Rings of Power's Stranger Actor on Wizarding Magic and Season 2

Rings of Power’s Stranger Actor on Wizarding Magic and Season 2

Daniel Weyman has either the easiest or the hardest job on The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Since falling from the sky like a meteor, Weyman’s the Stranger has spent most of Season 1 learning about the land’s location and overturning life for Nori (Markella Kavenagh) and her isolated community on the harfoot, giving him only a few lines of dialogue and the occasional mystical magical moment.

But Weyman’s time is up The rings of power press tour was almost as rigorous – as in, anything he could say would be a spoiler. Is his character Gandalf? Sauron? sarumaan? Radagast? Tom Bombadil? Other? The curiosity has been endless, but if your character is a walking mystery box, that’s part of what you’re signing up for. The rings of power season 1 finale answered a few questions – we know the stranger is not Sauron, but is an Istar (or wizard), such as Gandalf.

How did Weyman, whose previous work ranges from HBO’s? Mr Jack to the Sandman audio drama, approach the ambiguity? And what can we expect for season 2? Polygon spoke to the actor, who was in London where the next season of The rings of power is currently being filmed, asking everything we can imagine him answering about Middle-earth’s greatest unknown.

[Ed. note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity, and contains spoilers for all of The Rings of Power season 1.]


Polygon: The Stranger isn’t just a mysterious character; he’s kind of like a walking mystery box. How much did the creative team want you to find out about him, and how much did? you want to know?

Daniel Weyman: Pretty early on, the showrunners made it clear that we were really interested in following his story into the present. So they weren’t massively interested in handing over where this character was going to go or anything we needed to tie there. I think they’ve made beautiful resonances appear in many different scenes and episodes, not just for my character, but for others as well, so fans can go back and look at the source material and make up their own mind. Many of them are very different. Until this one comes out, I think there was a healthy amount who thought the Stranger could be very dark.

So it feels like it’s going through, and it was actually quite fun to film because every time I’ve gotten to a scene, starting in the crater, I haven’t had to think about anything more than what’s in front of me in the script. He knows nothing when he wakes up. All I had to focus on was what that feeling in his body might be like, getting around in a crater with smoke, with fire, with rock, looking like a terrible war zone, and then this very strange creature to him that I think at first that he can’t even separate from nature itself. Is this thing he’s looking at like fire or like air or like water? It’s very basic. The great joy is to build on that next season. But I don’t need to project into the future.

Image: Prime Video

Are you an actor looking to real life to build a character? Was there anything to draw on while playing an amnesiac bearded wizard from Middle-earth?

I found that we were in New Zealand where we were welcomed with incredible open arms, and we could experience some of the old Maori culture that is there, something about the land and the way they use land or respect land the fact that my character was barefoot, the fact that I grew my beard so it was longer than I’ve ever grown before, plus the fact that I wore clothes that weren’t really clothes, just things to keep it warm, all that kept me going in the best way that was in nature. I felt I was part of the world.

The showrunners had also given me some movie references when we auditioned. One of the things I held on to the most was Frankensteinthe 1931 movie, especially where we see [the monster with the little girl]. Especially in that scene, we can’t tell if the monster is bad or good. We can certainly say that some of the effects of his behavior are terrible. But once that behavior is completed, the rest of society treats him in a very different way, turning him into an evil creature. They’re writing his future for him, aren’t they? But I really liked the joy he has from smelling that flower. I was really excited when I saw the flower floating on the water, and when he sees the kid for the first time, and they have this moment where you think this is going to be awful. Then you think, Wait a minute, is that a smile? And then he picks her up and you say, Oh this is going to be alright, and then, no, he dumps her in the lake and she drowns. That was a little touchstone for me, for the Stranger, which I found very useful.

Understandably, most of what you could say about the Stranger is spoilers for future seasons, so here are some burning questions about Season 1: How much pain in the butt was the beard?

I started growing it in October 2019. I started auditioning in August ’19, but in October it was clear that a beard could be useful for the role. And so I started growing it, and it only itched for a few days. But my beard is very gray, it’s almost a white beard. But of course we painted that.

Your beard cannot be gray or white.

So we dyed that and they kept cutting that naturally to the length they wanted. But when I wasn’t filming, I let it grow. And then we had COVID and during the time we weren’t filming I let it grow, and it was insane. It was the most ridiculous beard. Friends wouldn’t recognize me. I liked going there with him. It changed my physicality, and who I thought I was.

The Stranger confronts three white-cloaked warriors who stand in a triangular pattern in the forest in Rings of Power

Image: Ben Rothstein/Prime Video

You fight Sauron’s disciples in the season finale – what’s the key to waving your hands around like you have magical powers and looking cool?

The first thing for me was that we weren’t trying to make anything look cool. But there was a brilliant exercise coach […] but she had great insights into how to do physical movements the right way, rooted in something other than “But I want to make it look really cool and really magical!”

The rule of thumb for us has always been that the magic – and we didn’t really call it magic, we called it the energy flowing through him – was always external. He always channeled energy from nature, above or below himself, and he was the channel. He was the dowser for this energy. It often flowed through him without really understanding why or how to control it. But it also meant that his physicality was not really his own. It was how he reacted to this crazy amount of energy flowing through him. And so it was different at different times. I hope we can find that out as season 2 progresses.

What was it like throwing a warg? It looked heavy.

I’m glad you say that, because that was tough. And they made it difficult. Most of that was a blue screen because I was obviously on a different scale than Markella Kavenagh and the rest of the harfoots so when we finally got around to filming they knew the shot they wanted had them in the background so I had to be on the foreground against the blue screen and the animal was held by a small blue person wearing an all-blue bodysuit. And they held up this animal. It had a little bit of fur on its back but it was actually a big blue bag and it was very heavy and they kept putting more weight in it because they said it didn’t look heavy enough to me. I can’t remember how tough it got, but I do remember saying after several takes, “Guys, this is pretty tough!” And they said, “Yes, but it’s reading!”

Think you’ll get a hat in season 2? Looks like you can get a hat.

What else, huh? That’s a really good question. I haven’t thought about it at all. In several places people asked me about shoes. “Wouldn’t he have shoes by now?” And I was always like, “No, he’s just with the harfoots.” The only creatures he knows are the harfoots and they have no shoes! Why would he? How would he? Where would he?

Yes, we were wondering if the Stranger has ever put on underpants.

Yes, it was a nice pair of knickers he was wearing.

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