SPOILER ALERT: The interview includes details about the Season 1 finale of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.
In one of the biggest twists in the Season 1 finale of Prime Video’s LOTR: The Rings Of Power, Halbrand (Charlie Vickers), the charismatic King of the Southlands with strong Aragorn vibes about him, was revealed to be uber villain Sauron. His true identity was discovered by Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) who became suspicious as Halbrand was eagerly helping Celebrimbor and his team forge the three elven rings.
In an interview with Deadline, Vickers speaks about the big revelation, how long he has known about his character’s true identity and how the information helped shape his performance. He discusses Sauron’s emotional coming-out scene with Galadriel, his motives and the rationale behind his decision to save Galadriel at sea and then try to kill Adar. Additionally, he shares some clues about Halbrand being Sauron that fans may have missed throughout the season.
For a full breakdown of the finale, watch Deadline’s Inside The Ring, The Rings Of Power aftershow whose season finale will be released Oct. 15 at 10 AM PT.
DEADLINE: How did you find out that your character was Sauron?
VICKERS: It took a while, actually. We filmed the first two episodes, then went on a six-month, five-month hiatus because of Covid in New Zealand, and then with maybe two months to go of the hiatus before starting episode three, the showrunners said, ‘We want you to come in, we want to have a meeting with you’. And they took me into the set that Galadriel discovers in the first episode, with the orcs through the walls and Sauron’s Sigil. They took me in there and they said, ‘This is your world. You’re playing Sauron.’
DEADLINE: What was your reaction when you found out? Were you like, I kind of knew it or were you feeling like, whoa?
VICKERS: I kind of knew. I definitely had a feeling because my last two audition speeches that I did, they had me do at the end. One was Richard III from Henry VI, Part 3. And the second one was Paradise Lost by Milton, and it was literally Satan. Two very evil characters, so I had an inkling. Then there were a few other clues. But I did film my stuff on the raft in the second episode, I filmed that without fully knowing who I was.
DEADLINE: Knowing that you were Sauron after you came back from hiatus, how did that inform your performance and how did you keep your character’s true identity a secret throughout?
VICKERS: I think it was a process. Once I found out I was Sauron, I had time to do a lot of subconscious work. I pulled through as much material as I could. So I read you know, I reread The Silmarillion and the parts really relevant to him. I read through Tolkien’s letters. I read one of the installments of the history of Middle Earth called Morgoth’s Ring, which has a lot of stuff on Sauron. So I basically filled up my mind with as much sound as I could, and I went where they filmed Mount Doom in Tongariro National Park, I went for a hike there for four days.
I did all that and then I kind of just let that settle in my subconscious. And to be honest, it didn’t really influence my decision-making on set. On the day, I was still very much playing it whole heartedly Halbrand, as I was on the raft. I guess I just had to hope that the work I’d done would have embedded and influenced my character in some way.
Because the way I like to look at it is that, in order to deceive Galadriel, Pharazon, Miriel and all these people he meets who are legends of lore, I think he would have to be fully invested in this character that he is this human character of Halbrand, feeling, experiencing living things as a human. That was useful for me because it simplified what I have to do because it’s hard to play two things at once, but I would have hoped that the undercurrent was always there.
DEADLINE: Talk about that emotional scene with Morfydd in the finale in which Halbrand’s identity is revealed and he tries to manipulate Galadriel into joining him in Mordor?
VICKERS: It’s a scene where I think you finally see his true intentions. It has a lot of stuff in the scene. He talks to her about healing Middle Earth, and that comes back to a lot of what Tolkien said about it in that at the beginning of the Second Age, he’d been brought low and he lingered in Middle Earth, and his power then very slowly reemerged.
