Returning to Power

Returning to Power

By Michael Pickard
August 15, 2023


The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power star Owain Arthur reflects on making season one of the Prime Video series, reveals how he gets into character as Prince Durin and looks ahead to what’s in store in season two.

It’s a level of fandom Owain Arthur wasn’t expecting. When The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power star arrived at Nice Côte d’Azur Airport in the South of France earlier this year, ready to attend the Monte Carlo Television Festival, he was astounded to find fans of the show waiting to greet him.

Quite how they knew which flight he was on is one thing. Another is how they might have recognised him had they not researched his real appearance, considering the remarkable transformation he undergoes in the show to play Dwarven Prince Durin IV.

The Welsh actor’s TV career began with roles in daytime series Doctors and crime drama New Tricks, before he starred in shows such as Babylon, Death in Paradise, Hard Sun, Casualty and A Confession. He has also appeared in Welsh series 35 Diwrnod (35 Days) and Hinterland.

But as you might expect from working on the most expensive television show ever made – reports place the S1 budget at an eye-watering US$465m – The Rings of Power marks Arthur’s biggest role to date.

Launching on Prime Video in September 2022, the series is based on the novels by JRR Tolkien and arrived some 21 years after director Peter Jackson first transported audiences to Middle-earth with his acclaimed film trilogy.

Owain Arthur as Durin in Prime Video’s mega-budget The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

Set thousands of years before Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, The Rings of Power is set during the Second Age of Middle-earth at a time when great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested and a great villain threatened to cover the world in darkness.

The story unfolds within the depths of the Misty Mountains, the forests of the Elven kingdom of Lindon, and the island kingdom of Númenor. The ensemble cast includes Elven warrior Galadriel (Morfydd Clark), half-Elven ruler Elrond (Robert Aramayo), elf Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova), human healer Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi) and Harfoots Sadoc (Lenny Henry), Elanor (Markella Kavenagh) and Poppy (Megan Richards).

In the first season, Arthur, as Durin IV, prince of the Dwarven city of Khazad-dûm, found deep beneath the Misty Mountains, shares many scenes with Aramayo and Sophia Nomvete, who plays Durin’s wife Disa. The story also introduces Tolkien’s iconic villain, the Dark Lord Sauron.

While the first run was filmed in New Zealand, home of Jackson’s big-screen Rings and Hobbit trilogies, season two moved to the UK, where it was shot at Bray Studios in Berkshire, west of London.

“It’s exactly the same as we did it in New Zealand. Nothing’s changed in that way. It’s the same sets,” Arthur tells DQ, speaking before the US actors’ strike began last month. “We get to explore more of Khazad-dûm, actually. So when I walked onto the stage, the sets are bigger, there’s more to explore there. We go deeper down into the mountain. It took my breath away walking onto the sets, seeing the scale of the work that’s gone into building this world.”

The actor shared many of his S1 scenes with Sophia Nomvete, who plays Durin’s wife

He continues: “I don’t think anybody has ever worked on a show with so much scale and detail. The attention to detail, the care and the artistry that’s gone into it, I’ve never seen it before. And it blew me away every day. There was one time, a prop – you’ll see it [in S2] – was handed to me. We follow the craftsmanship that’s gone into that particular prop, and it was so beautiful when it was handed to me because it’s a weapon, but you can’t produce these things in a factory because nothing was built in a factory in Middle-earth, so you can see and feel the weight of it. You can feel the professionalism, the artistry and the flair that’s gone into it, just for one weapon. It’s just incredible; it’s breathtaking.”

But before Arthur is even able to step foot on the numerous sets that make up Khazad-dûm, he must undergo a rigorous costume and make-up process. It’s one he jokes “hasn’t got any quicker” since he first sat in the make-up chair at the start of filming S1, with a regime that includes prosthetics, facial hair and a wig – all before he steps into his costume.

“Sometimes we have quick days and sometimes we maybe have a late day when we’ve laughed too much in the chair, or breakfast has gone down the front of it,” he says. “It takes a certain amount of care, an exact amount of professionalism – and it needs it. If you hurry that stuff, then it will fall off, so you’ve got to start the day right.

“The way I’ve tried to explain to people is that some people go to salons to get their hair done and they sit there and have a colour and a cut and they’re there for three hours. But they do that once a month or once every two months. We have to do that every day. Don’t get me wrong, it’s our job and I love it. But that’s just an idea of what it’s like.”

Arthur has to get up well before the crack of dawn to transform into Durin ahead of shooting

The start of filming the series means a host of early morning wake-up calls for the usually clean-shaven actor, who has to be out of bed by 3am to have enough time to shower and jump in the car that will take him to set. The latest he has ever been ready for filming is 8.30am.

“By the time I get on set, it feels like I’ve done a morning’s work,” he says. But just like the terrific sets that establish Durin’s environment, Arthur’s extensive transformation is all part of bringing his character to life.

“It is strange [looking in the mirror], particularly the first time. It’s an out-of-body experience, truly, but it’s familiar territory now. It does something to you as an actor. You’re like, ‘Well, that’s not me anymore.’ I genuinely see Durin when I look in the mirror. In a way, that makes my job easier.”

Filming on season two was completed earlier this summer despite the show’s writers joining the Writers Guild of America strike, which began on May 2. All Arthur will say about what lies in store for Durin is that “he goes on a journey this season, I can tell you that much.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing season two,” he adds. “The guys [other cast members] have been away shooting in various locations I’ve not seen yet, so I’m looking forward to seeing the result of what other people have done. I get a glimpse of what we’ve done, but it’s always exciting just to see how everything gels together and connects because of the vast depth we’ve created. There are a lot more battles, and Sauron is present, so we’re cooking with gas in season two.”

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