Who’s Who In The “Lord Of The Rings” Cast?

Amazon Prime has officially announced the fifteen members of the main recurring cast for the first season of their The Lord Of The Rings, a massive fantasy series that will dive deep into the uncharted expanses of time and space between J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic creation-narrative The Silmarillion, and the events of his most well-known work, The Lord Of The Rings. In this mostly unknown and unexplored region of the Tolkien legendarium, there are three-thousand years of stories, subplots and character arcs that can absolutely be stitched together into the five-season series that Amazon is hoping to create: and now they have a cast to help them with that daunting task.

A cast that, for the time being, is just that: a bunch of names and random headshots that really doesn’t give us any clear picture of what’s going on in Middle-earth at this point in the fantasy world’s history – are most of these characters original, devised by the Amazon Prime writer’s room? Or are they Tolkien characters, and we just don’t know it yet? Who is playing who?

That’s why I’m here: to make extremely random and imaginative conjectures based on a handful of vague hints, and, hopefully, get something right. I’m likely wrong about most or all of these predictions and theories, so take everything I say with a grain of salt.

That being said, let’s start out with Robert Aramayo, first on the cast-list and the man presumed to be the series’ central protagonist. Aramayo’s real character name is unknown, but it is known that he replaced fellow Brit Will Poulter, who was supposed to play “Beldor”. While no character with that name exists in Tolkien’s canon, Poulter’s striking resemblance to Hugo Weaving – who portrayed Elrond Half-Elven in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy – led many to believe that Poulter was playing a younger version of Weaving’s character, and that “Beldor” was merely a code-name. Aramayo doesn’t bear the same resemblance to Weaving, but he’s not entirely dissimilar, either. If Poulter was playing Elrond, then it seems certain that Aramayo is, as well.

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There’s another (small) bit of evidence that points to Beldor being Elrond: in an unofficial character breakdown, a character named “Neldor” was mentioned as being very similar to Beldor. Frankly, Neldor makes the most sense as a code-name for Elrond, since it’s literally just the word Elrond with the letters scrambled, but I think Neldor is more likely to be Elrond’s canon twin brother, Elros – the first king of Númenor, and forefather of the Dúnedain. And who better to play Elros than the only other member of the cast (so far) who looks anything like Robert Aramayo: Welsh actor Owain Arthur? Arthur has similar facial features to Aramayo, but is also noticeably older, meaning he could convincingly portray the Half-Elf’s mortal brother, who chose to live and die as a human.

We don’t know who’s playing Elrond, but it looks like Welsh actress Morfydd Clark is almost certainly playing a younger version of the Elven heroine Galadriel, as was reported some time ago. Clark could easily pass as Cate Blanchett’s twin, and has an ethereal aura that would befit a character of Galadriel’s nobility and majesty.

Similarly, it seems definite that Australian actress Markella Kavenagh is playing the character of “Tyra”, an elf or non-human character with an optimistic, naive worldview and an eager curiosity. This has been reported since she was cast several months ago, and it hasn’t changed once. Kavenagh is playing Tyra: of that I’m certain. I’m not yet certain whether Tyra is a code-name, but I do think she’s an original character – my theory is that she’s a rustic Silvan elf, and I will not be swayed in that opinion until proven wrong. A lot of people want to believe she’s actually Celebrían, the future wife of Elrond and mother of Arwen Evenstar, but those people are wrong. Sorry.

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If I had to guess who is playing Celebrían, it would be Ema Horvath, a young Slovak-American actress who was cast a while ago: she doesn’t look like the type of actress who could play “warm and maternal…Eira” or “self-sufficient single mother…Kari”, so I have to assume she’s playing another character, whom we haven’t seen yet in either character breakdowns or leaked audition tapes. Celebrían is as good a choice as any. though another possibility is Tar-Ancalimë, the first ruling Queen of Númenor.

But let’s get back to that self-sufficient single mother for a moment, because I think Iranian-British actress Nazanin Boniadi is the perfect fit for the role of Kari, whose audition tapes revealed a conflicted character struggling with a dangerous secret that could turn her people against her. Either that or she’s Erendis, a proud, fiercely determined Númenórean noblewoman who has a prominent role in Middle-earth history, and was the subject of one of Tolkien’s most emotional, intimate dramas. Boniadi would kill it in either role. I’ve also seen suggestions that she could be a gender-bent Celebrimbor, and I would love that too.

