“lord of the rings: Power rings” was the biggest TV show ever, with a record budget spent recreating JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth in its second year, and a cast of Almost two dozen series Dozens of special characters were used to enact its sprawling tale of Sauron’s rise.
Yet one character sits undeniably at the center of the show: Galadriel. The ancient elf, born before the moon and the sun first graced Middle Earth, was an important character as played by Cate Blanchett in Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” novels and Peter Jackson’s “Rings” trilogy.
In “The Rings of Power,” set thousands of years before the events of “The Lord of the Rings,” a younger Galadriel is not yet the peaceful and wise co-ruler of the elven kingdom of Lothlorien. Instead, she hunted down the Dark Lord Sauron, the leader of evil who was mysteriously responsible for the death of Galadriel’s brother. In “Rings of Power”, Galadriel is hardened by the thousands of years she’s already been alive, but is no longer the majestic (and powerful) woman she became in the Third Age.
somehow, Morfitt Clarke (“Saint Maud”) manages to capture all those dimensions of character. in her review, Variety Reviewer Caroline Fremke Clarke’s “Arresting Attraction” noted that “Galadriel is equal parts voice of reason and fighting hero, with Clarke proving the series’ most reliable constant.”
Thanks to his parents, lifelong Tolkien fans, Clarke instinctively understands how important Galadriel is. “All my friends are ‘Lord of the Rings’ fans, and I have to tell you, they describe her a lot to me,” she says. Variety. “She is a living legend; A living legend.”
Still, it wasn’t until Clark agreed to join “The Rings of Power” — and arrived in New Zealand in fall 2019 to film the first season — that he learned from showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay. She actually played Galadriel. Thanks to the pandemic, the experience turned into a nearly two-year adventure that saw the now 33-year-old push past what he believed were his own limits. She talked with Variety Galadriel marvels as a badass warrior about training to perform many of Galadriel’s stunts, how her Welsh heritage helped her in Tolkien’s Elvish language, what it was like to spend unexpected time in New Zealand and what she has to say to Tolkien fans.
When did you realize in the audition process that you were in the running to play Galadriel?
I didn’t even know I played Galatreal when I came to New Zealand. I know I’m playing some kind of god. I know it was in the second year. My sister and I were reading everything and I was thinking Celebrion, her daughter, because I couldn’t understand that it was Galadriel. So I went to New Zealand not knowing who I was playing with, and looking back now, it’s pretty crazy. All the actors did the same. We all plunged into this madness together and met each other there. It wasn’t until I arrived that I knew who I was playing, and I had to recalibrate. I still can’t believe who I’m playing.
How much of Galadriel’s full history did you know before you knew you were playing him?
I know “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings”. I haven’t really researched “The Silmarillion”. I don’t know what she did. Tolkien describes Galadriel as wearing her hair in a braided crown when she goes to war. I was kind of like, wow this is so opening, this happened. Also, Tolkien changed his views of Galadriel, which makes her more interesting. Why did Tolkien need Galadriel at that time? As he got older, I think he fell more in love with her, so there’s a fluidity to her character.
In the first two chapters alone, you climb, you fight, you swim, and you dive deep into the water. Did you know that at least your role will be physical?
No. It was a big surprise. I never saw myself as a natural at those things. I have dyslexia. I was really bad at writing so I got extra time on exams. So I thought I can’t do all this. My co-workers were very nice to me to do so. It was a testimony to them that I was doing all these things. The stunt department was amazing, not just in terms of what they taught us physically, but part of it is that it blocks your mind. [that you can do it]. I think everyone would do well to learn from the stunt teams in New Zealand. If school was like stunt school for us at this job, we’d all be a lot happier.
What did you actually do? What is the process?
We start each morning with three hours of stunts that cover general strength, flexibility, and then obviously, the swords come in. At some point in the beginning, they would have 20 of us there. , we would learn a sword fight in uniform and then perform it as a group of elves, which was really fun. We had an amazing personal trainer named Matt who I hate sometimes. But I think that’s part of being a good personal trainer. I like climbing a lot. It’s nice to have something you’ve learned that you’re already kind of good at. Otherwise, you might get a little frustrated. Then swimming. I thought I could actually swim, and after my first lesson, I was wrong, I shouldn’t have been in the ocean. But now I can swim, thanks to Trent Bray.
What was it like incorporating the Elvish language into your performance?
Well, I went to a Welsh language school and everything is taught in Welsh. Welsh is phonetic, so it’s great for people with dyslexia. I started learning English in the third year, “What is this?” What my Tolkien-obsessed mother was really proud of and passed on to us was that Tolkien was inspired by the Welsh. Oddly enough, his work was a badge of honor for me, because the Welsh are Welsh and obsessed with anything Welsh. Playing a bilingual character was great. Yes, I think it served me well.
Some fans have a certain image in their head of Galadriel, who’s this royal lady of the forest, who isn’t physically the way you are on the show. What would you say to fans who may be surprised or skeptical of Galadriel’s portrayal in “The Rings of Power”?
I would say her peace is hard earned. I don’t think you get that level of wisdom without doing things. She really talks [how] With wisdom comes the loss of innocence, which to me is the best thing I’ve ever seen in mythology. Because how young are you when you’re still thousands of years old? At this moment she was thinking what innocence she had lost. In the third age the elves have evolved to a certain extent. Elves in the first age are very messy, and screw each other a lot, and fight and make fun of each other. They are the history of Middle Earth, so they are always changing. For all of us who play canon characters, it’s really interesting to explore how we know these characters.
The show is such a big commitment — the showrunners have said they’re planning a 50-episode run. All of my questions were prepared assuming you knew a lot going into the show, so how much of that commitment factored into you signing on to produce “The Rings of Power”?
Yeah, I don’t know. When you choose something like that, you never understand what you’re going to get, so you don’t really think about those things. I personally refuse to allow myself to fantasize or daydream, otherwise, you’ll be too attached to everything you audit. I guess I’m still getting used to what that means. The next few weeks will be the biggest of it, but also a bit of a relief. You can see and experience things. It’s about time it happened. But I think I’m going through another familiar phase.
How long were you in New Zealand from start to finish?
It was for nine months, then in New Zealand from October 2019 to August 2021. Almost two years.
So what did you do to pass the time?
We were very busy so not much time passed. I was very lucky to get to travel around the South Island and it was amazing. I mean, in New Zealand, you’re in a constant state of excellence, you really are. This is especially important given that elves are obsessed with nature. Beauty is a huge part of their essence and they see it as a reason for being alive. So that was really encouraging. I did a lot of crafts. I was very lucky to become good friends with my neighbors who took me under their wing. You know, what I didn’t expect when I went to New Zealand was that when I come back I feel like I’m leaving home again. It is – yes. [Long pause.] I feel very lucky to be welcomed in New Zealand as I am.
Finally, you mentioned earlier that you wanted to play Galadriel’s daughter. She meets her husband and has a daughter as a sophomore — will we get any hints this season?
Galadriel’s family plays a huge role in who she is. There are five seasons and so much more to explore.
This interview has been edited and condensed.