Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power showrunners and cast discussed creating their shows immense world and comparisons to HBO’s Game of Thrones at the Television Critic Association’s semi-annual press tour Friday.
But the congenial panel’s most lean-forward moment might have been when a reporter called the highly anticipated fantasy show only “vaguely connected” to author J.R.R. Tolkien’s work compared to The Lord of the Rings movies, which were “based on actual printed materials.”
“I just want to sort of quibble with the ‘vaguely connected,’” said Patrick McKay, who is showrunner on the series along with J.D. Payne. “We don’t feel that way. We feel like deep roots of this show are in the books and in Tolkien. And if we didn’t feel that way, we’d all be terrified to sit up here. We feel that this story isn’t ours. It’s a story we’re stewarding that was here before us and was waiting in those books to be on Earth. We don’t feel ‘vaguely connected.’ We feel deeply, deeply connected to those folks and work every day to even be closer connected. That’s really how we think about it.”
The Rings of Power is primarily based on the appendices of The Lord of the Rings, specifically the description of Middle Earth’s Second Age, and includes younger versions of some of the immortal elven characters in the original trilogy. The showrunners point out their work on the project extends back 25 years and they’ve closely collaborated with “incredible scholars who have devoted their whole lives to Tolkien’s work.”
The duo and the cast were also asked about the inevitable comparisons to HBO’s fantasy hit Game of Thrones, which has a prequel series, House of the Dragon, launching two weeks before the Sept. 2 debut of Rings of Power.
“I’ll take a whack at that,” McKay said. “We talked about this a lot. It comes up and and we totally understand where where the question comes from. We don’t think of the show in terms of what genre or other shows that might be out there. We think about [Tolkien], his life’s work was creating this world. This is Tolkien’s Middle Earth and regions beyond Middle Earth and we just wanted to be true to that and sort of drown out and forget about what might be happening in another realm someplace else…. Tolkien’s work is endlessly applicable across cultures and across across times, and we feel really grateful to be able to bring it to life in our time.”
Actor Robert Aramayo was also asked about the “rivalry,” given he played Young Ned Stark on Thrones before being cast as Young Elrond in The Rings of Power.
“I don’t feel rivalry .. the materials are so different,” he said. “I love fantasy. So now we obviously get to watch more fantasy, which can never be a bad thing.”
“We got to see the first three episodes and the thing that really struck me is it felt very distinct,” added Morfydd Clark, who plays Galadriel. “There isn’t anything else like this on right now, and this doesn’t look like anything that’s come before. If you’re a fan of fantasy, or if you’re just a fan of good storytelling, there’s a boom time for you. You just get lots of good shows.”
Cynthia Addai-Robinson, who plays Miriel, the queen regent of an island kingdom of Numenor, noted that the show’s sets were more practical than one might suspect in this CG era.
“There’s that sense of, ‘Gosh, it must have been green screen and CGI.’ But to be honest, there was so much that was built practically. As actors, we all got to have that experience of turning around and really being in these worlds that were fully built and fully realized. And I think that’s really going to play when you watch these episodes … like Numenor is a fully built, fully functioning city with a dock and boats and other elements.”
The Rings of Power follows the forging of the original rings of power during the Second Age that allowed the Dark Lord Sauron to spread evil across Middle-earth. It’s set thousands of years before the events in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
While there are no hobbits in the series, there are hobbit ancestors called harfoots, who get some trailer time, as well as a first-ever look at some of Tolkien’s characters from the island kingdom of Númenor, such as Isildur (Maxim Baldry).
According to Amazon, the show “brings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle Earth’s history. This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and will take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness. Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared reemergence of evil to Middle Earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone.”
The production was mainly filmed in New Zealand. Then last fall, it was announced production was moving to the U.K.
The ensemble cast also includes Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Owain Arthur, Nazanin Boniadi, Morfydd Clark, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Charles Edwards, Trystan Gravelle, Sir Lenny Henry, Ema Horvath, Markella Kavenagh, Joseph Mawle, Tyroe Muhafidin, Sophia Nomvete, Lloyd Owen, Megan Richards, Dylan Smith, Charlie Vickers, Leon Wadham, Benjamin Walker, Daniel Weyman and Sara Zwangobani.
The debut season of TROP will premiere Friday, Sept. 2, on Prime Video and will air in 240 territories around the world. New episodes will be rolled out on a weekly basis.