First-look photos and a treasure trove of information about Amazon’s Lord of the Rings show The Rings of Power has arrived. Amid Vanity Fair’s sprawling new feature by Joanna Robinson and Anthony Breznican, the team behind the pricey TV series has responded to backlash from some fans and/or trolls.
The creative team and producers addressed some of the biggest complaints and concerns that a faction of potential viewers has expressed. These ranged from more legitimate angles such as the inclusion of hobbits and sexual concent, to the racist response to a more diverse cast than that of Peter Jackson’s beloved trilogy of LOTR films.
Set during the Second Age of Middle-earth, thousands of years before the events of both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, the show will contain a number of original stories and characters. Among the new additions is an elf named Arondir, who is played by Ismael Cruz Córdova, the first person of color to play an elf in a Tolkien-related project. Actors such as Lenny Henry and Sophia Nomvete are also involved, with the latter playing the lore’s first woman dwarf onscreen.
The series creators have no qualms about diversifying the world of Middle-earth. “It felt only natural to us that an adaptation of Tolkien’s work would reflect what the world actually looks like,” said executive producer Lindsey Weber. “Tolkien is for everyone. His stories are about his fictional races doing their best work when they leave the isolation of their own cultures and come together.”
J.R.R.T. scholar Mariana Rios Maldonado told VF, “Obviously there was going to be push and backlash, but the question is from whom? Who are these people that feel so threatened or disgusted by the idea that an elf is Black or Latino or Asian?”
As for the more legitimate concerns regarding the show, the creators said there will be hobbits —sort of—even though Tolkien’s books stressed that hobbits did not factor into the history of Middle-earth much until Bilbo and Frodo Baggins and their companions came into the picture.
“One of the very specific things the texts say is that hobbits never did anything historic or noteworthy before the Third Age,” said co-showrunner Patrick McKay. “But really, does it feel like Middle-earth if you don’t have hobbits or something like hobbits in it?” Hobbit ancestors known as harfoots will appear, although they do not reside in the Shire.
The potential sexual content in the show has also been a question mark since Amazon was reported to have hired an intimacy coordinator. McKay said nobody needs to worry about them Game of Thrones-ifying Tolkien’s world in that sense.
McKay said they aimed to “make a show for everyone, for kids who are 11, 12, and 13, even though sometimes they might have to pull the blanket up over their eyes if it’s a little too scary.” She went on, “We talked about the tone in Tolkien’s books. This is material that is sometimes scary—and sometimes very intense, sometimes quite political, sometimes quite sophisticated—but it’s also heartwarming and life-affirming and optimistic. It’s about friendship and it’s about brotherhood and underdogs overcoming great darkness.”
The Rings of Power is due to arrive on Prime Video on Sept. 2. Read the full Vanity Fair article here.