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While Galadriel has become one of the most well-known characters in The Lord of the Rings universe, thanks in part to her stately portrayal by Cate Blanchett, Morfydd Clark was drawn to the younger version of the character because of her still jagged edges.
In Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Clark portrays the elven warrior in the Second Age of Middle Earth, thousands of years before the Third Age and the events of the well-known Peter Jackson films. Galadriel herself is already centuries old in the series and has already begun a quest to defeat Sauron, one of the franchise’s great villains, but she’s still young in her evolution and hasn’t yet found serenity or notably learned how to reign in her temper.
In the third episode, released Thursday, Clark, a Welsh actress known for her role as an obsessive hospice nurse in the psychological thriller Saint Maud, said she particularly relished showcasing Galdriel’s surprising arrogance while standing in front of royalty as the only elf on Númenor, a kingdom of humans predisposed against her kind.
“I’m quite interested in people not getting it right,” Clark said.
Clark, a self-described fan who said she has seen the original Lord of the Rings films “tens and tens of times,” said she hasn’t spoken with Blanchett about the role, as that would “be like meeting Galadriel herself,” but drew upon her portrayal in the films to help build the evolution of her character from a feisty fighter to wise ruler.
The actress, who spent close to two years shooting the first season alongside a large cast in New Zealand, said she does not yet know all of the details of her character’s development (Amazon has promised five seasons of the series), but knows the general arc.
“Humility is going to be a big part of her arc, I’d say, learning the limits of herself,” she said.
Clark, who has been throwing watch parties with friends to watch new episodes, spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about what it took to become Galadriel, from swim and fight training to balancing the character’s naivety with her immortality.
I heard that you didn’t find out you had the role of Galadriel until pretty late in the process, is that right?
I didn’t find out I was playing Galadriel until I arrived in New Zealand for the shoot. So it was quite a recalibration. But then part of me doesn’t know if I could have ever kept my nerve if I’d known that I was auditioning for Galadriel the whole time. Everyone was kind of in the same boat. So it was quite fun, because you had this group of people that all moved to New Zealand not knowing what we were doing.
Did you know you were auditioning for one of the elves?
They didn’t say explicitly that it was an elf, but because of being quite obsessed with The Lord of the Rings, I had kind of deciphered that it was. But all they said was that they wanted someone who had experience with Shakespeare because they read the elves as speaking almost in a kind of an Iambic Pentameter type of rhythm.
Once you found out, how did you begin to approach the role?
I’ve been obsessed with the idea of immortality forever. I think it started with Never, Neverland and then with vampires and stuff. And then it was this idea of, can there be any element of youth when you’re already thousands of years old? And then it was looking at how different people at different times through history could show their naivety.
The elves, there’s an arrogance to them, because they are in some ways superior, but ultimately they have to gain some perspective. And so it was seeing what mistakes even the wisest people could make that I focused on.
You were already a Lord of the Rings fan going into this?
I’d seen all the films. My dad had read The Hobbit to me and then I had the audiobooks of all of The Lord the Rings books. I had four fantasy series that sent me to sleep throughout my school exams that made me very stressed. So it’s kind of always been an escape for me, for most of my life: fantasy, but particularly The Lord of the Rings.
You had obviously seen Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of Galadriel in the films. What did you learn about your character from watching her portrayal and how did that inform your take?
I think that it was the serenity that she has in the Third Age. It was something really interesting for me to imagine my character not fully encompassing yet because I also feel that when any being human goes through a spate of feeling all over the place, you don’t feel that serenity is ever going to be in your grasp. So that serenity would be kind of a surprise to the character as well.
In the second episode, we see your character become stranded at sea after making the pivotal decision to not join the other elves in the Undying Lands of Valinor. What was it like shooting those water scenes?
It was just so much fun. First of all, I got to learn how to swim properly, because unfortunately, playing Galadriel, she has to be good at everything. So I actually had an ex-Olympic swimmer called Trent Bray, who now teaches children, and that couldn’t have been more perfect for me on this. Me and Charlie [Vickers] were actually doing a lot of the stuff, but we also had swim doubles and stunt doubles. So it was a massive team effort.
Were you doing a lot of your own stunts in the rest of the episodes?
It varied. There are bits where both me and Rosalie, who’s my main stunt double, are in the shots because it makes Galadriel look like she’s super fast. And, then there’s one fight in episode five, where I do all of it. And I can’t believe I got to do that.
We had the most extensive stunt team, and they were the first people that we met in New Zealand. They really created a little community for us. So there was a stunt gym that individual people would be learning their particular stunts for, but anyone could turn up. And so it became a real hub for the cast getting to know each other.
The cast released a statement speaking out against racist comments that were made about some of the cast members in the series. Is there anything more that you’d like to say about that or can you talk about the decision to release that statement?
I think we’ve made our position clear with that statement. And I’m really glad that we did it eventually as a whole cast. We all were united and knew that we wanted to do something. I hope that it has given people some comfort and fortified people a little.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.
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