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The series needs a villain, and I think both Daniel Weyman and Joseph Mawle make strong cases for why they should play Sauron, better known in this age of Middle-earth as Annatar, the giver of gifts and deceiver of men. Both men have strong, harsh features and a gaunt, almost sinuous look – personally, I’d take Mawle as Sauron and Weyman as his right-hand man, the Witch-King of Angmar, but maybe that’s just me. Sauron is an important role, and has to be cast right: in fact, since the character is a notorious shape-shifter, I wouldn’t mind seeing a number of different actors (or actresses) take on the role over the duration of the series, just to keep us constantly on our toes about who to trust. That way, the heavy burden wouldn’t just be on one actor’s shoulders, but would be passed around from episode to episode, allowing for the demigod villain to have a certain incorporeal feeling.

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The character of “Hamson” is as good as Sauron is evil – described in breakdowns and audition tapes as a kind, loving farmer trying to preserve his fading health long enough to see his family through the winter, I imagine Hamson to be a rugged, rustic middle-aged man: basically, actor Dylan Smith. Otherwise, I could see Smith taking on the role of Loda, “an earthy man” whose daughter is training to be an apprentice in her village community.

Which brings us to Megan Richards, who I think fits the role of Loda’s daughter perfectly. This character doesn’t yet have a name, but had an important role in Loda’s audition tape, which saw the father and daughter duo conversing about a stowaway living in their house. With her charming, expressive features, Richards would be a sturdy emotional core for the series: a simple character wound up in a number of extraordinary circumstances. Alternatively, she could be playing one of Tyra’s sisters.

Next up, we have the youngest member of the cast, Australian child actor Tyroe Muhafidin. This boy has elf-ears, no questions asked: his ears are about as pointed as a human being’s can be, and I think it would be a waste to cast him as a human child, or anyone other than an elf. But are there any elf-children running around in the Second Age of Middle-earth? There are a couple: in one version of Galadriel’s backstory, she was the mother of a son named Amroth, who went on to become a noble elf-lord and the subject of a tragic love-song. Or, with a little timeline-altering, Muhafidin could be playing one of Elrond’s twin sons, Elladan or Elrohir. Those are the only elf-children I can think of off the top of my head, but there are very few kids in the Second Age – most likely, Muhafidin is playing a young version of a character who will become important as an adult in future seasons of the show.

Charlie Vickers is my pick for the character of “Cole”, who is described simply as a “charismatic” young fellow with a heavy burden and a melancholy attitude. Even after much brain-wracking, I can’t quite decide who this character might be in the Tolkien canon: perhaps the gloomy, pessimistic Celeborn? Imagining a “charismatic” Celeborn is somewhat difficult, so perhaps Vickers is playing a human – I keep coming back to Aldarion, the world-weary adventurer who set sail from Númenor to explore the edges of the world and found himself halfway across Middle-earth, leaving his family far behind him and largely abandoning the cares of his kingdom.

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Aldarion’s closest friend among the Elves was the last king of the Noldor, the immortal Gil-galad. This is a role I wouldn’t mind seeing race-bent, especially because Puerto Rican actor Ismael Cruz Córdova seems like such a good choice: not only does he have a curiously timeless look, but his eyes are almost as striking as Elijah Wood’s – reminiscent of the pale starlight that the Elves adore so much. I could picture Córdova’s Gil-galad as a solemn, mature young leader and a keen judge of character.

Sophia Nomvete, an Iranian-African actress, is an exciting casting choice, and I want to see her in an exciting role: this could be as a queen reigning over lands in Middle-earth, or even as one of the two Blue Wizards who visited the far east and helped rally the fight against Sauron from behind his front-lines, causing irreparable damage to his war effort. The fates of these two wizards are a long-running subject of debate in the Tolkien fandom, and we’ve never seen them onscreen – the closest we got was a throwaway reference to them in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

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Finally, we have to figure out who Australian actor Tom Budge is playing: no easy task, considering that most images of him show the actor sporting a large, downright Gallic mustache. But once you look past the facial hair, I think it’s easy to envision Budge as an elf: perhaps even the foolhardy Celebrimbor, who will probably have a large role in the show as the creator and craftsman behind the forging of the Rings of Power. But Budge could also be playing a villain – in particular, I could see him as one of the nine mortal men ensnared by Sauron and transformed into the horrible Ringwraithes.

