In a recent interview with the BBC, Lenny Henry dishes on his Harfoot role in the billion-dollar TV series.

Today on BBC Radio, as part of a wide ranging interview about his career, he talked briefly about joining Amazon’s “Lord of the Rings” series and might have spilled a bit more than anyone anticipated. Listen to the interview here and skip to 29 minutes for the relevant LOTR part: was first to report on Lenny’s role, with the earliest rumors being someone of short stature (dwarf king? proto-hobbit?) which eventually landed on Harfoots, one of Tolkien’s three “tribes” of early halflings appearing in Middle-earth.

Sir Lenny Henry

Lenny might have said a bit more than Amazon Studios would have liked, but core fans can appreciate everything he said in which many of the previous rumors are now validated, including potentially Galadriel’s leading role in the overall series:

“For the last two years I’ve been working on Lord Of The Rings and it’s an extraordinary thing, it’s the biggest television show that’s ever been made, in terms of money and head count. Literally, a hundred people on set glaring at you and trying to work out what you’ll look like four feet tall… I’m a Harfoot, because J.R.R. Tolkien, who was also from Birmingham, suddenly there were black hobbits, I’m a black hobbit, it’s brilliant, and what’s notable about this run of the books, its a prequel to the Age that we’ve seen in the films, its about the early days of the Shire and Tolkien’s environment, so we’re an indigenous population of Harfoots, we’re hobbits but we’re called Harfoots, we’re multi-cultural, we’re a tribe not a race, so we’re black, asian and brown, even Maori types within it. It’s a brand new set of adventures that seed some of the origins of different characters and it’s going to take at least ten years to tell the story. Because it’s based on “The Silmarillion” which was almost like a cheat-sheet for what happens next in this world in the Second and Third Ages. And the writers have a lot of fun in extrapolating it all out, and it’s going to be very exciting. There’s a very strong female presence in this, there’s going to be female heroes in this evocation of the story, there’s going to be little people as usual.”

– Lenny Henry, on BBC Radio

Sir Lenny Henry was one of the biggest casting announcements from Amazon as a respected comedian, author and thespian, creator of Red Nose Day and the Comedy Relief charity programs. Sir Lenny holds a doctorate in media representation and is an absolute icon of both the British stage and the world of comedy.

Bringing it back to J.R.R. Tolkien, Sir Lenny’s casting as a Harfoot aligns with the very brief descriptions of the antecedents of those halflings we met during The War of the Ring. Both Tolkiens (J.R.R. and Christopher) acknowledge that while Men & Elves kept records of history, those records were only related to people they encountered, opening the door to halflings or other folk staying “undiscovered” for centuries.

Quite literally; the Professor mentions in Appendix B: The Tale of Years for the Third Age Year 1050: “The Periannath are first mentioned in records, with the coming of the Harfoots to Eriador.” Which immediately begs the question of how many centuries the Harfoots were not mentioned in records, being overlooked by others who took it upon themselves to bother to record any history. To quote our earlier rumored report of Harfoots:

[described by Tolkien in the Prologue to LOTR ‘Concerning Hobbits’ pg. 12: “they were browner of skin,” and also “they moved westward early,” alluding to a time in their Wandering Days, or perhaps earlier when they kept no records of their journeys over the Misty Mountains westward (which may explain a little of why any early antecedents of pre-Shire migration hobbits would appear here in the Second Age instead of Third Age narrative)]

Middle-earth is lucky to have such a high-caliber performer joining the latest adaptation, and there is strong potential he could become a fan favorite in the show. Sir Lenny exactly the right person to expand our knowledge of halflings and bring to life the long (yet shrouded in mystery) history of Shire-folk.

What seems odd at first sight is the mention of “early days of the Shire” because what we learn from the Appendices in the back of ROTK is that King Argeleb II grants the land (that would later become the Shire) to the Periannath in 1601 of the Third Age. This is many thousands of years *after* the events of the Second Age, and the general area was unpopulated (considered the hunting grounds of the King). So it appears we can expect a greater probability of “time crunching” in the narrrative of this new show.

