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Amazon's Lord of the Rings TV series: cast, plot, release date, trailer, and all you need to know about the LOTR prequel

 Amazon's Lord of the Rings TV series
(Image credit: Amazon Studios)

Amazon's Lord of the Rings TV series is one of the most highly-anticipated shows on (Middle) Earth right now. We're edging closer and closer to the proposed release date and there are little bits of info coming out that are giving us more reasons to get excited about the upcoming fantasy saga!

Peter Jackson's film trilogy smashed box office records and won a host of Oscars when it hit cinemas nearly two decades ago. After a long break from JRR Tolkien's fantasy world, we'll be heading back to it once again in a new series that's exclusive to Prime Video

Don't expect to see any of your favorite characters from Peter Jackson's films showing up on your screen, though. The show will be set during Middle Earth’s Second Age —much earlier than The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings movies. 

Here's everything we know about Amazon's prequel series right now...

Amazon's Lord of the Rings TV series release date

Amazon Studios finally announced a release date when they announced the first season of their still-untitled Lord of the Rings TV series had wrapped earlier this year.

Right now, the show is set to premiere exclusively on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, September 2, 2022. New episodes will be available to watch each week.

“The journey begins September 2, 2022, with the premiere of our original The Lord of the Rings series on Prime Video,” said Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, in a press release. “I can’t express enough just how excited we all are to take our global audience on a new and epic journey through Middle-earth! Our talented producers, cast, creative, and production teams have worked tirelessly in New Zealand to bring this untold and awe-inspiring vision to life.” 

How many episodes will Amazon's Lord of the Rings TV series be? 

There were early reports that the series could start life as an epic fantasy tale spanning as many as 20 episodes. However, we now know that the first season of Amazon's Lord of the Rings TV series will be 8 episodes long.

The terms of Amazon's deal with the Tolkien Estate included a five-season commitment, and the second series of the show has already been given the green light and is set to enter production soon. 

Amazon bosses are thought to be keen to replicate the kind of success HBO and Sky Atlantic had with Game of Thrones

Amazon's Lord of the Rings TV series plot

Amazon's official synopsis for their Lord of the Rings spin-off confirms the story will take viewers back thousands of years...

"Amazon Studios’ forthcoming series brings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and will take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness. 

"Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone."

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Tolkien aficionados soon noticed the official series map (above) included the five-pointed-star-shaped southwest island kingdom of Númenor. An ancient kingdom of Men with long lifespans, Númenor flourished throughout much of the Second Age until it fell to Sauron's influence. Númenor's ruler, King Elendil, then set sail for Middle Earth, where he eventually founded the kingdom of Gondor.

Rumors are now swirling that the series could cover the fall of Númenor, the formation of Gondor, the kingdom which Aragorn became king of in the final film of Peter Jackson's series.

These theories would be supported by the fact that Gondor is nowhere to be seen on the above map and that a young Galadriel (who was played by Cate Blanchett in the movies) is among the cast of characters.

This evidence could mean that the Amazon series might be adapting Tolkien's famously dense novel, The Silmarillion. The posthumously published text offered up a lot more of the backstory to Middle Earth that wasn't covered in the movies. As fans of Tolkien's work will know, there is plenty more to learn about Sauron's conquest of Middle Earth than what we saw briefly at the start of the first movie, The Fellowship of the Ring.

Amazon's Lord of the Rings TV series timeline

As we've already mentioned, this prequel series won't take place during the time period we're used to seeing from Middle Earth media. That's because Amazon's Lord of the Rings TV series is actually set thousands of years before The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings during the Second Age. For reference, when Gollum first obtained his 'precious', the one ring, it had already been lost for more than 2000 years.

The Second Age is most notable for being the period during which Sauron rose to power. During the Second Age, he tricked Celebrimbor and some of the other elven blacksmiths into forging the Rings of Power, whilst he forged the One Ring to rule over all the others in secret. He also built up his fortress in Mordor and corrupted the people of Númenor.

Early reports about the show suggested that it would focus on a younger version of Aragorn, although those now seem very wide of the mark given the show's setting places it well before Aragorn's lifetime. It's far more likely that we'll be getting to know a brand new cast of characters and places as this is the first time these parts of Tolkien's world will appear on-screen.

Lord of the Rings TV series budget

Amazon beat off competition from Netflix to complete a reported $250 million rights deal with the Tolkien estate, publisher HarperCollins and New Line Cinema to bring The Lord of the Rings to the small screen back in 2017. 

The TV show is reported to be the most expensive in history and when production expenses such as casting, producers and visual effects are factored in, the series is expected to cost more than $1 billion!

Game of Thrones star Robert Aramayo.

Game of Thrones star Robert Aramayo is due to play series lead Beldor. (Image credit: HBO)

Where is the Lord of the Rings TV series being filmed? 

The first season was filmed in New Zealand, like Peter Jackson's blockbuster film series, yet in August 2021 Amazon announced that production would be coming to the UK for the second series. 

The move came as a surprise, not least as the studio had already invested heavily in sets and facilities for the first series. The steep costs are rumored to be a big factor, as the UK will be a more economical choice, yet New Zealand's strict Covid-19 lockdown policy is also thought to have played a part.

Many of the cast hailed from Britain and any time a member of the cast or crew left the country, they had to quarantine for 14 days upon returning to New Zealand, and there were limits as to how many people could come and go from the production at any given time.

Post-production on season one will continue in the Southern Hemisphere until next summer. According to this new arrangement, pre-production on season two of Amazon's Lord of the Rings TV series will begin concurrently within the UK early in 2022.