So all fifteen have been accounted for, and where does that leave us? Well, technically, nowhere, since these are all just guesses. I’ve tried my best to check off all the many characters listed in the unofficial breakdowns and audition tapes, but even so, a couple are still missing: who’s playing the maternal “Eira”, or irascible “Brac”? Which of these is the charismatic but cunning “Aric”, who made such an impression on us several months ago?

I leave you to come up with your own guesses, and tell me what you think of mine: share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Amazon’s “Lord Of The Rings” Sets Series Cast!

Amazon Prime has assembled a fellowship of talent worthy of the long, perilous journey to Middle-earth, and they have my sword, my bow, my axe, and anything else they need from me. I love them, I already adore them, and if by life or death I can protect them, then I will.

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The full series cast, revealed today in a series of social media posts from the streaming service (which, inconveniently, didn’t have photos attached, forcing me to look up each actor individually), will include: Robert Aramayo and Joseph Mawle, both from Game Of Thrones; Owain Arthur, a theater actor soon to appear in Disney’s The One And Only Ivan; Nazanin Boniadi of Bombshell and Hotel Mumbai; Tom Budge of The Pacific; Morfydd Clark of Dracula; Ismael Cruz Córdova of The Undoing; Ema Horvath of Like.Share.Follow; Markella Kavenagh of Picnic At Hanging Rock; Tyroe Muhafidin, a new actor on the scene; Sophia Nomvete and Megan Richards, both theater actresses; Dylan Smith, star of I Am The Night; Charlie Vickers of Medici: Master Of Florence; and finally Daniel Weyman, star of Great Expectations and The Happy Prince.

Notably absent from this comprehensive list is Maxim Baldry, who was previously reported to have joined the show in a lead role – I feel it’s safe to assume he is no longer part of the cast (or never was part of it to begin with), but it’s worth keeping an eye out for him later on. While this group of fifteen will surely be the series’ main cast, it’s probable that many more actors and actresses will be added as time goes on.

On the other hand, this cast is a big win for diversity in the fantasy genre: a number of these stars are people (and especially women) of color, and come from a multitude of cultural and ethnic backgrounds, making this probably the most diverse adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works yet.

We don’t yet know who’s playing who, as Amazon has yet to announce any character names: Morfydd Clark is, as previously reported, believed to be playing a younger version of Galadriel, while Robert Aramayo is playing a character known only as “Beldor”, and Markella Kavenagh has landed the role of “Tyra” – both of the latter names could be, and likely are, code-names for more well-known characters from the Tolkien mythos.

Obviously, there are a lot of names to go over here, and I might have to try and break them down individually at some point, because I’m sure Amazon has given us plenty of hints as to who these actors and actresses will be portraying. Already, the cogs in my brain are beginning to rotate – nay, spin – as I piece things together: is Mawle playing Sauron, or could it be the equally fine-featured Weyman? Is Córdova playing an original character, or is it only me who thinks he looks like Gil-galad? Speaking of which, have any of Tolkien’s roles been gender or race-bent? If so, can Boniadi please play Annatar?

So…what do you think? This is the cast, for better or worse: these are the men and women that we will walk alongside into the tumultuous Second Age of Middle-earth, and alongside whom we will (hopefully) spend a long, long time, weathering all the storms of Sauron, the betrayals of Númenor, and the wrath of the Valar. How do you feel, and who are you most excited to see onscreen for the first time? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Robert Aramayo Joins Amazon’s “Lord Of The Rings”!

With production supposedly set to begin on Amazon Prime Studios’ The Lord Of The Rings prequel series in February, the streaming service has found a new lead to replace departing star Will Poulter: Game Of ThronesRobert Aramayo will take over the coveted role.

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There is no indication, as of yet, which role Poulter and now Aramayo are set to play, though the Tolkien fandom had largely arrived at the conclusion that Poulter, who bears a striking resemblance to actor Hugo Weaving, would be playing the younger version of Weaving’s Lord Of The Rings character, Elrond Half-Elven. Aramayo, on the other hand, is best known for his role as a young Ned Stark (also played by Sean Bean, who portrayed Boromir in The Fellowship Of The Ring) on the HBO fantasy drama Game Of Thrones, a character he played for just four episodes – I bring up that last point in an attempt to allay Tolkien purists’ fears that casting Thrones actors automatically indicates that the Lord Of The Rings prequel will be a knockoff of the former series, despite the fact that only two Thrones actors have thus far been cast in LOTR, and neither had any sort of substantial role on Thrones.

