The last time we checked in with J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay's upcoming The Lord of the Rings prequel series, it was May and director Charlotte Brändström (The Witcher, Jupiter's Legacy) was being welcomed to the team while Mortal Kombat star Ludi Lin was calling out the production for not casting more Asian actors. Flash ahead a little more than a month to the end of June and we're getting an update from actor Benjamin Walker (Marvel's Jessica Jones, The Underground Railroad) on how things are rolling along production-wise. In an interview with Collider to promote The Ice Road, Walker weighed in on the debate over the show's budget, what the audition process was like, and why fans should want to know as little as possible heading into the series.
On Why Amazon Needed to Spend Big Bucks: "There is a lot of talk about the money, but I kind of feel like that's what you need to do it right. It's like if you found someone you're in love with you and want to buy them a ring, you gotta do the best you can to show that you're committed to it, and it's not unlike that. This is not a legendarium that you want to skimp on."
On How J.D. Payne's Commitment Convinced Him to Take the Part: "It was a long audition process, and then I didn't hear from them for a few months. I mean the whole world was struggling to figure out what we were going to do next at that point. And then one of the showrunners, J.D. [Payne] called me and he pitched the part and pitched the commitment, which is large. And I could hear on the phone that there was a PA system and a lot of noise in the background, and I still wasn't sure. And I said, 'J.D. where are you?' And he said 'I'm in the hospital.' And I said, 'Are you okay?' and he goes, 'No. My wife's having a baby.' He's got the level of commitment you're going to need to get this show to be where it should be. It would be a huge mistake to not take part."
On Why No News Should Be Good News for Viewers: "I really can't say a lot, and here's the thing. It's usually annoying when they tell you not to talk about it. On this one I kind of agree with them. Because there's so much attention and because so much happens, it's important that we do protect it. So I really can't say a lot, other than you will be glad you knew so little when you see it."
"I'm very excited to be guided through Middle-earth by JD's and Patrick's vision and immerse myself in the iconic world of J.R.R. Tolkien. It's a great privilege to be in New Zealand to work with Amazon Studios' outstanding ensemble of creative talents," said Brändström when first announced as joining the series. The director joins Wayne Che Yip (Hunters, Preacher, Doctor Who), who is directing four episodes and co-executive producing; and J. A. Bayona (A Monster Calls, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), who is directing the first two episodes.
The new stories will take place prior to J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Fellowship of the Ring" and look to focus on the "Second Age" – a time when the Rings of Power were first revealed. "J.R.R. Tolkien created one of the most extraordinary and inspiring stories of all time, and as a lifelong fan, it is an honor and a joy to join this amazing team. I can't wait to take audiences around the world to Middle-earth and have them discover the wonders of the Second Age, with a never-before-seen story," explained Bayona at the time the news was announced. Payne and McKay are developing the series and serving as showrunners, with Bryan Cogman (Game of Thrones) serving as a consultant. Bayona is set to direct the first two episodes. Amazon Studios produces, in conjunction with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins, and New Line Cinema.
The prequel series stars Robert Aramayo, Owain Arthur, Nazanin Boniadi, Tom Budge, Morfydd Clark, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Ema Horvath, Markella Kavenagh, Joseph Mawle, Tyroe Muhafidin, Sophia Nomvete, Megan Richards, Dylan Smith, Charlie Vickers, Daniel Weyman, Maxim Baldry, Lenny Henry, Peter Mullan, Lloyd Owen, Augustus Prew, Peter Tait, Benjamin Walker, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Simon Merrells, Maxim Baldry, Ian Blackburn, Kip Chapman, Anthony Crum, Maxine Cunliffe, Trystan Gravelle, Thusitha Jayasundera, Fabian McCallum, Geoff Morrell, Alex Tarrant, Leon Wadham, and Sara Zwangobani.
Amazon's Lord of the Rings series' creative team line-up includes Amazon's ex-genre head Sharon Tal Yguado as well as Lindsey Weber (10 Cloverfield Lane), Bruce Richmond (Game of Thrones), Gene Kelly (Boardwalk Empire), Tal Yguado, writer/executive producer Gennifer Hutchison (Breaking Bad); writer/executive producer Jason Cahill (The Sopranos), writer/executive producer Justin Doble (Stranger Things), consulting producer Stephany Folsom, producer Ron Ames, writer and co-producer Helen Shang, and writing consultant Glenise Mullins. Bayona will executive produce alongside partner Belén Atienza.
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