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Everything You Need to Know About Amazon Prime’s Epic New ‘Lord of the Rings’ Series

It’s been a while since we all fell in love with ‘Lord of the Rings’ and Hobbit films. Get back up to speed before ‘The Rings of Power’ hits your TV screen


spinner image Ismael Cruz Córdova as Arondir in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
Courtesy of Prime Video

 

Hot on the heels of HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel, House of the Dragon, Amazon Prime is getting into the fantasy business with its own new epic series, the J.R.R. Tolkien–inspired The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. The multimillion-dollar streaming show will expand on the Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings and Hobbit film franchises, and it premieres on Amazon Prime on September 1. How does it relate to the stories you know and love? Who stars in it? How much did it cost? We have all those answers — and more — in this ultimate guide to the most intriguing tale to come out of Middle-earth since the end of The Hobbit trilogy in 2014.

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When is The Rings of Power set?

The Rings of Power is set thousands of years before the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, in a period known as the Second Age of Middle-earth. The plot is expected to cover quite a lot of ground, with showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay telling Variety, "The Rings of Power unites all the major stories of Middle-earth’s Second Age: the forging of the rings, the rise of the Dark Lord Sauron, the epic tale of Númenor and the Last Alliance of elves and men. Until now, audiences have only seen on-screen the story of the One Ring — but before there was one, there were many … and we’re excited to share the epic story of them all.”

Are these adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien works?

​That’s tricky. He wrote about the so-called First and Second Ages in books like The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales and The History of Middle-earth, but Amazon only bought the TV rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Writers had to search those books for references to the earlier Ages in chapters about the past, songs, the appendix and even letters Tolkien wrote about his expansive mythology. His estate was given veto rights if they read anything that contradicted Tolkien’s writings, and his grandson, novelist Simon Tolkien, helped out with general character and story arcs.

spinner image Markella Kavenagh, Sara Zwangobani, Dylan Smith and Megan Richards star as Harfoots in the Amazon Prime Video series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
(Left to right) Markella Kavenagh as Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot, Sara Zwangobani as Marigold Brandyfoot, Dylan Smith as Largo Brandyfoot and Megan Richards as Poppy Proudfellow.
Ben Rothstein/Prime Video

​Will there be Hobbits?

​Tolkien’s writings state that Hobbits weren’t around in the Second Age, but in their place is an ancestral race known as the Harfoots. Much like their descendants, they’re furry-footed, curious and smaller than humans and elves; in this series, one of the main differences is that they’re nomadic rather than settled down in the hobbit-holes of the Shire, though this trait is an invention by the writers. In the prologue to The Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkien said the Harfoots were “browner of skin, smaller, and shorter, and they were beardless and bootless; their hands and feet were neat and nimble; and they preferred highlands and hillsides.”

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Where was the series filmed?

​Though the studio first considered shooting in Scotland, they ultimately took the production back to its rightful home in New Zealand, where the original films were produced. The Wellington studios used for the movies were occupied by the crew from Avatar, so producers selected Auckland as the primary filming location, but they also shot on location throughout the islands: the Hauraki Gulf and Coromandel Peninsula; Piha, which is renowned for its surfing beaches and some of the country’s tallest cliffs; and Mount Kidd, in the dramatic Fiordland.

Is anyone from the films involved behind the scenes?

​Composer Howard Shore, 75, won three Oscars for his work on the Lord of the Rings films — two for best score and one for best song for “Into the West” — and he’s coming back to write the theme music, with Bear McCreary writing the score episode to episode. 

But what about director Peter Jackson?

​Nope. He may have won best director for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, but Jackson won’t be involved in the new series. According to the New Zealand–born director, producers had reached out to see if he wanted to be involved, and when he asked to see scripts, they never sent them or followed up ever again. “That’s the last thing I heard, which is fine,” Jackson told The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg. “No complaints at all.” Indeed, he has said that he plans to tune in, adding, “I’m not the sort of guy who wishes ill will. Filmmaking is hard enough. If somebody makes a good film or TV show, it’s something to celebrate. The one thing I am looking forward to is actually seeing it as a perfectly neutral viewer.”

spinner image Benjamin Walker, Morfydd Clark, Robert Aramayo and Cynthia Addai-Robinson star in the Amazon Prime Video series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
(Left to right) Benjamin Walker as High King Gil-galad, Morfydd Clark as Galadriel, Robert Aramayo as Elrond and Cynthia Addai-Robinson as Queen Regent Míriel.
Ben Rothstein/Prime Video (2)

Might I recognize any of the cast members?

​Sure! Míriel, the queen regent of Númenor, is played by Cynthia Addai-Robinson, who appeared on TV shows like Spartacus, Arrow and Shooter, while Robert Aramayo, who stars as the half-elven architect Elrond, crossed over from that other blockbuster fantasy franchise, having played a young Ned Stark on Game of Thrones. Soap fans may spot Iranian-born British actress Nazanin Boniadi, who played Leyla Mir on General Hospital before appearing on How I Met Your Mother and Homeland; she’s now costarring as apothecary owner Bronwyn. If you’re not afraid of scary movies, you may have caught Welsh up-and-comer Morfydd Clark, who plays elven warrior Galadriel, in the 2019 psychological horror film Saint Maud, for which she was nominated for the BAFTA Rising Star Award. And Broadway lovers might know the guy who’s starring as Gil-galad, the High King of the Elves: Benjamin Walker is a Tony-nominated actor (for All My Sons) who also starred in the musicals Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and American Psycho.

How much did the new series cost to make?

The first eight-episode season reportedly cost a record-breaking $465 million, with the New Zealand minister for economic development and tourism, Stuart Nash, calling it “the largest television series ever made.” To put that into perspective, the Lord of the Rings trilogy cost $281 million to produce altogether. But Amazon is up for the investment. “The jewels of the crown are the big tentpole shows that invite in the whole family,” said Jennifer Salke, the head of Amazon Studios. “And this is the crown jewel.”

spinner image Nazanin Boniadi, Sophia Nomvete and Ismael Cruz Córdova in the Amazon Prime Video series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
(Left to right) Nazanin Boniadi as Bronwyn, Sophia Nomvete as Princess Disa and Ismael Cruz Córdova as Arondir.
Ben Rothstein/Prime Video (3)

Will the show look similar to the movies?

​For the most part. One change you’ll notice is that the series has a much more diverse cast than the films, with Puerto Rican actor Ismael Cruz Córdova becoming the first person of color to play an elf in franchise history. He told Entertainment Weekly that he had pretended to be an elf as a child, with an imaginary bow, adding, “That was something I really dreamt about, but on the flip side, it was something that was a little painful because there weren’t elves that looked like me.” Other actors of color appearing in the show include Sir Lenny Henry, 63, who plays Harfoot elder Sadoc Burrows, and Sophia Nomvete, who’s the first Black woman to play a dwarf. “It felt only natural to us that an adaptation of Tolkien’s work would reflect what the world actually looks like,” executive producer Lindsey Weber told Vanity Fair. “Tolkien is for everyone. His stories are about his fictional races doing their best work when they leave the isolation of their own cultures and come together.”

Nicholas DeRenzo is a contributing writer who covers entertainment and travel. Previously he was executive editor of United Airlines’ Hemispheres magazine and his work has appeared in the New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, Sunset and New York magazine.

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