Aramayo’s casting is an exciting addition to the high-profile series, which recently cast Welsh actress Morfydd Clark as a young Galadriel in the epic fantasy, which will explore a period of time long before the events of The Lord Of The Rings, during the War of the Last Alliance, the heyday of the kingdom of Númenor, and the first downfall of Sauron. So far, Galadriel is the only named character to have been cast, though Aramayo’s character is being referred to by a codename, Beldor.

How do you feel about Aramayo joining the series? Share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

“The Witcher” Review!

Netflix’s hotly-anticipated adaptation of Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski’s fantasy novels and short story anthologies hit the ground running yesterday, quickly gathering a tightly-knit fan community and garnering praise from viewers. Its low Rotten Tomatoes score suggests disapproval from critics, but for my part, I have to say I’m one of those who simply can’t get enough of the “grimdark” fantasy world that Sapkowski created, and showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich has lovingly brought to life.

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The world of The Witcher is a twisted, messed-up place filled with hostile countries and city-states tenuously held together by the secret machinations of royal mages. In this world, mutated men called Witchers roam the violent backwoods corners of The Continent, hunting monsters for a price and carving out brutal, lonely lives for themselves. Our protagonist, the semi-heroic Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill) is one of the most legendary, but also the most feared and reviled: where he goes, trouble follows, and people are eager to chase him away whenever he comes close.

Cavill, despite playing a brooding, hulking warrior devoid of human emotions, is surprisingly charismatic and endearing – his enthusiasm for the source material is evident (Cavill has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of both the novels and the accompanying video games), and that same enthusiasm shines through most clearly in his action sequences and fight scenes, all of which Cavill himself performed without the help of stunt doubles. And even though many of us worried that his long, silvery locks and bright yellow eyes made him look like he was wearing a Halloween costume, Cavill rocks the strange but unique style – except in Episode 2, for whatever reason: possibly because it’s the most brightly lit in the entire season, and it accentuates how unnaturally yellow and inexpressive his contact lenses really are. I understand that Cavill doesn’t want to give up the coveted role of Superman in the DCEU – but after watching The Witcher, I think it should be clear that, with his gruff voice and intense physicality, the actor was born and bred for roles like these, where he can let loose and be a feral, ferocious, demon-slaying mercenary. It’s impossible to even imagine him going back to the squeaky-clean Superman persona after this.

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But while Cavill is getting a lot of attention for carrying the show, the talents of his female co-stars Anya Chalotra and Freya Allen are just as worthy of praiseworthy ballads (speaking of which, I’m going to have “Toss A Coin To Your Witcher” stuck in my head for weeks). Chalotra, especially, does a fantastic job as the troubled sorceress Yennefer of Vengerburg, whose journey begins in a town full of bigots who mock her for her physical disabilities – her own father eventually sells her off to a mage for a bargain price. But Yennefer rises above the haters and becomes one of the series’ strongest and most iron-willed characters, as she trains to become The Continent’s most powerful mage. Her story would be especially fascinating no matter what, because it brings us, the audience, into contact with the various guilds of magicians and sorcerers who command The Continent’s destiny, but Chalotra manages to elevate every scene she’s in and make Yennefer our eyes and ears in the show’s most obviously fantastical subplot. She doesn’t get as many fight scenes, but those that she does have (especially in the finale) are epic. Freya Allen portrays Princess Cirilla, or “Ciri”, of Cintra, a stubborn and resilient young girl who is forced to flee from her grandmother’s sheltered palace after the walls are breached by invaders from the shadow lands of Nilfgaard. Alone, and surrounded by people who want to kill her, Ciri sets out into the wilderness with only a name to guide her: the name of Geralt of Rivia, who is supposedly destined to help her. Allen is very good, and possesses a cheerfully expressive face, but her character is rather enigmatic, even by the end of the season, making it ever so slightly more difficult to relate to her in the same way as the older, wiser Yennefer.

The series is structured as something of an anthology, so many of the supporting cast only make a handful of appearances – but even so, there are several highlights. Jodhi May as Ciri’s grandmother Queen Calanthe is a complex and divisive character who is alternately loved, respected, feared or hated – and her unpredictability keeps her friends and enemies on their toes at all times. Anna Shaffer’s Triss Marigold is the show’s most traditionally “witchy” witch, and does a very good job of it; while Mimi Ndiweni is utterly terrifying as the Nilfgaard mage Fringilla Vigo, a callous, sadistic conqueror. The male cast includes Geralt’s on-and-off traveling companion Jaskier (Joey Batey) who has a surprisingly modern vocabulary and a tendency to very nearly break the fourth wall at times (“There I go again, just delivering exposition” he comments at one point), and daredevil Vilgefortz (Mahesh Jadu), who’s stunts and unique brand of magic are incredibly entertaining to watch.

