Amazon’s purportedly billion-dollar-budgeted Lord of the Rings TV series will take place LONG before the events of Peter Jackson’s movies. Setting the tone for this small screen return to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, the first two episodes will be directed by J.A. Bayona, who helmed Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.
The Lord of the Rings TV series is set during Middle Earth’s Second Age—that’s thousands of years before Bilbo Baggins, Gollum or Aragorn ever existed! Moreover, the end of said age was a full millennium before the Wizards (Gandalf, Saruman, et al.) even arrived in Middle Earth, which makes the series a prequel in an epochal sense.
Amazon hopes the new Lord of the Rings TV show will be the next Game of Thrones, evidenced by its early Season 2 order. While COVID-19 temporarily halted its New Zealand production back in March 2020, progress ultimately resumed in late-September.
With that set, here’s everything you need to know about the project!
Lord of the Rings Amazon Cast
In the first bit of news on The Lord of the Rings television series in quite some time, Amazon Studios announced a plethora of new cast members. While we’re still not getting any official details on the show’s characters, the latest development proves that the project is a massive ensemble.
Cynthia Addai-Robinson leads this crop of newcomers.
The London-born, American-raised actress most recently fielded the role of Ramona Garrity on Starz series Power, but genre fans likely best know her as the CWverse’s version of Amanda Waller during Arrow’s brief Suicide Squad storyline, along with roles on USA’ Shooter and—in a setup somewhat close to LOTR—Starz’s Spartacus. She also had a notable role in 2016 actioner The Accountant.
Here’s the rest of the announced additions:
Maxim Baldry (Years and Years)—whose addition was reported by Collider back in October 2019—is now officially confirmed, joined by newcomer Ian Blackburn, Kip Chapman (Top of the Lake), Anthony Crum (Krystal), Maxine Cunliffe (Power Rangers Megaforce), Trystan Gravelle (A Discovery of Witches), Sir Lenny Henry (Broadchurch), Thusitha Jayasundera (Humans), Fabian McCallum (You, Me and The Apocalypse), Simon Merrells (Knightfall), Geoff Morrell (Harrow), Peter Mullan (Westworld), Lloyd Owen (Cleaning Up), Augustus Prew (The Morning Show), Peter Tait (Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), Alex Tarrant (Mean Mums), Leon Wadham (Power Rangers Beast Morphers), Benjamin Walker (Jessica Jones) and Sara Zwangobani (Home and Away).
Interestingly, the addition of Peter Tait marks the return of an alumnus from The Lord of the Rings films, since he was in Return of the King as Shagrat, the Uruk-hai who carried the venom-paralyzed, web-wrapped Frodo back to the Tower of Cirith Ungol before getting into a scrap (over Frodo’s Mithril shirt,) with the bossy Orc known as Gorbag. – In another Peter-related angle, the addition of Peter Mullan should delight fans of HBO’s Westworld who know him as James Delos and his “fidelity” tested robotic doppelgangers.
They join the following existing cast members:
Robert Aramayo, best known as Young Ned Stark on Game of Thrones, fields the lead role for which the departed Will Poulter was previously tapped. While little is known about the character, he was initially referred to as “Beldor,” and is said to be heroic. Poulter, who was cast back in September 2019, reportedly withdrew from the series over scheduling conflicts.
Morfydd Clark has a lead role as a familiar character, as first reported by Variety. She will play a younger version of Galadriel, the ancient elven Lady of Lothlórien, famously played by Cate Blanchett in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and (in an appearance anachronistic to the novel) The Hobbit films.
Clark put in a dark performance as the star of excellent horror film Saint Maud, in which she played a piously deranged hospice nurse. She also recurred in Season 1 episodes of HBO’s His Dark Materials as the daemon-deprived Sister Clara, and fielded the major role of Mina in the recent Netflix/BBC Dracula miniseries. Clark also notably appeared in horror film Crawl, Benedict Cumberbatch miniseries Patrick Melrose and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
Galadriel, an ancient elf from Valinor who predates the First Age, famously used her long-honed magic powers to aid Frodo and the Fellowship in their journey during the Rings Trilogy. Yet, said powers happen to be rooted in her possession of Nenya, one of the three Rings of Power bestowed to the race of Elves; a trinket whose powers come with a caveat since, thanks to Sauron’s trickery, it is ultimately subordinate to the One Ring. Consequently, with the show’s Second Age setting (the era of the Rings of Power,) the inclusion of Galadriel seems to signal a story centered on Sauron’s deceitful claim to fame.