Maybe we should brace ourselves for all kinds of “time crunching.” Working within Tolkien’s given historical timeline is an important aspect of the terms of the deal with the Tolkien Estate: we shall see how fast and loose the Writer’s Room is going to play with the timeline.

It is also quite noteworthy that Sir Lenny spilled the beans about “The Silmarillion” being a source upon which “some” or even “much” of this streaming series is based. Without any other official statements from Amazon Studios on *exactly* what they have licened from, say, “Unfinished Tales” or “The Sil,” now we have it right out in the open. Confirmation keeps coming from various places that matches all those Instagram postings seen from various cast members last year, all of them showing off their copies of “The Silmarillion.” The two late chapters in that book are specifically centered on Second Age concerns; while most of it is quite obviously from the Age of the Lamps, the Trees, and the First Age. It seems Amazon Studios has, per the terms of their deal with The Tolkien Estate, legally licensed material from Tolkien books that have NEVER been licensed before.

It is indeed an unprecendeted time in Tolkien fandom; filled with surprises and much excitement. Small leaks and wild rumors abound – and they will become either quite real or utterly discarded right before our very eyes as we learn more each week.

Amazon Studios’ “The Lord of the Rings” Second Age series has been notoriously secretive during the 18-month production, but inside info is finally trickling out of the billion dollar series thanks to anonymous Spy Reports coming out of New Zealand. We have been able to verify most of today’s report as currently accurate per sources that are involved with the Production.

Most of these Spy Reports have come to us in short form bullet points, and are shared as such below [with additional context and editorial in brackets from Staff Writer and weekly host Clifford Broadway]. Our spy hotline is still the same after 21 years and our DM’s are open on twitter & instagram! To celebrate the hard-working artists and craftspeople working with such passion way down in New Zealand we shed light on their efforts and help include them in the embrace of fan enthusiasm. As with previous intrepid filmmakers tackling a version of Tolkien; the fandom fully indulges our unbridled curiosity with an open hand while shouting support from afar—a grand tradition of an engaged fandom.

Lore, Legal Rights & the Tolkien Estate

First off, we are hearing that the Tolkien Estate is very happy with how things are progressing. Seems they really are more involved in this Production than with any previous LOTR adaptation ever [including the Bakshi version in 1978 and the six Middle-earth films from Peter Jackson; per the terms of the newest deal] and are thus enjoying the creative process. The overall plan for the show has instilled confidence in the Production and more story rights have been assigned to the show.

  • *CONFIRMED* for the 1st time EVER: elements & passages from “The Silmarillion” and “Unfinished Tales” are licensed by Amazon Studios for this adaptation [we broadly speculate those are sections of the book relative to Númenor and Rings of Power including full rights to stories licensed in the Appendices of “The Lord of the Rings,” which already mention Númenor and much more. Actors had posted instagram pics from Silm over the last 18 months.]
  • Amazon DOES have merchandising rights
  • Three lore experts / Tolkien scholars were on set for a time during production
  • Tolkien Estate is said to be very happy with how things are progressing

Production Details

  • Men, Elves and Dwarves have their own sequestered production units for the different Free Peoples [this intriguing bit rather suggests the narrative might be constructed across wide time jumps or told from pockets of different historical viewpoints, perhaps even an anthology approach rotating characters from the various Free Peoples all reacting to the same thing, or just not cooperating with each other in Season 1: but over what timelines we still do not know].
  • Scripts are only digitally shared among actors and crew under draconian control mechanisms to track any persons who could access them
  • There is a fake production team shooting decoy footage on fake sets unrelated to the real Production – [thus making some “reports of location sightings” false leads by tricksy hobbitses and we must admit this is very clever indeed! Peter Jackson never used decoys!]
  • Main unit wrapped shooting in April 2021; while many actors are back in the U.K. or are now on other productions
  • J.A. Bayona’s episodes are a standalone entry point to the series [like a feature film]
  • There are more incredible directors and big stars yet to be announced
  • LOTR & Wheel of Time are sharing crew & directors
  • They are aiming for a mid-2022 release [that is only one short year away and must mean the pressure on Post Production must be remarkable]

Men, Elves, Dwarves & “Early Halflings”

Welcome to the Second Age of the Middle-earth Cinematic Universe, full of corruption, wandering, and a lack of alliances.

