Welsh actress Morfydd Clark knew that she was auditioning for the role of an elf in Amazon Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, but never in her life did she think it was for the key character of royal elf Galadriel, from J.R.R. Tolkien’s popular book series.
The 33-year-old star of the film The Personal History of David Copperfield, and in TV’s Dracula, definitely didn’t think that she would win the highly coveted role. So when she was told that she was cast, it was right before a screening and Q&A session for The Personal History of David Copperfield at the Toronto International Film Festival. The realisation only hit her during the Q&A, and she passed out.
“Yeah, when I first found out that I was going to be in the show, it was just before a screening of a film I was in. I thought I was dealing with it quite well and then during the Q&A, I just passed out and since then, I’ve been kind of slowly accepting that this is what it is. It’s a lot of pinch me moments,” shared Clark in an exclusive interview with Geek Culture.
Set thousands of years before Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings films, Clark not only has to embody a character beloved by fans of the films and books, she also has to come out from under the shadow of Cate Blanchett, who did an amazing turn in the earlier movies.
And while Tolkien’s rich world-building is one of the most popular book series ever created, breathing life into Gandalf, Frodo, Gollum, Legolas, Aragon and even Pippin and Merry, with the earlier films widely regarded as one of the most influential trilogies ever made, the series does lack female characters. Equal parts benevolent, proud, power-hungry and even more so powerful should she possess a ring, Lady Galadriel, regarded as the most beautiful, mightiest and fairest of all the Elves that remained in Middle-earth, is a force to be reckoned with.
So yes, the resulting pressure from the news caught up with the actress.
“There’s a huge amount of pressure and that’s because it’s so beloved, and so I keep having to remind myself that like, that’s lovely to be in something that people are so passionate about and have loved for so long. It’s a real gift but yeah, you get moments where you think, ‘How is this happening? I can’t do this!’.”
The comforting news is that Galadriel in The Rings of Power is young and vastly different from what has been seen in the books and earlier films. For starters, this is Galadariel centuries before she became the Elven Queen. Instead, she’s a warrior avenging the death of her brother. Preparing for the role was no easy feat for the actress who needed to embody a character as ethereal as Galadriel.
“A huge part of [preparing] for it was the physical aspect of being an elf so we had an amazing movement director, who we kind of spoke about, like how do elves hear? How do elves see? How do they move through the world?” said Clark.
This training came in handy for the actress who in every episode, is seen battling various creatures and being put through incredibly treacherous situations, whether it’s being lost at sea or braving through blizzards.
In one of the key set pieces from the first episode that continues through the majority of the second episode, Galadriel was stranded at The Sundering Seas, in the middle of a storm. She had no weapons, no protection and was attempting to swim away from a creature. The final sequence was intense but according to Clark, filming it was a fun experience.
“Yeah, it was so much fun filming that. We were on this huge water tank, with this raft in the middle of it, and this was about 10 of us on the raft. Filming that scene was quite funny because we had the director on the microphone, basically trying to frighten us with where this monster was coming from. It was really good fun and no one fell in!” laughed Clark.
Galadriel’s physicality was not the only thing that Clark had to learn to embody as the actress also had to learn and nail down the character’s mannerisms and personality, who throughout the series changes from rough around the edges, after surviving the events in The Silmarillion during the first age, to the version fans connected with in the films.
“I had a wonderful dialect coach because for me, a big part of Tolkien’s world is language and I was really interested in the fact that Galadriel is bilingual as I am, so exploring that was a big pathway too,” said Clark.
“I think there is an element of arrogance to the elves and I think she will learn humility as she grows through [the series]. She’s going to meet lots of people and she’s going to get her ring, which will be really exciting.”
Throughout the entire insane experience of filming The Rings of Power, the one thing that kept the actress sane was a wonderful woman named Morgan, who served as a driver on the show and accompanied the actress everywhere.
“Morgan joined in all of my training and just every morning, driving into work with her, we had a little playlist we’d sing along to songs together. The friendships I made [through the series], she was a really important one – those are my best memories,” smiled Clark.
When asked what songs were on the playlist, she laughed: “80s! You need some 80s or like power ballads to get you through the day.”
Catch Morfydd Clark as Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power when it releases on Amazon Prime Video on 2 September.