Markella Kavenagh was revealed back in July 2019 as the first cast member for the series, reportedly set to play a character named Tyra.
Kavenagh was most recently seen co-starring in Australian drama My First Summer and recurred on TV series The Gloaming for Australia’s Stan streaming service. Additionally, she’s no stranger to Amazon Prime originals, having been part of the cast of 2018’s Picnic at Hanging Rock.
Ema Horvath will play an unspecified character as a series regular, reported Deadline.
A relative newcomer, Horvath made her onscreen debut in the 2017 horror film, Like.Share.Follow, in which she appeared opposite Keiynan Lonsdale (The Flash’s Wally West), and moved on to field roles in 2019 horror films The Gallows Act II and The Mortuary Collection.
Joseph Mawle will play a villain, reported Variety, whose sources claim that the character will be named “Oren.”
The Oxford-born actor is best known as Benjen Stark on Game of Thrones, which he fielded in Season 1, and eventually returned as the show’s version of book character Coldhands in Season 7. He recently fielded BBC TV runs on drama MotherFatherSon, actioner Troy: Fall of a City and was memorable as a corrupt pugilist police inspector on Ripper Street. He’ll soon be seen in auteur director Terrence Malick’s developing film, The Last Planet.
Maxim Baldry will field an unspecified “significant” role, reported Collider.
The English actor most recently recurred on 2020’s Season 8 of Showtime’s Strike Back, having recently fielded a breakout performance on HBO television drama series Years and Years. He has been seen on Channel 4’s Hollyoaks, a 2013 guest spot on BBC’s Skins and, back in 2007 as a child, had a three-episode run on HBO’s Rome and was seen that same year in Mr. Bean’s Holiday.
Additional LOTR cast members include: Owain Arthur (A Confession), Nazanin Boniadi (Counterpart), Tom Budge (Bloom), Ismael Cruz Córdova (The Undoing), newcomer Tyroe Muhafidin, newcomer Sophia Nomvete, Megan Richards (Wanderlust), Dylan Smith (I Am the Night), Charlie Vickers (Medici) and Daniel Weyman (Silent Witness). The addition of this group was announced back in January 2020 (just on the cusp of the pandemic,) during the Winter TCA Tour.
Lord of the Rings Amazon Release Date
Amazon’s Lord of the Rings doesn’t have a release date as of yet; a notion that was compounded by the pandemic production delay enacted back in March 2020. However, we do know that filming—specifically to complete the first two episodes—resumed back in late-September.
The series returned to the classic film franchise’s stomping grounds of New Zealand, specifically in Auckland, where production continues. The initial confirmation of that came from Amazon, which issued a statement from showrunners and executive producers J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay:
“As we searched for the location in which we could bring to life the primordial beauty of the Second Age of Middle-earth, we knew we needed to find somewhere majestic, with pristine coasts, forests, and mountains, that also is a home to world-class sets, studios, and highly skilled and experienced craftspeople and other staff. And we’re happy that we are now able to officially confirm New Zealand as our home for our series based on stories from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.”
Lord of the Rings Amazon Crew
Juan Antonio (J.A.) Bayona (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, The Orphanage, The Impossible) directed the story-setting first two episodes. He is also serving as an executive producer, joined by his producing partner, Belén Atienza. “J.R.R. Tolkien created one of the most extraordinary and inspiring stories of all time, and as a lifelong fan it is an honor and a joy to join this amazing team,” Bayona said in a statement. “I can’t wait to take audiences around the world to Middle-earth and have them discover the wonders of the Second Age, with a never before seen story.”
Bryan Cogman, a winter-tested writer with Westeros work on his CV from Game of Thrones, is onboard the writing team as a consultant, as first reported by Variety. After starting as an assistant to showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, Cogman has since worn many hats on HBO’s Game of Thrones going back to the show’s first season, having written 11 episodes total—the most recent of which was Season 8’s pre-battle character study, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”—and served as a producer on several episodes, ascending to co-executive producer for the last two seasons. He’s also attached to the screenplay for Disney’s live-action adaptation of its 1963 Arthurian animated classic, The Sword in the Stone.
