For Benjamin Walker, the outstanding musical actor, the role of Gil Galad lands on The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power was a childhood dream come true.
According to Walker, the first “big boy book” was given to him by his older brother to read The Hobbitand the two used to play their own version of Lord of the Rings as children running through the Georgia woods, while Walker is usually crawling on his hands and knees as Gollum. Gil-galad is a far cry from Gollum, of course. In the Amazon Prime Video prequel series, which cost a record $465 million to produce, he is the last High King of the Noldor, a prominent group of elves. His exploits are described in The Silmarilliona collection of short stories by JRR Tolkien set in the world of Lord of the Rings that forms the basis The Rings of Power. In the series, Gil-galad’s elven folk enjoy a period of peace – although Galadriel (Morfydd Clark), “the mightiest and fairest” of the elves, is on the hunt for Sauron and his dark army of orcs.
At 40, it’s the biggest project of Walker’s career — one in which he played Andrew Jackson and Patrick Bateman on Broadway, as well as villain Erik Gelden jessica jones and the titular killer in Abraham Lincoln vampire hunter. And Walker, who is married to actress Kaya Scodelario, had a blast filming the sprawling series in New Zealand.
“It was profound. The Kiwis welcomed us and hugged us like family,” he says, adding, “It’s like… if you saw a unicorn walking by, you wouldn’t be surprised. It’s a magical place. And their love for one another, their respect for one another and their respect for their country will always be with me.”
Although our conversation took place in August, before racist fans’ attacks on the series’ characters of color and Elon Musk’s incel-like criticism, Walker touched on why toxic fans have no business Lord of the Rings Universe and what it was like to star in the greatest TV show of all time.
So that’s a pretty big deal.
Yes! Part of my job is saying how good things are, no matter how good they are, but it really is unbelievable well, so it’s a very easy job.
I watched the first two episodes and was impressed by the scope and setting of the world.
Dude, it just gets better and better and better.
How much of a Lord of the rings You were a nerd before you started Rings of Power?
When I was a kid – I have an older brother and he is an avid reader infinitely smarter than I will ever be and the first big boy book he ever gave me was The Hobbit. He introduced me Lord of the Rings and we played that in the woods. I have this family connection. So my goal was the books. Luckily for us, the foundation of what we do is based on the source material. I basically get paid to read Tolkien. It is great.
who would you be when you play Lord of the rings with your brother in the forest?
Yes! [Laughs] Just an animal crawling on all fours with bloody knees.
That’s incredible. So I can imagine that there was a lot of pressure on this series given what Peter Jackson has done with his films. Did you have any concerns about this?
My statement about pressure is: Pressure creates a diamond. It’s not a bad thing. Nobody pressures us like we do, so no. Tolkien’s universe is dense enough and beautiful enough to support various iterations of it, so I welcome the push. We want to do it just like the people who love it, want it from us. I mean we are fans. It’s not a us and you thing.
What was it like filming during the pandemic? Did that introduce any obstacles?
We were in New Zealand so we had a little more freedom than the rest of the world. Amazon is truly COVID conscious and wanted everyone to stay healthy and safe. The good thing was that the cast as a whole was isolated from their families, homes and friends, so we had this bond where we really, really like each other and know each other really well. Our kids play together and we feel like we have that strong unit that the show needs.
Were there cliques? Did, say, the elves all hang out together and whatnot?
No, we mixed them all! Although I found out about a Númenórean chat a few days ago that I don’t participate in, which kind of pissed me off. [Laughs] You know… human frailty.
“Although I found out about a Númenórean chat a few days ago that I don’t participate in, which kind of pissed me off.”
I know the show has a five-season order, so how long are you tied to it?
I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s certainly been daunting for a commitment this big – to your family, your time, and the amount of work and dedication it requires. But I had a phone conversation with JD [Payne] early and he gave me his vision for the show and I couldn’t really hear him on the phone because that speaker was in the background. I say, “JD, I’m having trouble hearing you… where are you?” He says, “I’m in a hospital.” I say, “Are you alright?” He says: “My wife just had a baby. But Gil-galad…” I guess, man, if he’s that committed, at least I can get on a plane.
Have you contacted anyone in the OG cast of? Lord of the rings for advice on this?
No I haven’t. But do you know what I did? For example, Silmarillion is a very dense read, and the fans and fandom have been really helpful. I found a guy online who made a graphic novel of Silmarillion and used it as a Cliff’s Notes guide for the book. It was nice to cross-pollinate between work and people who love work.
Can you describe Gil-Galad for me and where the character goes?
Gil-galad consists of two persons: he is a peacetime consigliere and a warrior general. He is an older elf and one of the elves who chose to remain in Middle-earth rather than return to Valinor. He is tasked with shepherding Middle-earth through peace and into the future. And when we meet him in the beginning, it’s a time of peace that makes him very restless for all his experience. There is a quote by Thomas Jefferson: “The price of peace and justice is constant vigilance.” I think he definitely lives by that code.
And he certainly has a complicated relationship with Galadriel.
I think he understands her, but… she’s making him nervous.
You’ve now played Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln and an elf king. I’m curious as to what you think leads to you being cast as men of great stature and power.
[Laughs] I do not know! I guess I never thought about it. They are all very complicated leaders. They all carried their burden differently. But I do not know! Maybe I’m tall? I do not know. People tend to give actors too much responsibility for their careers. They think we’re turning down thousands of jobs. I’ve just been fortunate to work with great people.
Do you think Damn damn Andrew Jackson could be done today?
I do not know. Especially because it’s about populism, I think today would be poignant. Andrew Jackson was the original Donald Trump in a way, so I think people need to study his legacy. And the [emo] music still holds.
Were there ever plans to do more? Abraham Lincoln vampire hunter?
Umm… there’s definitely that point at the end where you wonder if he’s become a vampire or not, but I think at that point it just needs to live on in the fans’ minds. It’s a shame… I think they should! I would watch it.
Lord of the Rings has a following historical was a source of positivity compared to other fandoms.
Tolkien’s stories are about hope conquering evil – about how light eradicates darkness – and those stories can exist in the imagination, so I definitely understand why it’s so universally loved.
Every fandom has toxic elements, despite appearances Lord of the rings‘ isn’t quite as bad as, say, some of the war of stars fans.
Well I hope not. Tolkien’s whole premise is that Middle-earth can only survive if these diverse and diverse societies have to work together. That is the premise from the imagination. If you understand this from the books or from the movies, it would be a real shame if you found anything negative about it.
That is indeed a beautiful message – and one that this country could use right now.
And given how isolated people are feeling. If you open one of Tolkien’s books or a history book, any society that isolates itself from a global community and market will fester and die of the vine. So it’s nice that we can see those stories mapped and that there is Hope.
I read you are 6ft 3. What’s it like being a tall guy in Hollywood? All are so small.
[Laughs] I’m just lucky to have work! Every now and then there is someone who has to stand on a box. But when you talk about scale work, human dimensions are played with so much that you’ll never know.
Lord of the Rings is a pretty bucket list job. Is there anything else you’re dying to conquer other than playing an elf king in a sprawling Tolkien series?
I look forward to getting back on stage whenever that happens. We’re doing the press tour for season 1 and pre-production for season 2, and that needs my full attention right now. And honestly I’m more than happy to give it.
https://www.thedailybeast.com/obsessed/benjamin-walker-on-the-rings-of-power-toxic-fans-and-king-gil-galads-battle-for-peace?source=articles&via=rss Benjamin Walker on ‘The Rings of Power’, Toxic Fans and King Gil-galad’s Battle for Peace