This week on TORn Tuesday Justin and Cliff spoke with writer Joanna Robinson (@JoWroteThis) who had the opportunity to view the first three episodes of Amazon Prime’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. She then authored two articles for Vanity Fair with revelations about the show – ‘Amazon’s Lord of the Rings Series Rises’ (co-authored with Anthony Breznican), and ‘10 Burning Questions About Amazon’s The Rings of Power.’

Joanna Robinson with Justin Sewell and Clifford Broadway of TORN Tuesday

Below are some highlights from last night’s conversation. Watch the entire interview on TORn Tuesday’s YouTube channel.

[Note: The conversation has been edited down from the original due to space.]

Justin: Are the articles speculation on your part, or are you hinting at stuff you’ve actually seen?
Joanna: In the cover story … and the article that I put up, the “questions answered” one … hardly any is speculation, um, if I’m saying something I’m saying something … when I put down here’s what I asked … then I printed word-for-word the answer I got.

Justin: Was there any discussion with the showrunners of, you know, a certain level of faithfulness?
Joanna: … they’re not deviating from that core lore …

Justin: Is the sword that we see Narsil?
Joanna: I’m gonna go and be safe and say pretty sure.

Justin: Can you provide any reaction to Lenny Henry as a Harfoot?
Joanna: That is something that I would love to see.

Justin: Was the first teaser photo from last summer of the two trees in Tirion, was that intentional misdirection?
Joanna: No

Justin: There’s so much comment about hair … let me start with Galadriel’s hair …
Joanna: … fandoms are not a monolith, and what one person wants in the fandom is not what another person wants with the fandom … I tend to be very CG resistant in general … when we got to the Harfoots in the episodes I saw … that felt so Willow to me, and that is the highest compliment I can give anything … Do people really want a glow filter on Galadriel all the time? … The hair that you see in the photos and footage that you’ve seen is accurate to what I’ve seen … [but] I have not seen all the finished digital effects …

Joanna: I think the casting of Morfydd Clark is incredible because she’s not super well-known, though if you haven’t seen Saint Maude I really recommend you go see it because she is astonishing in that, and if you want to like get a preview of how, uh, you know a Galadriel that might go toe-to-toe with Cate Blanchett going like photo negative in The Fellowship of the Ring, like, that’s the performance that she gives in that film … she’s such a perfect casting for this because people … aren’t coming in with preconceived notions of her … so she can just become Galadriel.

Justin: What are those people with the antlers?
Joanna: Here is what I can say about that, don’t worry too much about it.
Justin: Are they an integral part of the story?
Joanna: Don’t worry too much about it. They’re a very cool visual. It’s a very cool, practical effect visual. 

Joanna: Does hair play an important part in the narrative?
Joanna: Like Elf hair? As far as I know, no … I didn’t ask this question specifically … but as far as the story that I’ve seen so far, it does not seem to be related to the plot … I’m guessing … it’s an aesthetic decision.

Cliff: [There’s] all this Galadriel focus … but where’s Celeborn?
Joanna: I haven’t seen him.
Cliff: They’re saving him for a later season perhaps?
Joanna: That would be my guess.

Justin: Is there a vibe of a CW show?
Joanna: No. No. No. … that’s the concern that surprised me the most … attached to Bronwyn and Arondir, that people were like, oh, are they giving a CW … this idea of sort of star-crossed lovers is a recurring theme in Tolkien’s work … the rarity of those pairings … is what makes them so special … I can understand why, you know, a slightly forbidden romance would be part of it because that’s a theme that Tolkien was interested in. But it doesn’t smack of CW to me at all.

TORN: Is it possible this only gets one season?
Joanna: Zero percent … they payed so much money for this, are you kidding me?

Joanna: There was the Covid, and the question was did they reconfigure the whole show when they shot the back end of the first season, what did they do during that Covid time? … did their understanding of what they want to do with the show fundamentally change? I can only give you the answer that JD and Patrick gave me … They said nothing fundamentally changed, in they plotted out their first season, and nothing … changed in the Covid pause … They took time during the Covid pause to map out Season Two … there wasn’t any massive structural changes. The other misapprehension that I’ve seen floating around is this idea that the first two episodes are sort of one thing, and then the rest of the season is something else. That’s not the case at all. It’s one flowing story.
TORN: It’s not a two hour prologue?
Joanna: It’s not …
Cliff: Even in the new article it says there aren’t many time jumps aside from the first two episodes.
Joanna: Am I saying there is no, uh, First Age stuff in this at all? No, Amazon has already told you that there is. But it’s not a massive prologue. No.