J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay are handling the day-to-day duties as showrunners for the series, having been brought onboard the project back in July 2018; well before Amazon divulged any official details on the series. The collaborative duo have relatively thin CVs, with work on the script to 2016’s Star Trek Beyond being their only non-Rings major entry.
Here’s the officially released list of the show’s creative team:
Executive producers Lindsey Weber (10 Cloverfield Lane), Bruce Richmond (Game of Thrones), Gene Kelly (Boardwalk Empire) and Sharon Tal Yguado; writer/executive producer Gennifer Hutchison (Breaking Bad); writer/executive producer Jason Cahill (The Sopranos) writer/executive producer Justin Doble (Stranger Things); consulting producers Bryan Cogman (Game of Thrones) and Stephany Folsom (Toy Story 4); producer Ron Ames (The Aviator); writer/co-producer Helen Shang (Hannibal), and writing consultant Glenise Mullins.
Lord of the Rings Amazon Story
Amazon has been teasing the plot for The Lord of the Rings series for a few years now. The officially released series-era map not only confirmed the show’s time period, stating, “Welcome to the Second Age,” but bore another bountiful clue: the five-pointed-star-shaped southwest island kingdom of Númenor. An ancient kingdom of Men with long lifespans, Númenor flourished throughout much of the Second Age until the initial incursions of Sauron, which eventually led to the kingdom’s legendary fall (which culminated with the entire island sinking into the sea,) and King Elendil’s arrival on the mainland, where he eventually founded the kingdom of Gondor.
Given Amazon’s subsequent teases, which recall tropes connected to the Ring of Power, one might further deduce that the Lord of the Rings series will specifically chronicle the epoch’s mythology-setting events. Pertinently, the sporadically posted lines in the teasers recall the Second Age story in which Sauron deceived the kingdoms of Elves, Men, and Dwarves with rings of power that he secretly controlled with the One Ring; a story famously told in The Fellowship of the Ring film prologue by Cate Blanchett’s Galadriel (a character played on this series by Markella Kavenagh).
We could also take this to mean that the Lord of the Rings TV show might showcase the formation of Gondor and the era in which Sauron’s insidious plot first came to a head; events that were briefly chronicled in Tolkien’s posthumously-published quasi-Biblical Middle Earth chronicle, The Silmarillion, specifically in the section titled “Akallabêth.”
Amazon Prime Video narrowed down the show’s time period by provocatively posting maps of Middle Earth, including downloadable versions hosted on the main Amazon site. Having started by posting a label-less version of the Middle Earth map, Amazon would incrementally reveal things by updating the map with land labels, which provided valuable clues about the show’s time setting. The first major revelation came in February 2019 with the release of a map containing a name that’s archaic to the familiar era of the Third Age, in which The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings novels and Peter Jackson-directed films take place.
The name on the map in question was “Calenardhon,” which is the ancient original name of the pastoral plains of the region that we know as the kingdom of Rohan (founded in 2510 in the Third Age), which we saw on magnificent display in the Rings Trilogy’s 2002 middle act, The Two Towers.
Additionally, the familiar sight to Rohan’s south, the great kingdom of Gondor, was nowhere to be seen on the map. This was a crucial clue, since Gondor (along with Northern Kingdom Arnor,) was founded by King Elendil and his sons during the Second Age of Middle Earth in 3320, setting up a climactic confrontation in 3441 between “The Last Alliance of Elves and Men” against Sauron and his evil army from Mordor—again, as depicted in the Fellowship prologue.
Consequently, with the Lord of the Rings series confirmed to take place in the Second Age, speculation can begin on how it might fill story gaps of the first war over the One Ring, potentially showcasing movie prologue characters like King Elendil, his son and eventual One Ring-owner, Isildur, as well as the powerful high-born Elven king, Gil-galad. Moreover, it appears that we might finally get to see Sauron himself as an actual character, rather than a giant irritated flaming eye!
That’s all we know about Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series. We, along with the franchise’s legion of fans, anxiously await any update that comes our way.