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The sprawling fantasy world of J.R.R. Tolkien is coming to TV thanks to Amazon Prime Video’s series adaptation of The Lord of the Rings franchise with a prequel series called The Rings of Power. Pulling from the appendices of LOTR books, the epic saga will explore a time before the fellowship was formed to destroy the “One Ring” and put an end to Sauron’s reigning evil over Middle-earth.
Led by showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay and directors J.A. Bayona and Wayne Che Yip, season 1 will consist of eight episodes as it follows royal elf Galadriel, a character most famously portrayed onscreen in director Peter Jackson’s films by Cate Blanchett, as Middle-earth finds itself in danger due to the presence of an emerging evil force.
Read on below for everything you need to know about the series, including the plot and timeline, premiere date and release schedule, and the massive ensemble of characters, many of whom were created just for the TV series.
Cast and Characters
Season 1 features an expansive ensemble of Australian, English and Welsh performers, with some of the biggest stars being Benjamin Walker (who appears here much more clothed than his turn in American Psycho on Broadway), Charles Edwards, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Morfydd Clark and Robert Aramayo.
“There’s 21 season regulars, but I think we all color the world in our own specific way, and you’ll fall in love with everyone in your own way,” Maxim Baldry, who plays Isildur, says.
While some of the characters were previously established or referenced by Tolkien, there are many new ones created just for the TV adaptation. Below is a quick overview of who’s who in the series while ET spoke to most of the series regulars about their roles.
Prince Durin IV (Owain Arthur) is the King of Khazad-dûm and once bore one of the rings of power while Princess Disa (Sophia Nomvete) is a new character who resides in the city of Khazad-dûm.
Galadriel (Clark), Elrond (Aramayo) and High King Gil-galad (Walker) are younger versions of their established film and book counterparts while Arondir (Córdova) was created for the series.
While the breed of Hobbits is canon, Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh), Largo and Marigold Brandyfoot (Dylan Smith and Sara Zwangobani), Poppy Proudfellow (Megan Richards) and Sadoc Burrows (Lenny Henry) are all new to the franchise.
From the books and films are Queen Regent Míriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson); Pharazôn (Trystan Gravelle), the last King of Númenor; Isildur (Maxim Baldry), a ruler of Gondor; Elendil (Lloyd Owen), the first High King of the Dúnedain; and Celebrimbor (Edwards), a master smith known for foraging the “Three Rings of Power.”
Original to the series are Tirharad villagers Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi) and Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin), a stranded man named Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) as well as the Stranger (Daniel Weyman), who crashes into Middle-earth on a meteor. Also new are Pharazôn’s son, Kemen (Leon Wadham), and Elendil’s daughter, Eärien (Ema Horvath).
Timeline and Plot
Up until now, the onscreen franchise has only explored the many, epic stories of the “One Ring.” And now, thanks to the prequel series, which is adapted from the appendices of The Lord of the Rings, viewers will get to see how all of that came to be.
According to Payne and McKay, 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.”
“It’s set a millennia before what people may know before the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings,” Wadham tells ET. “It’s following a group of diverse races and they're kind of golden agers but all looking to ascend or advance their needs sometimes at the cost of each other.”
Set thousands of years before the main events of those books and movies, the series will explore “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 one of the greatest villains that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness.”
Beginning at a time of relative peace, the story follows an ensemble of characters as they are forced to accept a long-feared re-emergence of evil. The show will span from the Misty Mountains to the elf-capital of Lindon to the island kingdom of Númenor as the story lays the groundwork for what’s to come in the millennium that follows.
“It is a time of absolute abundance, cultural explosion and it is the return of evil starting with a droplet that is headed to a river,” Smith says. “It’s about people trying to preserve the most precious elements of a loving heart in the face of everything.”
“You see characters who are struggling with inner conflict, and you see communities come together in the face of adversity,” Kavenagh adds. “And you see love and themes that we all navigate and experiences that we all navigate in our real lives translated onto the screen, set in a fantastical context, but still relatable.”
Connections to The Lord of the Rings
While the story is set in the familiar yet expansive Middle-earth, the biggest connections to the books and movies are the presence of two notable characters, Elrond and Galadriel.
Featured throughout Jackson’s LOTR film trilogy, Elrond, who was played onscreen by Hugo Weaving, was depicted as distrusting of humans, initially not wanting to get involved in the subsequent violence that followed as the fellowship led by Frodo (Elijah Wood) sought to destroy the “One Ring.” Prior to that, the half-human, half-elf was forced to choose how he wanted to identify. Opting to be counted among the elves, he became a ranking member of Gil-galad’s army and served in many battles throughout the Second Age.
Originally portrayed by Blanchett in all six of Jackson’s films, Galadriel is considered one of the greatest elves in Middle-earth during the Third Age, the time in which the main franchise takes place. In the series, her younger version is an explorer of Middle-earth who eventually comes into her own and rules over a group of elves alongside Celeborn (who is currently not a confirmed character in the series).
What about other fan-favorite characters, like Gandalf or Legolas?
Gandalf, who was originally played by Ian McKellen in Jackson’s films, does not arrive to Middle-earth until the Third Age, when the main plots of The Hobbit and LOTR take place. However, there are other sorcerers known as the Blue Wizards who were in Middle-earth during the Second Age, around the time of the forging of the “One Ring,” that could play a similar role in The Rings of Power.
Similarly, Legolas (Orlando Bloom in the LOTR trilogy) is a character that only appears in the Third Age. While the elf’s birthdate is unknown, it’s not believed he’ll be part of this series. Additionally, the actor told ET back in 2019, when the series was still being developed, that he had no conversations with the production about it. But if they were to revisit the character, he quipped, “If I think you’re saying there’s Legolas, they probably got a 19-year-old kid ready to go.”
Trailer, Images and Release Schedule
The final trailer was released ahead of the anticipated Sept. premiere, giving audiences the most expansive look at the series yet.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power will premiere with two episodes on Sept. 1 in the U.S. and on Sept. 2 around the rest of the world, exclusively on Prime Video. The remaining seven episodes of season 1 will debut every Friday until the finale on Oct. 14.
Two-episode premiere on Sept. 2 (or Sept. 1 depending on the time zone):
6 p.m. PDT // Thursday, Sept. 1
9 p.m. EDT // Thursday, Sept. 1
2 a.m. UK // Friday, Sept. 2
3 a.m. CEST // Friday, Sept. 2
5:30 a.m. IST // Friday, Sept. 2
10 a.m. JST // Friday, Sept. 2
11 a.m. AU // Friday, Sept. 2
1 p.m. NZ // Friday, Sept. 2
Episode 3 through the Season Finale (weekly drops):
When asked during Comic-Con if entwives will finally make an appearance in the franchise, the showrunners teased that one may have already been seen in the footage that has been released. Additionally, “at the end of the trailer, there might be a big thing there somewhere,” Arthur teases, referring to the creature at the end of the trailer that looks like the Balrog known as Durin’s Bane from The Fellowship of the Ring.