Justin: Jeff Bezos said early on ‘bring me the next Game of Thrones‘, and then they got Bryan Cogman the lore expert on Game of Thrones
Joanna: Bryan also happens to be a really good friend of mine … I’m a huge fan of his … I can see his fingerprints on it [The Rings of Power], but he was very clear he was only there in a consulting position right at the beginning.
Cliff: … it led to worry … about the probability of nudity or sexualized elements to the story…
Joanna: I don’t think Cogman or anyone in that writers’ room, and there’s so many smart, talented writers in that writers’ room, I don’t think any of them wanted to do like orgies in Middle-earth, ever, or anything like that. 

Justin: A lot of people say it doesn’t look like there was a plan…did you get a sense that there is a five season plan?
Joanna: I can’t say that for certain, but when they offered up their roadmap … 4-5 big stories they’re interested in telling, involving like Númenor and Sauron and the forging of the rings, and … I think the end after that, right, the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. I think they have the major beats of the whole story laid out.

Durin IV played by Owain Arthur

Cliff: The novelty [of seeing the seven clans of dwarves and their lords] is the most powerful draw for me personally.
Joanna: They [the showrunners] are interested in showing us a wide array of cultures of Middle-earth in a wide array of locations … I gasped when I saw Khazad-Dûm, like when I saw the first shot … sort of descending into Khazad-Dûm … I was dazzled by it, and they built that, I know they built that, […] they told me they did.

Joanna: I found a question I feel really comfortable answering … did I have a favorite performance so far? I think Markella Kavenagh who plays Nori Brandyfoot the Harfoot, she’s my standout by far. I just loved everything that she did … and I think stories about Elves and Men and Dwarves are … fun and interesting, but for me, it doesn’t really feel like it’s Tolkien without a Hobbit or Harfoot there, and I feel like once she showed up I was like I’m locked in, I get it.
Cliff: But we have to acknowledge it is a bit of a lore squeeze.
Joanna: Yup
Justin: That’s the fear that a lot of fans have, that there’s so much good stuff in the Second Age, they don’t want this show to be told from the Harfoots’ perspective.
Joanna: I don’t think its accurate to say it’s told from the Harfoots’ perspective – the Harfoots that we see are nomadic, and they have a rule they don’t engage with the bigger folk … You’re not going to see a Harfoot forging the rings or fighting a Balrog or anything like that as far as I know … they are not bending the text that far.
Justin: Is the show being told from a certain perspective?
Joanna: Amazon is very careful over and over again to call this an ensemble cast, and I don’t think it’s inaccurate … Amazon wants everyone to be in on the show, they want the deep dive lore loving […] people excited, and there’s so many little details in there that I think are gonna make people who are engaging on that level excited, but they want those people [fans of the Jackson films] excited, too … I wouldn’t say this is Galadriel’s show, or this is the Harfoots’ show, or Elrond’s show, or this is the Númenor show. 

Markella Kavenagh who plays Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot

Justin: Can you help fans reconcile the idea that they’re creating new characters?
Joanna: If you were just reading the Appendices of what happened in the the LotR trilogy … a character like Rosie Cotton … a character like that is not a big part of the history that you boiled down for the Appendices … but if you’re putting together the whole world, um, you want your Rosie Cotton since she’s important to matters … The Nazgûl, the nine kings, we know so little about them, right? So doesn’t the Amazon show have a really rich opportunity to introduce us to all of those men, and so that when they fall, it is a tragic story? … so when we lose them we will feel the loss of them. That’s pure speculation, but that’s I think a justifiable reason to add nine characters we may or may not have names for … The way they want to present Isildur … let’s spend time with Isildur … so that when it all shakes out the way it does, we really feel that. I find that kind of story-telling really interesting.

Justin: I hear the loin cloth we see on meteor man was a CG.
Joanna: Honestly classic … If you’ve got a young actress and an adult man … [the intimacy coordinator might have been for Nori so she would feel comfortable.]

Joanna: Is your question, do I know who Sauron is after three episodes?
Justin: Yeah, let’s go there.
[Joanna pulls a red card that indicates she can’t answer in front of her face.]
Justin: Well there you go.

Justin: Any hints that WETA workshop is involved?
[Joanna pulls the red card in front of her face.]

Joanna: I’ll be really curious to see if we’ll be able to tell a demonstrable difference between the seasons shot in England and those shot in New Zealand … JD and Patrick said ‘Our characters are on the move, so you’ll understand it will make sense that maybe we won’t have access to the same vistas’ – I’m paraphrasing.

