed or recycled following the event for future use.
Attending the global premiere were all 22 of the series’ cast regulars: Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Robert Aramayo, Owain Arthur, Maxim Baldry, Nazanin Boniadi, Morfydd Clark, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Charles Edwards, Trystan Gravelle, Sir Lenny Henry, Ema Horvath, Markella Kavenagh, Tyroe Muhafidin, Sophia Nomvete, Lloyd Owen, Megan Richards, Dylan Smith, Charlie Vickers, Leon Wadham, Benjamin Walker, Daniel Weyman, and Sara Zwangobani.
Also attending the premiere were showrunners and executive producers J.D. Payne & Patrick McKay; executive producers Lindsey Weber and Callum Greene; directors Wayne Che Yip and Charlotte Brändström; writer and executive producer Justin Doble; series composer Bear McCreary; production designer Ramsey Avery; concept artist John Howe; supervising dialect coach Leith Mcpherson; and casting director Theo Park.
Amazon executives in attendance included Jeff Bezos, Founder & Executive Chairman; Jeff Blackburn, SVP Media & Entertainment; Mike Hopkins, SVP, Prime Video, MGM and Amazon Studios; Jennifer Salke, Head of Amazon Studios; Vernon Sanders, Head of Global Television, Amazon Studios; Albert Cheng, COO of Amazon Studios, among others.
The first two episodes of the multi-season drama will launch on Prime Video in more than 240 countries and territories worldwide on Friday, September 2, with new episodes available weekly.
As the long awaited release of Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power approaches, the final trailer has been released. Some fans have been lucky enough to see episodes one and two already, at premiere events around the world (and some will watch them in NYC tonight!) Some fans have snagged the very limited tickets to see those episodes screen in cinemas on August 31st. And for the rest, sometime on Sept 1st or 2nd (depending on your time zone), those first two episodes will be available on Prime Video.
But for now, here’s one more official trailer:
And here’s the official press release that goes with it:
The new two-minute-and-36-second trailer highlights the epic expanse of Middle-earth in its Second Age, and reveals how Tolkien’s legendary and beloved characters will come together against all odds and across great distances to guard against the feared reemergence of evil to Middle-earth. Fates collide and disparate characters are tested in the face of impending evil in this glimpse into the long-awaited new series.
The trailer features key cast members Galadriel (Morfydd Clark), Elrond (Robert Aramayo), High King Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker), and Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards); Harfoots Elanor “Nori” Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh) and Largo Brandyfoot (Dylan Smith); The Stranger (Daniel Weyman); Númenóreans Isildur (Maxim Baldry), Eärien (Ema Horvath), Elendil (Lloyd Owen), Pharazôn (Trystan Gravelle), and Queen Regent Míriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson); Dwarves King Durin III (Peter Mullan), Prince Durin IV (Owain Arthur), and Princess Disa (Sophia Nomvete); Southlanders Halbrand (Charlie Vickers); Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi); and Silvan-elf Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova).
The first two episodes of the multi-season drama will launch on Prime Video in more than 240 countries and territories worldwide on Friday, September 1-2 (time zone dependent), with new episodes available weekly.
Just six weeks ago, it felt like a Rings of Power drought. Now every day there’s a new batch of interviews and reveals. These are via Time Magazine writer Eliana Dockterman. Dockterman was able to shadow and interview the showrunners and key cast at San Diego Comic-Con.
Below are summaries and links to four articles that emerged from that for your reading pleasure.
The Secretive, Extravagant, Bighearted World of The Rings of Power, the Most Expensive Show Ever Made
Tears are streaming down Ismael Cruz Córdova’s chiseled cheekbones. Somehow, hardly anyone notices. I’m at San Diego Comic-Con, halfway through 96 hours spent shadowing the cast and creators of The Rings of Power, Amazon’s highly anticipated Lord of the Rings prequel series. Tomorrow, franchise superfan Stephen Colbert will debut a trailer for the series to 6,500 screaming attendees, many wearing pointy wizard hats. But tonight, at a private dinner, journalists are getting an early preview of the video in a golden faux forest constructed by Amazon for the occasion.
After a day spent among the convention crowd in 80-degree heat, sweaty, sneaker-clad members of the press mingle with actors dressed in cocktail attire: Córdova has chosen a sharp suit with a black leather harness pulled tight across his chest. A 16-person choir and 25-piece orchestra—fronted by a violinist decked out in Middle-earth regalia—perform music from the series.
