New characters, improved portrayal and a focus on lesser-known Tolkien works are key elements of Rings of Power, Prime Video’s big-budget series.
The hour is approaching! Middle-earth with its Dwarves, its magic and its Hobbits is about to reopen its doors. Amazon Studio’s upcoming Lord of the Rings series, The Rings of Power, revisits the seminal work of fantasy literature after Peter Jackson adapted writer JRR Tolkien’s main trilogy and then its prequel The Hobbit.
This time, a new creative team delves into Tolkien’s legacy to tell a story that many fans may not know. Here is everything we can expect from the new series, according to the actors who confided in the site of the chain CBC.
First Look at Tolkien’s “The Second Age”
While previous adaptations have focused primarily on the “Third Age” of The Lord of the Rings, The Rings of Power is set thousands of years earlier, in the “Second Age”. This period – which itself spans around 3,500 years – includes an enormous amount of storytelling that leads directly into the main trilogy: the story of Númenor (the ancient kingdom of Men who will eventually come to Middle-earth) , the rise and fall of the big bad Sauron and, of course, the forging of the 20 Rings of Power.
This return to this history gives the Rings of Power the opportunity to develop certain characters with relative notoriety who influence the films, better known to the public. These include Isildur, the character most famous for refusing to destroy the ring when given the chance at the start of The Fellowship of the Ring.
Isildur is played by Maxim Baldry in the Prime Video adaptation, a responsibility he called “distressing“. He describes his character, a young sailor from Númenor who dreams of becoming a captain of a ship, as an explorer who “leaves a bit of a trail of destruction wherever it goes“.
Another character from the main trilogy is Elendil, played by Lloyd Owen. He is the father of Isildur, distant ancestor of Aragorn and first king of Gondor – the great white city made famous by the third Lord of the Rings film, The Return of the King.
“What excites me is that Tolkien wrote sort of signposts, but he still hasn’t given these characters the scale they have in the Lord of the Rings books.“, Owen said. He added that he was excited to have “the opportunity to start imagining what he might look like, to personify this character and to find his voice“.
Additions that aren’t canon
As Lloyd Owen said, The Rings of Power is inspired by Tolkien’s less rich history. While Amazon Prime Video has the rights to use the information contained in the appendices to the Lord of the Rings – detailed, but not story-focused additions to the novels, also called the Legendary – they don’t have access to Tolkien’s other books that cover the same period.
As a workaround, series creators JD Payne and Patrick McKay have introduced a number of new characters that don’t conflict with the Lord of the Rings canon, but help fill in some narrative gaps.
One of these additions is Eärien played by Ema Horvath, Elendil’s daughter. According to Ema Horvath, this character brings a “new feminine energyto the family that wouldn’t otherwise exist. She also said that the experience of introducing a made-up character into the world of Lord of the Rings is totally different from what her colleagues in the canonical films go through.
“There’s a little less pressure, because you’re not playing someone that readers have already built in their minds,” she said. “I mean, the other side of it is desperately wanting to be accepted by the fans; the existence… of my character must be accepted.“
Other new characters include Poppy Proudfellow, played by Megan Richards, and Elanor (Nori) Brandyfoot, played by Markella Kavenagh. Megan Richards describes her character as a Hobbit”witty, sarcastic and funny” who is “also incredibly cautious, which comes to her from her past, which you’ll learn throughout the series“.
For her part, Markella Kavenagh described Nori as a “Resolute, curious and inquisitive Hobbit“, which tends to get others in trouble.”There were times when I would read the scripts and be like, ‘At least don’t drag other people or other beings into your mess.“
To tell this vast story, Amazon would have gone all out to make the series a show. With an estimated budget of $465 million – meaning that with subsequent seasons the show could quickly top $1 billion – it’s the most expensive series ever produced, according to Entertainment Weekly and New Zealand Minister for Economic Development and Tourism, Stuart Nash. The series was filmed in New Zealand.
According to Markella Kavenagh, the funding has helped keep green screen shots to a minimum. “They built all these sets for us“, she said. “They made them as real as possible.“
The show’s high production cost is a testament to streaming services’ appetite for big franchises, with more and more of them competing against each other, and Amazon’s belief that people are still interested in the universe of Tolkien.
During a round table organized by the HollywoodReporter last year, Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke explained that it would take a “global audience“for the series to be profitable. It’s a tall order, even though Jennifer Salke said that Amazon was “quite confident in the possibility of achieving this“.
An Old World Modernized
In trying to capture that audience, The Rings of Power attempts to address some of the criticisms leveled at the franchise previously. Critics have often singled out the Peter Jackson adaptations for their lack of diversity in terms of gender and ethnicity.
After the cast list was announced — and some fans outraged at a more gender-balanced cast than previously — the creative team responded.
“It seemed only natural to us that an adaptation of Tolkien’s work reflect what the world actually looks like.“, Lindsey Weber, executive producer, told Vanity Fair earlier this year. “Tolkien is for everyone. His stories are about his fictional races who give their best when they leave the isolation of their own cultures and come together.”
When asked if the plot of the series would put women front and center this time around, Megan Richards had a blunt answer: “Well here we are“, she said. “And I think that says it all.“
Another change: Sophia Nomvete, who plays Disa, a dwarf princess. Although the character was created for the series (she is married to Prince Durin IV, played by Owain Arthur, who appears in Tolkien’s appendices), Nomvete’s portrayal makes her the first black woman and actress. to play a Dwarf in an adaptation of Tolkien.
“That means absolutely everything“said Nomvete of his role in portraying people of color in Tolkien’s mythos.”Everyone was cast because he or she was the best possible person for the role, and to be part of a rebalancing in this world is an honor.“