Justin: There’s a fear that if they share crews because they’re in the UK, it will look like other shows.
Joanna: They are building a home studio in the UK … it will make production easier … In terms of will this show look like the Witcher or Wheel of Time … These are portraits [the posters and photos in Vanity Fair], they’re not the moving images that you’re going to see … When I saw the Wheel of Time screeners that we got which were finished … I spent a long time thinking about why that film, that show, didn’t look as good as I thought it should … there was something slightly off, I thought … it looked ‘costume-e-y’ … I did not feel that way watching [Amazon’s] The Lord of the Rings footage. 

Justin: Are there any photos that almost made the cut?
Joanna: There were many, many, many, many, many … conversations about … which photos were going to be in this piece and which weren’t … we had a beautiful portrait of Benjamin Walker as Gil-galad … I love all the photos … I would have put like all the photos we got [in the article] … I want to give you every single name of every single actor playing every single character … Amazon is like, hey, it’s February, we want to keep doling these cookies out … and let other outlets have some fun in sharing.

Justin: Cliff, what is your one ask? What do you wish you would have seen?
Cliff: I want to see Celebrimbor with a hammer and tongs working over some molten ring-making chaos. I want to see the Elven smiths behind him watching, learning while he’s doing this ring-craft, and then, into the frame, reaches one long, slender hand with the golden robe and guiding Celebrimbor’s hand to a different position with the tongs … I want to see Annatar teaching Celebrimbor this most specific thing.

Justin: Can you give us one no context spoiler?
Joanna: Oh that’s really fun! Hmmm … I’m sorry; if I come up with something, I’ll tweet it to you…

Cliff: We’re on the threshold … I’m going to quote Dune … “A beginning is a very delicate time…”

Check out the full interview on TORn’s YouTube channel.

Thanks to Varking, head of the Rings of Power sub-reddit, for notes on the interview.

Amazon Studios has announced the casting of ‘Young Gollum,’ voiced by renowned character actor and comedian Patton Oswalt. (YES – This was an April Fool’s Day Prank – 2021!)

Patton Oswalt Cast at Baby Gollum

With a celebrated ensemble cast already gathered for Amazon’s show, this latest release implies that Oswalt will voice a child-like Smeagol character. It goes without saying that a ‘Young Gollum’ did not exist in the initial intended scope of the show, nor in the scope of the rights purchased from the Tolkien Estate. The addition of a – dare we say it – ‘Baby Gollum’ appears to be a clear attempt to attract a broader and younger audience. The vast majority of us at TheOneRing.net are big fans of Oswalt – so we look forward to seeing where this goes!

AMAZON STUDIOS ANNOUNCES VOICE TALENT PATTON OSWALT FOR THE LORD OF THE RINGS TELEVISION SERIES

The Grammy(R), Emmy(R) and Vangard Award(R) Winner joins the Ensemble Cast to Lend His Vocal Talents to Young Gollum.

(CULVER CITY, Calif. – April 1st 2021) – Amazon Studios today announces Patton Oswalt will lend his voice talent as Gollum in the Amazon Original series based on the iconic ‘The Lord of the Rings’ novels by J.R.R. Tolkien. Patton will join the previously announced global cast and crew, currently filming in New Zealand.

“We are so excited to breathe new life to the early history of this immensely popular character,” said executive producer and showrunner [retracted name]. “When you delve into the struggle of Gollum, and his alter-ego Smeagol, a plethora of possibilities leaps out. It’s a tale which is crying out to be told.”

The character of Gollum first appears in J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’, with subsequent appearances in the War of the Ring saga of the Third Age of Middle-earth. Made popular by the Rankin/Bass production in the late 1970s, and then expertly brought to screen in Peter Jackson’s epic trilogies of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’, amazing adventures lie in store for the halfling-like creature, as his prequel stories unfold.

The character will originally be fully realized as a small child through the talents of WETA Digital, and given voice, (initially coos and caws), by the talented Oswalt.

“Its been a lifelong dream to work in the realm of J.R.R. Tolkien. I can’t wait to get started!” said Patton.

Set in Middle-earth, the Amazon television adaptation will explore new storylines preceding J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’. A world-renowned literary work, and winner of the International Fantasy Award and Prometheus Hall of Fame Award, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ was named Amazon customers’ favorite book of the millennium in 1999, and Britain’s best-loved novel of all time in BBC’s ‘The Big Read’ in 2003. ‘The Lord of the Rings’ has been translated into around 40 languages, and has sold more than 150 million copies. Its theatrical adaptations from New Line Cinema and director Peter Jackson earned a combined gross of nearly $6 billion worldwide, and garnered 17 Academy Awards®, including Best Picture (‘The Return of the King’).

If you have a Tolkien/Middle-earth inspired poem you’d like to share, then send it to poetry@theonering.net. One poem per person may be submitted each month. Please make sure to proofread your work before sending it in. TheOneRing.net is not responsible for poems posting with spelling or grammatical errors.