11 Rings of Power Secrets We Learned From the Cast and Creators
Spend some time in Middle-earth and you’ll learn a lot of secrets. I shadowed the cast and creators of the much-anticipated Lord of the Rings prequel series, The Rings of Power, for four days at San Diego Comic-Con in July. During my conversations with the showrunners, executive producer, and several members of the cast, I did my best to pick up clues about where the series may be headed—along with details about the immense production behind the epic saga.
If you want to watch the series without knowing anything about what might happen in the show, know that this story containsminor spoilers. Stop reading now. But if you want some background on the series and how Payne and McKay cooked up a story from Tolkien’s notes, forge ahead. I’ve seen two episodes of the show, and the information in this story comes primarily from the appendices.
[Editor’s note: Having read the article, I don’t consider any of this to be much of a spoiler for anyone who’s been casually following press reports and has a passing knowledge of Middle-earth’s Second Age.]
The Rings of Power Exclusive: Producer Says Fan Theories About Sauron Are Wrong
Fans have spent months speculating when and how he might appear in the show. They’ve combed the various trailers and publicity shots. Some theorize that fans have already seen his image—or at least his Annatar guise. But executive producer Lindsey Weber told TIME the prevailing fan theories may be on the wrong track.
[Editor’s note: This is potentially a spoiler, though I think fandom very quickly discarded the Sauron identity theory that Weber discusses with Time. It would have been much more interesting to address the other (much more compelling) rumour that’s doing the rounds right now. Unfortunately, they don’t even touch on it.]
This Fan-Favorite Character Is Joining the Second Season of The Rings of Power
McKay and Payne leaned heavily on the appendices to The Lord of the Rings, which trace the rise of Sauron, the creation of the one ring, and the battle between Sauron and the last alliance of elves and men for the soul of Middle-earth. Elves are immortal in Tolkien’s world, so Lord of the Rings fans can expect to see familiar faces like Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) and Elrond (Robert Aramayo). (Both characters also appeared in Peter Jackson’s film trilogy.) But a fan-favorite character has been missing…
[Editor’s note: I guess this could be a minor spoiler for some so I’ve hidden the character’s name behind the link below just to be safe!]
The Rings of Power at San Diego Comic-Con created a tsunami of cast interviews, video snippets and press write-ups. Unfortunately, they’re scatered all across the internet.
So some of the fine folks on our Discord server have been working assiduously to collate everything for easy reference. Courtesy of their hard work, everything we can find in one place for your reading and viewing pleasure. Big thank-you to Tim B. Ranatuor, WheatBix and Amaurëanna for getting all these links together!
Group interview with Charles Edwards (Celebrimbor), Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Tar-Míriel), Ema Horvath (Eärien), Ismael Cruz Córdova (Arondir), Daniel Weyman (The Stranger), Maxim Baldry (Isildur), Robert Aramayo (Elrond), Trystan Gravelle (Pharazon), Megan Richards (Poppy Proudfellow), Sara Zwangobani (Marigold Brandyfoot), and Owain Arthur (Durin IV)
Group interview with Benjamin Walker (Gil-galad), Lloyd Owen (Elendil), Leon Wadham (Kemen), Morfydd Clark (Galadriel), Nazanin Boniadi (Bronwyn), Charlie Vickers (Halbrand), Markella Kavenagh (Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot), Dylan Smith (Largo Brandyfoot), Sophia Nomvete (Princess Disa), and Tyroe Muhafidin (Theo).
Group interview with Nazanin Boniadi (Bronwyn), Markella Kavenagh (Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot), Ismael Cruz Cordova (Arondir), and Benjamin Walker (Gil-galad).
Individual interviews with Benjamin Walker (Gil-galad), Dylan Smith (Largo Brandyfoot), Markella Kavenagh (Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot), Leon Wadham (Kemen), and Nazanin Boniadi (Bronwyn).
The LA Times
Behind-the-scenes at SDCC stuff (might be paywalled!)
‘I can’t believe we’re doing this!’ ‘Lord of the Rings’ stars drink in first Comic-Con
The Times tagged along with ‘Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’ stars Sara Zwangobani, Tyroe Muhafidin and Owain Arthur at San Diego Comic-Con.
“I have never experienced a Hall H and I’ve been wanting to come to Comic-Con my whole life,” said Sara Zwangobani while riding in a van to the San Diego Convention Center to take part in the Comic-Con 2022 panel for her upcoming show, “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.” “These are my people! I can’t believe we’re doing this right now.”
