At the end of the first episode of “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” one of two installments dropped by Amazon Prime Video on the show’s launch day, young Harfoot Elanor “Nori” Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh) follows a fiery object that’s come shooting down from the skies of Middle-earth to find a mysterious, barely clothed man unconscious at the center of a flaming crater that’s been hollowed out in the earth. By the end of the second episode, Nori and her best friend Poppy Proudfellow (Megan Richards) are watching the large man, played by Daniel Weyman and credited only as “The Stranger,” throw fireflies into the sky to create what Nori thinks is a map of specific stars he’s trying to find — before those fireflies burn out and fall to the ground.
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Who is this person, why can’t Nori and Poppy understand his language, where did he come from, why did he come to Middle-earth and what is his goal? Those are the questions “Rings of Power” fans are going to be left asking until the third episode drops next week. But to tide you over until then, the “Lord of the Rings” series’ stars Kavenagh and Richards had a few breadcrumbs to feed Variety about Nori and Poppy’s mysterious relationship with The Stranger and the seeming threat his proximity to the Harfoot community could pose.
“Daniel Weyman, who plays The Stranger, who is just wonderful and brilliant — I remember sitting down together and we were kind of discovering who The Stranger was together. Not only as characters, but as actors,” Kavenagh said. “Like, what did it mean? Who was this being? Why did he give off the impression that they needed help? What’s their relationship? What’s their connection, the dynamics? It was amazing, it was the most incredible investigation I got to do. And I had the privilege of doing it with Daniel.”
She continued: “It was just a constant workshop and we would cook dinner and talk about it and do lots of improvisation over dinner, which is really strange because, as you know, he’s The Stranger. But it was incredibly helpful to able to do that with someone who’s so receptive. He’s just amazing. What you’ve seen is just the beginning of a really believable and captivating performance by him. There [was] a lot of times on set where I’d find it difficult to be fully present because I was just so in awe of him as an actor.”
Meanwhile, Richards had a very different approach to The Stranger, as her character Poppy is incredibly apprehensive about getting involved with this “giant” who she believes has no place near her and Nori’s community of small Harfoots that hope to shield themselves from the dangers of the outside world.
“When things are shaken up, Poppy doesn’t like it, because the rules are there for a reason and the Harfoot community lives in a very certain way, and it works for them,” Richards told Variety. “There are so many times that Poppy says, ‘I don’t want to help them, why should we help them? No.’ She constantly says that. And because of the loyalty that she has to Nori, and also because Poppy can be a little bit naughty in the encampment too and Nori has some things on her, she does go along with it. Poppy’s relationship with The Stranger is a very specific one. It takes a very long time for Poppy to trust other beings, even beings within the community, and she’s so strong-willed and so strong-minded that there’s a lot of constantly being torn.”
Behind the scenes, Richards says she, Weyman and Kavenagh worked through the physicality of this trio’s dynamic with an exercise that might not immediately come to mind as a way to prepare to adapt J.R.R. Tolkien’s work.
“Markella and I did an improvisation with Daniel Weyman, very early on [in ‘The Rings of Power’ production], in a park,” Richards said. “And what we discovered is that Nori and Poppy’s relationship is quite a lot like an elastic band. So what we did was we tied an elastic band around each other, one of those yoga bands, and when ‘Nori’ would pull, ‘Poppy’ would either have to be flung, because of the elasticity, or pull back. So we were constantly kind of exploring that and discovering that. But Poppy does a lot of growing, too, and she learns so much from Nori throughout the series. Her ideas about change, they begin to develop as well.”
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