Vernon Sanders, VP, and co-head of TV, Amazon Studios said: “We want to thank the people and the government of New Zealand for their hospitality and dedication and for providing The Lord of the Rings series with an incredible place to begin this epic journey. We are grateful to the New Zealand Film Commission, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Tourism New Zealand, Auckland Unlimited, and others for their tremendous collaboration that supported the New Zealand film sector and the local economy during the production of season one.”

Albert Cheng, COO & co-head of TV, Amazon Studios added: “As we look to relocate the production to the U.K., we do not intend to actively pursue the season one MoU five percent financial uplift with the New Zealand government or preserve the terms around that agreement, however, we respectfully defer to our partners and will remain in close consultation with them around next steps.” 

On Nov. 24, Variety revealed the first two shooting locations for the second season.   of the show. According to sources close to the show, Bray Film Studios and Bovingdon Airfield will be the initial UK production facilities for season 2. Bray Film Studios has played home to Mamma Mia, Rocketman, Dracula, and Bodyguard, whilst Bovingdon Airfield is home to the ice rink where Dancing on Ice is filmed, and has been used for Justice League and Fast and Furious 6.

Game of Thrones star Joseph Mawle.

Game of Thrones star Joseph Mawle is set to play villain, Oren. (Image credit: HBO)

Amazon's Lord of the Rings TV series cast

The show's lead character Beldor will be played by Robert Aramayo. Robert played a young Ned Stark in Game of Thrones and more recently Rob in Netflix's Behind Her Eyes. Aramayo's role was originally offered to Will Poulter (Midsommar), but Poulter reportedly had to step away from the project due to scheduling conflicts.

Meanwhile, Years and Years star Maxim Baldry has been cast “in a significant role” and Joseph Mawle – who also starred in Game of Thrones as Ned Stark's brother Benjen - has also been cast, with rumors circulating that he is set to play the show's main antagonist, Oren. 

Meanwhile, Welsh actor Owain Arthur (A Confession), Nazanin Boniadi (Homeland), and Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Power) have also signed on.

One returning character fans of the films will be familiar with is Lady Galadriel. Although the role was played by Cate Blanchett in the original film trilogy, His Dark Materials star Morfydd Clark will bring a younger version of the character to life in the TV series.

Other stars include Ismael Cruz Córdova (Ray Donovan), Markella Kavenagh (The Cry), Ema Horvath (Don’t Look Deeper), Megan Richards (Wanderlust), Dylan Smith (Maze Runner), Charlie Vickers (Medici), Daniel Weyman (Silent Witness) and screen newcomers Tyroe Muhafidin and Sophia Nomvete will also appear. 

Morfydd Clark.

Morfydd Clark will play a young Lady Galadriel. (Image credit: Film4)

Australian actor Tom Budge (whose role has not been disclosed) was attached to the show, but he revealed in March 2021 that he'd exited the project.

Budge explained in an Instagram post: "It is with great sadness that I am writing to tell you I have departed Amazon's 'Lord Of The Rings' television series."

"After recently seeing the first episodes shot over the last year Amazon has decided to go in another direction with the character I was portraying..."

Who will direct Amazon's Lord of the Rings TV series?

At the 2019 summer Television Critics Association press tour, Amazon revealed the creative team behind the new Lord of the Rings prequel series.

The show features writers, directors, producers, costume designers, visual effects artists, and more with credits from shows and movies such as Game of Thrones, Westworld, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, The Avengers, Stranger Things, Fringe, and many more.

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Peter Jackson will not be working on the series, but fans will be pleased to hear that John Howe, who served as a conceptual designer for the original trilogy will be. 

Amazon revealed the directors for the first series across the year. They first revealed that Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom‘s J.A. Bayona would direct the first two episodes of the series. Bayona will also serve as an executive producer with his producing partner, Belén Atienza. 

On March 24, Amazon Studios revealed that they had brought British-Chinese director Wayne Che Yip (Doctor Who, Utopia, Hunters) on board to direct four episodes of the show.

Yip said: "It is a true honor to be invited into the world of Tolkien by J.D. & Patrick and Amazon Studios. Every day I look forward to working with the incredible team here in New Zealand as we humbly contribute to the legacy of the greatest stories ever told." 

The last director attached to the show was Charlotte Brändström. Amazon announced the Swedish-French director's involvement on May 13. Brändström is an International Emmy Award-nominee who's worked on shows like Outlander and The Witcher. She directed two episodes of the show.

“I’m very excited to be guided through Middle-earth by J.D.'s and Patrick’s vision and immerse myself in the iconic world of J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s a great privilege to be in New Zealand to work with Amazon Studios’ outstanding ensemble of creative talents,” said Brändström.

“There are countless things still to see in Middle-earth, and great works to do,” she added, quoting Gimli. 

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Who will score Amazon's Lord of the Rings TV series?

Although this new trip to Middle Earth won't be led by Peter Jackson, there may well be a familiar face behind the series' music!

Earlier this year, Deadline reported that Oscar-winning composer Howard Shore is in talks to provide the score for Amazon's Lord of the Rings TV series. 

Shore has provided the scores for more than 80 movies, including the soundtrack for both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogies which are his most successful works to date. 

If Howard Shore does join the series, expect even more iconic music to bring the world of Middle Earth to life! 

Amazon's Lord of the Rings TV series trailer

Amazon haven't released a trailer yet, but we'll be sure to post it here the minute they do!