“I didn't actually know who I was playing until I arrived in New Zealand,” explains Morfydd Clark. It turned out that she had been cast as Galadriel, the lead role in The Rings of Power, the latest adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s magical world. “Lots of us didn't. We just wanted to be in Middle-earth, in that world that lots of us have grown up with.”
Once she arrived, she embarked on an intense three-month training course alongside many cast members, but trained especially closely with co-star Charlie Vickers, who plays Halbrand, a human character created for the show.
“I loved the training, it felt like being on a school trip,” she tells TheGamer. “I got to learn how to ride, I've never done that before. I learned how to sword fight, lots of climbing, swimming, and we learned how to hold our breath. It's the type of stuff you always hope that you'll get a job that will mean that you'll have to learn all this stuff, or at least one of them. And in this, it was all of them.
“We did lots of it as a group, and then we [Clark and Vickers] actually did lots of the swimming stuff together. So that was a bonding experience, because they worked us hard.”
Clark had an advantage when it came to learning Sindarin, one of the languages that the Elves speak in the series, since Tolkien based it on Welsh. However, her bilinguality both helped and hindered her language training. “The problem with it is that I have all the sounds because of Welsh, but it's so similar that ironing out those tiny little [differences] was quite difficult,” she explains. “So I was really good at the beginning and then kind of dipped.”
Part of their personal training was also to immerse themselves in the works of Tolkien more than they ever had before, in order to best understand their characters and the world of Middle-earth. This was especially difficult for Vickers, a self-described “casual fan,” because Halbrand has no direct counterpart in any of Tolkien’s books. While Clark cherishes lovely memories of her dad reading her The Hobbit when she was a child, she points out that Vickers’ first real obsession with Tolkien’s world came through the video games.
“I played The Fellowship of the Ring and then I played The Two Towers, but The Two Towers was the one I played for the longest, definitely. I remember getting stuck trying to open the Mines of Moria for so long,” he laughs.
“I found the King of the Dead really hard,” chimes in Clark. “He was so big!”
“I always loved Aragorn,” Vickers says. “When I was a kid I would play as Aragorn in the game.” However, he embedded himself in Tolkien’s writing after being cast, which had a profound effect on him and ultimately shaped the character of Halbrand. “It changed my perspective on the world,” he explains. “And you see just how much there is and how deep it is, which is amazing.”
“I just absorbed as much as I could from the world,” he says of reading through Tolkien’s countless tomes, “and that subconsciously feeds into the performance and your understanding of the character. I just followed an instinct that I had based off the scripts and where I wanted to go with the character. There's so much adaptation of this world out there and the source material is so vast, that if you just absorb as much as possible, you let that inform what you do.”
After all their training – both mentally and physically – it’s hardly a surprise that Vickers identifies with Aragorn, the heroic future king pulling the Fellowship through hard times. But despite, or perhaps because of, her months of horse riding, sword fighting, and language learning, Clark identifies more with the slower pace of life.
“I think ultimately, probably one of the Hobbits,” she says. “I like a second breakfast, they like to chill out, they're not super productive, which I like about them. They’re just existing.”
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power premieres on Prime Video on September 2.
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