Prime Video had one of the most stunning presentations at San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) 2022 with the Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power panel in Hall H. The preview trailers that were shown throughout the presentation were truly spectacular and breathtaking! The audience felt transported to the heroic place and time of the fabled Second Age of Middle-Earth’s history. In a stroke of brilliance, Prime Video chose Stephen Colbert to moderate this panel. Colbert, with his acerbic wit and encyclopedic knowledge of Tolkien, made this panel one of the must-see events of SDCC 2022!
The panel opened with Bear McCreary (the composer of the music for the series) conducting a live orchestra with a solo violinist in the theme song from The Rings of Power. The solo violinist, through her impassioned movements and playing, cast a spell over the audience that transported them to the land and time of the Second Age of Middle-earth. The performance heralded what would be a truly outstanding panel.
After this incredible introduction, Stephen Colbert was introduced to an excited audience that was both surprised and happy to see someone of his caliber and knowledge there to moderate the panel. As the stage was being cleared of the equipment used by the orchestra, Colbert told of how he came to know and love the works of Tolkien.
Colbert told the audience about how Tolkien’s work is so complex that hours and hours of podcasts are made to discuss his works. However, he did state that the Second Age of Middle-Earth has the least amount of information available, which set the stage for what followed. Colbert discussed what he wanted to see in the 5 seasons of the series. Yes, five seasons apparently are planned!
Once the stage was cleared, Colbert introduced the co-showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay, as well as executive producer Lindsey Weber. McKay expressed awe at being on the Hall H stage for the first time. Payne established his bona fide Tolkien credentials by fluently reciting the Sindarin poem, “A Elbereth Gilthoniel” in Elvish! This set the stage for the rest of the interview as they discussed their love of the material and what they had planned in the coming seasons.
Next, Colbert brought out the first group of cast members: Robert Aramayo (Elrond), Benjamin Walker (High King Gil-galad), Charles Edwards (Celebrimbor), Owain Arthur (Prince Durin IV), and Sophia Nomvete (Princess Disa) to a warm Hall H welcome.
The cast started their interview by relating how long they had been working on the project. Some of them stated that they had started as early as March of 2019. Colbert then went on to discuss what their characters bring to the story. He pointed out that the elves are responsible for many of the problems viewers will see in The Rings of Power.
When asked by Colbert, Arthur explained how being Welsh added to his portrayal of Prince Durin IV. After some more discussion, they showed a short clip of the interaction between Elrond and Durin. After the clip, Aramayo discussed how Elrond is related to the royal family. Colbert later prompted Walker into reciting “The Fall of Gil-galad.”
Colbert asked Nomvete about portraying Princess Disa (possibly the first female dwarf portrayed on television). Nomvete talked of being cast in this revolutionary role and the power of the female dwarfs. She spoke of her audition, which took place two days before she gave birth to her daughter. After getting the role, Nomvete related that her costume was designed to allow her to feed her daughter between takes.
The second group of cast members was led by Ismael Cruz Cordova (Arondir) followed by Nazanin Boniadi (Bronwyn), Tyroe Muhafidin (Theo), Megan Richards (Poppy Proudfellow), Dylan Smith (Largo Brandyfoot), Sara Zwangobani (Marigold Brandyfoot), Markella Kavenagh (Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot), and Daniel Weyman (The Stranger). Colbert began the interview by asking who among the cast had had a previous relationship with Tolkien. Zwangobani spoke of reading Tolkien at a very young age and how it started a lifelong love of fantasy.
Colbert asked Smith about the Harfoots (the predecessors of the Hobbits). He deferred to Zwangobani, who gave detailed descriptions of the Harfoots and how they differed from the more familiar Hobbits, such as the fact that they were migratory. Richards spoke about her character singing as part of the Tolkien tradition of music and song. Then Colbert introduced a new clip centered around the mysterious happenings in this world of Middle-Earth.
After the clip, Colbert queried Weyman about his character, The Stranger. Weyman assured the audience that the goal of The Stranger would not be immediately obvious but that he has a very specific purpose in mind. Colbert mentioned a couple of theories about the identity of The Stranger but viewers will just have to wait to discover his identity.
Next, Boniadi discussed her role as Bronwyn and how she tapped into her current activism to portray the inner strength of her character as she deals with the world in which she finds herself. Colbert, when introducing Muhafidin who Theo (the rebellious son of Bronwyn, mentioned that this is Muhafidin’s first major acting role.
Colbert then followed with questions to Cordova about his character, Arondir, a Silvan elf. Cordova explained that his armor on the series represents many things, including Ents. Colbert commented on the fluidity of Cordova’s fight scenes. Cordova explained that he brought in many different fighting styles to build his movements as an elf fighter. Colbert followed this with a clip showing Arondir’s prowess.
After the clip, Colbert introduced Morfydd Clark (Galadriel), Charlie Vickers (Halbrand), Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Queen Regent Miriel), Trystan Gravelle (Pharazôn), Lloyd Owen (Elendil), Ema Horvath (Eärien), Maxim Baldry (Isildur), and Leon Wadham (Kemen). The panel related how they were first introduced to Tolkien. Their answers varied from a Lord of the Rings game, to reading The Hobbit, to seeing the films for the first time.
Clark and Vickers went on to tell how difficult it was to learn freediving and horseback riding before Colbert screened a breathtaking clip of the island of Númenor. Addai-Robinson followed by explaining that although her character is canonical, she had to build the depth of her character, as there was not much written about her. At this point, the rest of the cast joined everyone on stage to close out the panel with audience questions.
The audience questions were a fitting close to what was one of the most brilliantly produced panels I had personally witnessed at San Diego Comic Con. The audience questions were insightful and each answer in response provided more information about the series. The final question asked was for the showrunners to commit to giving Colbert a role on the series. This question met with overwhelming audience and panel approval. It was a fitting end to my favorite panel at SDCC 2022.