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At its heart, the show is a cunning blend of subversive fantasy and horror – and the horror elements are particularly strong, mostly because they’re intricately tied up in the world’s magic system. It’s never explained exactly where many of The Continent’s monsters, ghouls and demons come from, but it’s fun enough bracing yourself for the jump-scare moments when they burst from the ground, or from tombs, or lakes, or tall grass, etc, etc. Probably the best of the lot is the demon princess living in a crypt below a Temerian castle that seems to have been pulled straight from a Dracula adaptation (Temeria itself seems to be obviously based on Transylvania), but other highlights include a malevolent shapeshifter that eats children, and a dragon with a peculiar secret – I’m sure Sapkowski’s novels have plenty of material to draw from in the second season, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a Witcher take on the character of Baba Yaga, who I think would fit in perfectly with the assortment of other creatures on the show.

This is a non-spoiler review, so I won’t say too much about the series’ conclusion, or its various twists, turns and surprises – but I can at least assure you that almost all of them are legitimately exciting, and there are a number of storytelling devices employed that shake things up in an intriguing and often suspenseful fashion. Netflix is often criticized for making their original series’ too long, but The Witcher is a perfect length – in fact, by the end of it, you’ll probably be left hungry for more (not to mention angry at Netflix for concluding this first season on a moment that isn’t quite a cliffhanger, but definitely sizzles with palpable tension).

So if you’re looking for a new, dark, twisted fantasy tale, or if you’ve been left disappointed by Game Of Thrones and want to fill the gaping void in your life, try out The Witcher (Thrones fans, in particular, will be pleased to know that the series has many of the former series’ same hallmarks, such as gritty realism and brutal fight scenes, while including things HBO’s long-running fantasy drama never dared to add, such as unmistakable magic). It’s a show that will leave you thrilled, a little scared for your life, and eager to see more of Sapkowski and Hissrich’s world.

Series Rating: 7.9/10

“The Witcher” Final Trailer Review!

The final trailer for Netflix’s new, completely unhinged, absolutely massive dark fantasy epic The Witcher is – all of those things, times ten. But with Star Wars dominating the news cycle and releasing in theaters on the same day as the first season of The Witcher becomes available, will the series be able to find an audience? I think it’s got a strong chance, but it needs to have a hook that will intrigue viewers who haven’t necessarily read a Witcher novel, played a Witcher video game, or ever heard of The Witcher before in their lives. So far, it’s mostly been directing its marketing toward disillusioned Game Of Thrones fans – you want something a little violent, a little dark, a little edgy? This clearly has all of that.

But the final trailer leans more heavily on appealing to fans of the source material, throwing in a bunch of new concepts we really haven’t seen much of in previous trailers and teasers: concepts that don’t mean a whole lot to me, but sound pretty awesome anyway. The focus here is on the “lion cub of Cintra”, Princess Ciri, whose character appears to be the show’s central plot-point – the people of Nilfgaard want her dead, and Geralt of Rivia has been assigned with finding and protecting her. The powerful sorceress, Yennefer of Vengerburg, presumably fits in somehow, but I honestly don’t care what her purpose is – she’s fighting bad guys while wearing a gigantic, heavy fur coat: a skill-set I thought belonged solely to Jon Snow. If we get more of that Yennefer, and less of the Yennefer who just seems to be hanging around at the palace, whispering about death and destruction, then you can count me in. I may be jumping to conclusions, but I think I like what The Witcher is doing with its female characters: they look powerful, strong (in many different ways), and cool. There are also women of color in prominent roles here, something Game Of Thrones never had.

So what’s the hook? Is it Henry Cavill in a platinum-blond wig (I will never stop making fun of that thing, even if it does actually look pretty decent)? Awesome heroines? Magic? Even as the day of Witcher‘s release draws ever closer, I’m still not sure I can identify anything that will be able to pull in non-fantasy fans. Hopefully, this will be a surprise hit, but I’m nervous to make any assumptions yet.

Trailer Rating: 7/10