  • Some Halflings are dark skin precursors to Shire-hobbits quite possibly “one of three somewhat different breeds” maybe Harfoots; [described by Tolkien in the Prologue to LOTR ‘Concerning Hobbits’ pg. 12: “they were browner of skin,” and also “they moved westward early,” alluding to a time in their Wandering Days, or perhaps earlier when they kept no records of their journeys over the Misty Mountains westward (which may explain a little of why any early antecedents of pre-Shire migration hobbits would appear here in the Second Age instead of Third Age narrative)]
  • Sir Lenny Henry portrays one such early halfling [Harfoot]
  • Celebrimbor the ringmaker has been recast
  • Tom Budge was in that role
  • Certain creatures are referred to as Ice Trolls because they can’t be called Cave Trolls (Warner Bros. licensing restriction)
  • Nudity is sparse and not sexualized— contrary to earlier concerns: but rather this artistic choice represents very dark thematic material suggestive of concentration camp-type visuals of victims, a harrowing portrayal of the corruption of the Elves by dark powers to ultimately become Orcs
    Editors note: if this plays out fully it will may well be one of the most ambitious things undertaken by this production and perhaps by anyone attempting to adapt Tolkien
  • Elves will have short/ shorter hairstyles [cue the Twitter threads, both pro and con, and the voting polls, and endless constellations of lovely fan art, so please bring it fans; I’m here for it]
  • Sauron/Annatar will not be revealed in Season One [going with the oldest axiom of show business “Always leave them wanting more.”]
Tom Budge was Celebrimbor the ringmaker, now being recast and reshot

Tune into #TORnTuesday as Quickbeam breaks down all these juicy spy reports in detail. Subscribe on YouTube! We still have a long way to go until Amazon’s LOTR TV show releases, so if you hear anything drop a note to

Hobbits are now owned by Amazon, joining all-encompassing TV rights to The Lord of the Rings book and appendices rights.

MGM's famous roaring lion trade mark is seen in front of Bilbo and Gandalf.
The Hobbit films were produced by Warner Bros from rights owned by MGM. img: YouTube

It’s official: Amazon has acquired MGM Studios, including the longtime film and TV rights to The Hobbit and characters related. Within hours, CEO Jeff Bezos announced he is stepping down in July and moving to Hollywood to play with his major studio, of which the crown jewel is The Lord of the Rings.

What this means is that @LOTRonPrime can put Hobbits in their Second Age show, since rights to that class of characters were held by MGM. ‘But timelines,’ you say! Time is just a construct. Amazon needs an Everyman entry point for casual viewers: Hobbits are that. There have been rumors that Harfoots are in the show, a book-sourced compromise from the troublesome Hobbit rights. Amazon can now change all the dialogue in reshoots to call them Hobbits; casual fans will want that familiarity.

Remember the crushing drama of rights issues with MGM on The Hobbit, which caused Guillermo del Toro perhaps the greatest professional loss of his career? Amazon has just resolved all that for the future.

Amazon has full TV rights to The Lord of the Rings full stop – anything mentioned in the books and appendices. Now they have all the rights MGM previously held, from its 45 year old Saul Zaentz deal. Amazon chose not to remake The Lord of the Rings, instead exploring many different options, before settling on Numenor and the Second Age.

Owning MGM means, of course, that Amazon COULD remake The Hobbit into a limited series or a cartoon; many things are possible. All kinds of round doors are now open…

The cartoon Bilbo Baggins in front of Bag End - from the Rankin Bass Hobbit movie.