With new 'Lord of the Rings' series comes Middle-earth's most diverse, gender-balanced cast of characters yet

·3-min read

It was through little fault of their own that Peter Jackson’s sprawling The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies starred largely white, predominantly male versions of characters. Jackson was casting actors that resembled descriptions laid out in author J.R.R. Tolkien’s seminal high fantasy works, published in 1937.

With Amazon’s highly anticipated upcoming series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, however, creators J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay had license from the author's estate to not only expand Tolkien’s cinematic universe — the prequel is set thousands of years before those two trilogies, in the Second Age of Middle-earth, based on writings from the appendices of LOTR, as well as other Tolkien works like The Silmarillion — but to hire an inclusive cast that’s more reflective of the world we live in today.

That means Rings of Power’s ensemble of 21 leads — all of whom bonded over a year-and-a-half Season 1 shoot in New Zealand from 2020-2021 — is easily the most diverse, gender-balanced we’ve seen yet in Middle-earth. The full cast turned up at San Diego Comic-Con this weekend to unveil enthralling new footage in a panel hosted by famed Tolkien superfan Stephen Colbert.

Cynthia Addai-Robinson in
Cynthia Addai-Robinson in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. (Photo: Courtesy of Prime Video)

“We’re talking about a global show, and a global audience. This is now the reality. This is not about taking the narrow view,” Cynthia Addai-Robinson, who stars as Númenor’s human queen regent Míriel, tells Yahoo Entertainment during a post-panel interview (watch above). “And to me this is about inviting people in and being expansive. And if you’re going to tell this story in 2022, this to me feels like the only way to tell it, the only way to represent it. And I think people have been really hungry to see full representation in this world. Because at the end of the day this story is all about people of different backgrounds coming together for a common cause.”

“It’s just really exciting for it to be more representative of the world that we live in and I just hope that the industry — not just our show — but the industry just continues to become more inclusive,” says Markella Kavenagh, who plays the Harfoot Nori Brandyfoot.

Dylan Smith, Markella Kavenagh and Megan Richards in
Dylan Smith, Markella Kavenagh and Megan Richards in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. (Photo: Prime Video)

“It’s just nice, it’s just such an inclusive atmosphere,” adds Megan Richards (the Harfoot Poppy Proudfellow). “And I can’t wait for the time when that’s not even a question anymore. It’s just so nice that the modern world that we’re living in today really is reflected within the world that J.D. and Patrick have created."

“Every woman has agency on this show,” adds Nazanin Boniadi, who plays the human healer Bronwyn. “Every female character is not there to serve the male characters around her. Every one of us has autonomy and our storylines.

“I never in a million years thought that I would be in something like this.”

Watch our full cast interview above.

— Video produced by Jen Kucsak and edited by Jimmie Rhee

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power premieres Sept. 2 on Prime Video.

Watch the San Diego Comic-Con trailer: