Amazon is going all in on The Lord Of The Rings. Their upcoming series The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power is set thousands of years before J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord Of The Rings books (and director Peter Jackson's celebrated trilogy) and is reportedly one of the most expensive shows ever. The sprawling series, which has been in production in New Zealand since early 2020, features a massive cast of over 20 lead actors playing the roles of kings, queens, elves, dwarves and a number of mysterious mystical beings.
Following their appearance at the recent San Diego Comic Con panel, the cast, most of whom have never been in a mainstream project like this, spoke to me about the experience of stepping into Middle Earth.
Here are edited excerpts:
I imagine it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a part of such an ambitious series. What was the most surreal I-can't-believe-this-is-actually-happening moment on set?
Morfydd Clark/ Galadriel: There were so many surreal moments, it's hard to narrow it down. I think for me, it was my first day when we were filming some of the Northern Waste scenes. We were in a studio and there was just snow everywhere and it was one of the few green screen moments during the shoot. We were in this massive open studio space and it was the first time I could see the entire crew, because usually there's partitions and things. That day I was like "Woah!" and I realised I'm a part of this massive machine.
Cynthia Addai-Robinson/ Miriel: I have many moments like that, but there are two that come to mind. My first day of filming was on a mountain top. As in…a real one. I had to take a helicopter to a mountain top for the shot. That was my first "holy shit" moment.
I had another similar moment on my first day on set in Numenor. I'm playing a queen and this is my kingdom. When they brought me on set I was in full costume, the set was full of extras, incense was burning, water was lapping on the shores, and I just had that moment of "Oh my god I'm in Lord Of The Rings!" It was lovely.
Trystan Gravelle/ Pharazôn: There's a scene when I'm speaking to a massive crowd of people in the square of Numenor during which the crowd erupts and I'm egging them on. During that scene, I had this out of body experience for a minute. You look around at the crowd, costumes, the sprawling set, hair and make up and think, "This is insane". You've been propelled into this fantastical world that everybody loves and you're holding the mantle now and you realise that this is your moment.
Ema Horvath/ Eärien: There's a scene early on with Maxim Baldry [Isildur] and I on a beach, which was shot over three days. Usually I'm used to there being one camera and restrictions on where you can and can't go. Here, they said you can go anywhere and we'll get you. Here, there were three cameras on cranes and they said, "You can go anywhere and we'll get you." That's when I realised that this is going to be a very different experience.
Leon Wadham/ Kemen: I think for me it would have to be seeing the Numenor set for the first time. They spent the first half of the shoot building the city and when I first arrived, it was just like dirt and some wooden posts. And by the second half of the shoot they'd built an entire city basically. There was even a harbour and boats on the water. It was the most unbelievably rich, detailed set. They built entire blocks of the city and the level of detail was crazy. The island was gifted by the elves and if you go to the older parts of the set, you can feel that relationship with the elves and the elven influence in the architecture. They really managed to get the history into the design. I don't understand how they did it, but it was astonishing.
Tyroe Muhafidin/ Theo: I kind of thought that every day (laughs). Every day I was there was insane. There were tents everywhere, these big cameras on cranes and people running around in all directions. But for me it would definitely be when I stepped into that make-up truck for the first time and sat in that chair and thought, "Wow this is actually happening."
Given the scale of the show, there are so many elements that go into bringing this world to life. Not to mention the legacy of the books and movies. What would you say is the toughest part of telling this story?
Morfydd Clark/ Galadriel: I think it's wanting to make sure we create something that is evocative of Tolkien's Middle Earth. It's as much about creating this expansive world as it is about the characters and creating that feeling of these people.
Leon Wadham/ Kemen: I think the scariest part is this bit, right now. Because when you're actually performing it, you're just telling a story. Now that we're at Comic Con and we see this insane crowd of people, that's not something I'd ever anticipated. Some of the cast and crew have been in New Zealand for years and now to be sharing it with the world is just not something I'd factored into my life. I think that's the scariest bit.
Cynthia Addai-Robinson/ Miriel: I think the toughest part is not getting too swallowed by its largeness. There's an intimacy to a lot of the story and a lot of my scenes are just with one other character. Yes it's grand and epic, but at the end of the day, it's still about relationships and conflict and how these characters relate to each other. So, instead of thinking about all the amazing things I'm surrounded by, I try and focus on the humanity and the other actors and people. I think it was always good to look into someone's eyes and bring it back there.
Ema Horvath/ Eärien: I think it's the legacy. Tolkien's so beloved in so many countries and so many cultures. It's not just a UK or US project. It's a global project. And that is terrifying.
Tyroe Muhafidin/ Theo: I'd say dealing with the harsher fans who sometimes can get a bit too quick to judge. They can be really mean. When the trailer first came out, I got a lot of them DM-ing me and that was quite harsh. When you put so much effort into something, you want people to love it. But there's always people out there like that. It's quite hard to shut that out sometimes.
Trystan Gravelle/ Pharazôn: For one there's the macro of it. Just getting everything and everyone together on the other side of the world, going to New Zealand. There are so many cogs that need to work to bring a show like this to life. And I think they've done an incredible job, everyone who's worked on it has done an amazing job.