Photos: behind the scenes at Comic-Con with the cast of ‘Lord of the Rings’
LA Times photographer Jay Clendenin embedded in the Rings of Power group for Comic-Con. He captured a full range of images from life inside the Comic-Con bubble, from cast members’ morning glam routine to the mayhem of Hall H to the afterglow of a successful bow at the year’s biggest fan gathering.
Group interviews with Markella Kavenagh (Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot), Tyroe Muhafidin (Theo), Charlie Vickers (Halbrand), Dylan Smith (Largo Brandyfoot), Sophia Nomvete (Princess Disa), Daniel Weyman (The Stranger), Ismael Cruz Cordova (Arondir), Ema Horvath (Eärien), Maxim Baldry (Isildur), Charles Edwards (Celebrimbor), Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Tar-Miriel), Trystan Gravelle (Pharazôn), Sara Zwangboni (Marigold Brandyfoot), Owain Arthur (Durin IV), and Megan Richards (Poppy Proudfellow).
Ema Horvath (Eärien) interview
Charles Vickers (Halbrand) interview
Tyroe Muhafidin (Theo) interview
Megan Richards (Poppy Proudfellow)
Owain Arthur (Durin IV)
Nazanin Boniadi (Bronwyn)
Benjamin Walker (Gil-galad)
Markella Kavanagh (Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot)
Sara Zwangobani (Marigold Brandyfoot)
Group interview with Markella Kavenagh (Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot), Tyroe Muhafidin (Theo), Charlie Vickers (Halbrand), Dylan Smith (Largo Brandyfoot), and Sophia Nomvete (Princess Disa).
Group interview with Morfydd Clark (Galadriel), Benjamin Walker (Gil-galad), Lloyd Owen (Elendil), Nazanin Boniadi (Bronwyn), and Leon Wadham (Kemen).
“The set of Númenór, which they’d built on the back lot, is absolutely extraordinary,” Owen said. Wadham, who has worked in the same New Zealand studio on other projects, added, “I thought I knew what I was walking into. I turn up, and there was a city with a wharf with boats in water on the backlot. It was transcendent.”
KEVIN POLOWY: So, huge cast, but you guys spent a year and a half together–
MARKELLA KAVENAGH: Yes.
KEVIN POLOWY: –shooting this in New Zealand. What kind of bonding experience was that? I mean, you hear stories from the original trilogy, the hobbits all got matching tattoos. Did you guys get matching tattoos, by the way?
MARKELLA KAVENAGH: I was really close to getting one. Not that I know of, I don’t think there are any, but I wouldn’t rule it out. I mean, we’ll see. We’ll see.
KEVIN POLOWY: But what was the bonding experience like among you guys?
MARKELLA KAVENAGH: Well, we lived– we lived so close together. We were there for nearly two years. And we’d have dinners together. We’d go around to people’s places. We had karaoke nights. It was really– we had to be each other’s friends, family, and colleagues in a time where we couldn’t get to each our actual real life friends and family and colleagues. So it was quite an experience. Really, really grateful for the camaraderie, for sure.
BENJAMIN WALKER: Because we were kind of stuck together in New Zealand, and I was there with my family, we became the home where everyone came and had Sunday lunch every Sunday. And when other people were away from their families, it was a way to kind of bond with your castmates, but also have that familial attention, and just feel like a person. So that’s an honor to do. I mean, they’re all nice people, and I enjoyed hosting.
NAZANIN BONLADI: To be in New Zealand– if you’re going to be stuck anywhere, let it be New Zealand. And we understand how blessed we are, because we, at one point were the only show in the world that was filming, because we were in the safe haven that was New Zealand at the time there was no COVID there. So we are very, very fortunate.
And because of the pandemic, the island was shut off from visitors. So we didn’t get to leave the Island or come back, you know, or have visitors. So basically we were stuck there for a good part of two years. And we had to lean on each other and depend on each other. So by default we became family. And, you know, and that’s what a fellowship is, is people who have to sort of support each other through an adventure.
TYROE MUHAFIDIN: Every Sunday we’d go for dinners and things like that, and we’d always socialize, because we were sort of the only people we had. And we were all really, really there for each other in times that we needed each other. And it was really great. I was actually quite lucky because under 18 I’m allowed a chaperone, so I brought my mother along with me. And she kind of ended up being everyone else’s mom.
MEGAN RICHARDS: We had to become, not just each other’s colleagues, but friends and family and support systems. And it really did ring true. I have such a love for this cast, and I really hold them deeply within my heart. And we would have, like, dinners together, where like, 20 of us would try and like, get a table, which is impossible in a restaurant. You know, just so many things like that. And, you know, we’d like, go on holidays together or we’d have, like, Sunday lunches. And, yeah, no, we were really, really close.
