The cast and crew of the new Prime Video series “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” entered the project knowing they would be facing high expectations. It is not just skyscraper high but reaching to the moon high. That’s because J.R.R. Tolkien’s books – The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings – are massive milestones in literary history and the movies based on those writings were award-winning hits.
That didn’t stop them from taking on the challenge to create the new series based on a variety of writings by Tolkien including The Lord of the Rings and Appendices. That series launches on the streaming service on Sept. 2.
Ismael Cruz Cordova, who plays Arondir, explains that the process started with long discussions of the original book trilogy. Then it was just a matter of trying to bring the characters to life.
“We’re all actors and we’re all artists and when you are approaching the work, you are concerned with things that are essential: honesty, truth, what drives your character, what is of the essence of each role,” Cordova says. “So you can’t really concern yourself with the largeness of it all. You have to find the essence of your role.
“I think everyone here has done that. So we approached it as loved ones. I think we all have a lot of love for our characters and that’s what we did. And I think that’s what you will see when you see the show.”
This story they are telling is set thousands of years before the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. It reveals some of the history when great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin and great villains threatened to cover all the world in darkness. 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.
Cordova was well prepared to take on the role of Silvan Elf of the Second Age because his passion for Tolkien’s work goes back to when he was growing up in Puerto Rico. The very first DVD he purchased was a copy of “The Lord of the Rings.”
“When I first saw the movies, which were so influential, I felt spiritually represented there. I felt that the spiritual and emotional connection, especially with the Elves coming from the mountains, I found a little home there,” Cordova says. “But someone who grew up in perhaps a much easier life can still find their spirit in there.
“What this show does is that it takes advantage of all of that richness that he [Tolkien] wrote and brings us to this show. I always say if you can see it, you can imagine it, and if you can imagine it, you can create it. Now that we’re here, a new generation will be able to create their image based on what we’re putting on screen for the first time with this franchise.”
Cordova is part of a massive cast for “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” that also includes Benjamin Walker, Charles Edwards, Charlie Vickers, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Ema Horvath, , Leon Wadham, Lloyd Owen, Markella Kavenagh, Maxim Baldry, Megan Richards, Nazanin Boniadi, Owain Arthur, Robert Aramayo, Sara Zwangobani, Sophia Nomvete, Trystan Gravelle and Tyroe Muhafidin.
Morfydd Clark plays Galadriel, an immortal royal Elf of both the Noldor and the Teleri who is mentioned in several of Tolkien’s works. She found all of the material helpful in playing the role that is so significant throughout the stories.
“It’s very interesting to be able to play a magical creature and an immortal creature,” Clark says. “I can’t remember the exact quote, but Galadriel says something that alludes to, ‘With wisdom, there’s a loss of innocence.’
“And so that was really formative for me in terms of kind of what does it mean to have innocence as a creature that’s already been alive for thousands of years, and so that was something I really worked with. And I think she has a unique perspective because she is history, and so she can’t escape her history.”
Not every actor had as much resource material as Clark. One of the big differences between the much heralded three films released in the early 2000s is that those works were based directly on Tolkien’s books. The series draws on all of Tolkien’s writings for inspiration to create this new storyline.
Executive producer Patrick McKay points out that the series has deep roots in the books and in Tolkien. If that was not the case, the cast and crew would be wary of doing the project.
“I think we feel that this story isn’t ours, but it’s a story that we’re stewarding that was here before us and was waiting in those books to be unearthed,” McKay says. “We feel deeply, deeply connected to those books, and we work every day to be even closer connected.”