Staffer Demosthenes returns from the wilderness, to consider what the plot of Amazon’s Middle-earth TV series might be…

Hello! It’s been a while!

However, the fine folk of TORn have defrosted me from cryogenic stasis just in time to offer a few thoughts on the recently announced synopsis for the forthcoming Amazomg(tm) Middle-earth series.

I’m going to cut straight to chase and simply start dissecting what I consider to be the guts of their statement. The implicit assumption is that the series is focusing on events of the Second Age. Given the content of the maps revealed by the production crew, I think we’re long past the time where that’s a controversial conclusion.

Amazon's map, showing the West of Middle-earth, and the island of Numenor.  What clues does it give us about the plot of Amazon's Middle-earth TV series?

But what does the rest mean? Given that the Second Age covers more than 3000 years, can we narrow down what time period the series may address?

Continue reading “Analysis: what can we deduce from the Amazon synopsis about the plot of the new Middle-earth series?”

If you have a Tolkien/Middle-earth inspired poem you’d like to share, then send it to poetry@theonering.net. One poem per person may be submitted each month. Please make sure to proofread your work before sending it in. TheOneRing.net is not responsible for poems posting with spelling or grammatical errors.

Earlier this week, TheOneRing.net EXCLUSIVELY brought you the official show synopsis for Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series TV show. In case you missed it, here it is:

Amazon Studios’ forthcoming series brings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and will take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness. Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone.

Staffers from TORn have been poring over this, wondering what every tiny scrap of information could mean; and we’ve been gathering their reactions, to share with you.

Continue reading “Our staff react to Amazon’s LORD OF THE RINGS Series Official Synopsis”

Fans have waited patiently for 3 years, since Amazon announced they acquired the TV rights to LORD OF THE RINGS, to get an idea of what a new Middle-earth show will be about. We finally have the answer, thanks to an incredible spy report. TheOneRing.net has verified the authenticity & accuracy of this show description.

Here is the official show synopsis for Amazon’s billion-dollar LOTR series:

Amazon Studios’ forthcoming series brings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and will take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness. Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone.

Rumors have flown ever since Amazon & the Tolkien Estate announced the new visual collaboration. Early reports were that the story of young Aragorn would be explored – a strategy that shifted after the showrunners and writing team were assembled. In a surprising turn, Amazon released a teaser map and crew video announcing the Second Age of Middle-earth, 1000s of years before the events of The Hobbit and LOTR. Numenor, heretofore unmentioned in film adaptations, would clearly be a central location for the series.

Amazon’s LOTR is currently planned as a minimum 5-season series, with 8 to 10 episodes per season. Filming begins this month on back-to-back Seasons 1&2 in New Zealand. While the showrunners are new to Hollywood with nothing on their production resumes, the fabulous J.A. Bayona was hired to direct the 2-part pilot and set the tone for the entire series to come. The pilot has completed filming and is currently in post production.

See the reaction of fans & staff of TheOneRing.net community as they hear the official synopsis of the LOTR show on TORn Tuesday! Twitch, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook

Wrapping up our our series on Amazon’s new cast members is the lovely Sara Zwangobani. Sara is an Australian actress who is best-known for her roles in a number of Australian TV series and soap operas. From recurring roles to guest appearances, Sara has appeared in Monarch Cove, Love My Way, and Don’t Stop me Now, among others.

Sara Zwangobani in The Lord of the Rings TV Series on Amazon Prime
Sara Zwangobani

Sara also has a number of stage roles under her belt, one of the most interesting of which included playing a female Marc Antony in Bell Shakespeare’s production of Julius Caesar in 2018, which toured around Australia. She also has a Lord of the Rings connection, having played the part of Rosetta in Sydney Theatre Company’s A Streetcar Named Desire in 2009, which featured Cate Blanchett as Blanche DuBois.  

Actor Sara Zwangobani, surrounded by masked cast members, as Marc Antony in Julius Caesar.
Sara Zwangobani as Marc Antony

Given her striking good looks, Sara could be cast in any number of roles in the new Amazon series. A Numenorean queen, or perhaps an Elf of Eregion during the time of the making of the Rings of Power? No matter the region and people of Middle-earth she becomes a part of, Sara is a perfect addition to the Amazon TV series cast.

Editor Note: Join TheOneRing.net as we focus on the recent cast member announcements for Amazon TV’s The Lord of the Rings inspired TV series. Throughout the month, and as part of our Tolkien Advent Calendar celebration, we will be taking a deep-dive into their previous work, relating that to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien. Today’s calendar is below!

Day 18 of TheOneRing.net's Advent Calendar 2020
Day 18 of TheOneRing.net’s Advent Calendar 2020