LEON WADHAM: Yeah, there’s a true fellowship, no question. So many people came from all over the world and spent a lot of time far from their homes to make this. And I think that encouraged a strong bond. They had to create a family. Whereas I am an Aucklander? I was shooting in my home. And I didn’t start until the midpoint because it took the first half of the shoot to build Numenor. So by the time I met everyone, they were already a family, and they invited me in.
BENJAMIN WALKER: This is going to be the most eclectic fellowship we’ve ever seen, right. It feels like the series is progressing, when it comes to ethnicity, when it comes to gender. I mean, how much of a sort of like point of pride was that for you guys, as creators of this series to sort of– to bring new faces and a new world into this world that’s created, that’s existed for so long, but we’ve never seen look quite like this?
CYNTHIA ADDAI-ROBINSON: It’s a huge point of pride. I mean, I think we’re talking about a global show and a global audience. This is now the reality. This is not about taking the narrow view. And, to me, this is about inviting people in and being expansive. And if you’re going to tell this story in 2022, this, to me, feels like the only way to tell it, the only way to represent it. And I think people are going to be really happy.
They’ve been hungry to sort of see full representation in this world. Because at the end of the day, this story is very much about people of all different backgrounds coming together for a common cause, to fight the common enemy, and that very much relates to where we’re at today. So that, to me, is just, like, the natural progression of things. It’s just what I would expect it to be.
MARKELLA KAVENAGH: It’s just, you know, really exciting to have– for it to be more representative of the world that we live in. And I just hope that the industry, not just our show, but the industry just continues to become more inclusive and representative of the world we live in. So I’m really grateful to be a part of that.
NAZANIN BONLADI: Every woman has agency on this show. Every female character has– is not there to serve the male characters around her. But every one of us has autonomy in our storylines. I am not only the mother of a rebellious teenage son or in a forbidden romance with an elf, the very handsome Ismael Cruz Cordova, but I also am a healer and a leader of sorts in my own right.
MEGAN RICHARDS: It’s just nice. It’s just such an inclusive atmosphere. And, I mean, I can’t even– I can’t wait for the time when that’s not even a question anymore, you know. Like, it’s just so nice that the modern world that we’re living in today, it really is reflected within in the world that Jodie and Patrick have created.
NAZANIN BONLADI: I never, in a million years, thought that I would be in something like this. And now we’re hoping that when people watch Arondir and Bronwyn fall in love on screen that they can see a Afro-Latino man and a Middle Eastern woman fall in love and have a love story, and be romantic leads, and in this genre. And that means the world to both of us, and all the people of– marginalized people in our cast.
KEVIN POLOWY: Despite, you know, “Rings of Power” taking place in the Tolkien universe, fantasy world long ago with creatures of all types, there’s a lot of themes that are going to be relevant to what is actually happening in the real world. Like, what can you say about that aspect? Like, what is it about the show that reminds you of the reality that we all live in?
CHARLIE VICKERS: We all live with. Well, I think that’s the beautiful thing about Tolkien is that the essence of his work, sort of will forever be related to what we go through, and what endures in human life. There are stories within the show that are stories of hope and stories of love and stories of loss, and the fight between good and bad. And I think that within this vast world of high fantasy, it’s these human stories that sort bring you in and really make you feel things when you watch the show.
BENJAMIN WALKER: There are a lot of connections you can draw between refugees or the climate crisis. But I don’t– that’s not the intention of the show. It’s just Tolkien. He understood the human experience in a deep way, and that translates into his work.
TYROE MUHAFIDIN: Just sort of those ideas of, like, family, friendship, you know, sticking with the people you know and you love, and no matter what goes on, they’re always going to be there for you.
LEON WADHAM: Certainly in Numenor there is a hunger for legacy at all costs. And I don’t know how much more I can reveal about that, but certainly ambitious to a fault is something that is said about the people of Numenor. They’re really proud. They have big dreams. They want to leave an imprint on this land before their time on Earth is over. And not everyone on that island knows where to draw the line.
– There can be no trust between hammer and rock. Eventually one or the other, or she’ll be back.
Nanzanin Boniadi (Bronwyn) interview
“The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” star Nazanin Boniadi teases what fans can expect in her character Bronwyn. May be geo-blocked depending on your location, but you can try watching it here!