On Thursday, Sept. 1 (formerly Sept. 2), Amazon Studios' The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power launches to Amazon Prime Video users in 240 countries and territories, and in multiple languages.
Set in the fictional world of Catholic author J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings books, the massively expensive ($465M for season one) new series also draws on the author's books, notes, appendices and other works to tell a story set during the Second Age of Middle-earth, thousands of years before the time of LOTR.
With the writer/producer team of Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne, and executive producer Lindsey Weber, at the helm, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power features younger versions of such familiar characters as the elves Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) -- refashioned as a sword-wielding warrior -- and Elrond (Robert Aramayo), along with new elves, dwarves and humans, and the addition of Harfoots (a kind of proto-Hobbit).
The chief antagonist is the evil Sauron. As The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power opens, the elves believe he has been defeated, but fans of Tolkien's later stories know better.
Much of the filming took place in New Zealand, where director Peter Jackson's film versions of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit were shot.
At the recent TV Critics Association Press Tour, producers and cast members gathered to answer questions. Here's some of what they had to say.
Morfydd Clark on Galadriel's unheeded (but accurate) warnings in the show about Sauron:
Obviously, the elves that we know in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings have been through a lot to get there, and that their serenity and wisdom are hard-earned.
I wanted to look at the arrogance of the elves. So, she is right, but also, she should take some advice occasionally.
J.D. Payne on the enduring fascination with heroic fantasy tales:
Fantasy has this ability to get past people's biases, defenses and preconceived notions about our world and take them to a different world.
It's a world where other things are possible. Because of that, it hits you on this mythological level, this really primal, emotional, spiritual level.
It's because of that, that people turn to Tolkien in difficult times. His work is endlessly applicable across cultures and across times.
Nanzanin Boniadi, who plays the human healer Bronwyn, on how these tales appeal to her:
I read the fantastic essay On Fairy-Stories by Tolkien. The thing that resonates with me personally is fantasy and myth cushion you into a world where you can comfortably explore your existential longing.
What is it to be human? For me, that's timeless. ...
All these themes that we embody ... our characters are archetypes of the most basic human dilemmas.
Robert Aramayo on what stayed with him:
One of the things I've been thinking a lot about recently is how much [Tolkien's] work resonates with being disconnected from the natural world.
All of those themes in his writing -- they're beautiful and can help us today.
Ismael Cruz Cordova, who plays the elf Arondir, on his personal Tolkien history:
You find a little home in Tolkien. I grew up in Puerto Rico in houses with mud floors and experienced so many hardships in my life.
And every time I saw Tolkien -- because I saved all my money to buy my first DVD, The Lord of the Rings -- I felt myself in there.
I felt that spiritual and emotional connection, especially with the elves coming from the mountains. I found a little home there.
Patrick McKay on being the new stewards of Middle-earth:
We've really immersed ourselves in this literature and this world for the past three, four years, in the case of some of us. We all, to a one, feel that it's special, it's different.
We feel enormously humbled to be the stewards of a small part of it for a moment. There's a great responsibility to that, and one we all take really seriously.
There's no cynicism in this room, as it pertains to the history of this property and this man's life work.
J.D. Payne on the universality of Tolkien:
There's not a human on planet Earth that escapes unscathed in this life. Struggle is a universal human experience.
The magical thing about Tolkien is he finds you where you are, whatever the struggle s, you can see yourself in the characters, and the characters, in you.
Their journeys become your journeys. We've all experienced that over the last couple of years, and it's been a privilege. It's been amazing.
Parents be warned: I've seen the first two hours (click here for a review). While there are many enchanting elements to the show -- and, so far, there is no overt sexuality or profanity -- there is a fair amount of violence, some of it graphic, and several very scary moments. This may be a fairy tale, but it's not for very young or sensitive children.
Image: Photo credit: Ben Rothstein/Prime Video. Copyright: Amazon Studios
Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Content Manager at Family Theater Productions.