So we see him wrapped, basically pitching his vision. And I think he wholeheartedly believes that he’s doing good. He wants to rehabilitate and rid Middle Earth of all the wasteful friction because he’s obsessed with order. And I think he genuinely believes that if Galadriel joins him, that’ll help him achieve his goals. I think they have a cosmic connection, but I don’t think it’s necessarily in his mind a king and a queen like husband and wife kind of situation. I think it’s more, I can use you to get what I want and intact my designs faster because ultimately I think he would have ended up ruling by himself whether she joined him or not. And when she says ‘no’ on the raft, it angers him. But it’s not the end of the world for him I think.
DEADLINE: How was it going back and filming the raft scene in finale knowing who Halbrand truly is?
VICKERS: The raft was very strenuous filming and we thought we were done with it. And then right towards the end the show, I think it was Patrick said to me, you guys are going back on the raft with no context. It’s a very beautifully written scene, but it was a challenge getting back on that raft after, I think, what it had been like 18 months.
DEADLINE: There are obvious similarities, like Halbrand and Sauron are both skilled smiths. What are some of the more subtle clues about Halbrand’s true identity that you as an actor dropped along the way during the season that we may have missed?
VICKERS: I think you see him, it’s interesting with Halbrand, because you only see him through the lens of other characters. You rarely see him alone. In fact, I think you only see him alone once when he’s sitting with his pouch. And even then you see him in conflict. And that’s interesting because it’s interesting to try and judge as a viewer.
I was hoping that this would happen when creating the character. Are people going to be like, is he genuinely repentant, is genuinely trying to be a good man and start a new life? Or is he just manipulating his way through it? So when you look at that scene and you think, well, he’s conflicted, he’s just by himself, he’s not showing this to anyone, you could argue that, well, perhaps he is genuinely repentant.
But I remembered making that scene and thinking, in Middle Earth, there is always someone watching and the gods are watching and he fears the gods.
So I think for me, as I was performing it, it was about accentuating the subtle differences within that repentance and not being too obvious with either manipulation or overt conflicts. Like, I really want to be a good man. I think I tried to walk the line. And as well as that the showrunners put in and the writers put in some really cool little hints along the way, lines like to Galadriel, ‘I’m sorry about your brother.’ Or I think his second line on the raft is ‘Looks can be deceiving’. I had some friends text me as soon as I said that line saying you’re Sauron. And I couldn’t tell them.
DEADLINE: Sauron is always calculating. So why did he really rescue Galadriel?
VICKERS: I think she’s survival to him in that moment. He’s been brought low, and he is at his lowest ebb, which is really similar to how Tolkien describes him at the beginning of the second age. He’s lingering, and very slowly he comes back to power, and I think when he’s on the raft, you see him at that bottom point.
I’m excited to see and answer the questions as to why he was on the raft. But I think in that exact moment, he feels this cosmic connection to this person. He spent so many years alone, meeting people that I’m not like him, that when he meets someone with extreme, incredible power, you get a thrill, you get a rush and you say, I want to be with this person.
So she’s survival. But also she can open doors. She can get him in the right rooms. She she knows people. And I think he sees an opportunity to exploit that.
DEADLINE: Being Sauron, why was Halbrand so reluctant to return to the Southlands and why did he try to kill one of his lieutenants, Adar, before Galadriel stopped him?
VICKERS: I think his reluctance, it can be viewed two ways. And it also, again, it depends whether his repentance is genuine or not. If he’s genuinely repentant and saying, I don’t want to go back to that, I know that it’s bad for me, the power will corrupt me again, and I’ll go down a rabbit hole. And he’s saying, I just want to be good, I’m sorry and I want to start fresh. That’s why he’s reluctant to go, otherwise it could be a ruse to further fool Galadriel and rule out the possibility that he could be anything other than this king, this reluctant king in her mind, paint a picture to her.
When he goes and he meets Adar, I think they have a rich history of which we will see more in the future. So I don’t want to spoil that. They have a really complex relationship, and there is a lot of hatred and mixed feelings between them. And I think that’s an example of Sauron within Halbrand being a bad guy and his ruthless streak of just like, if I don’t like someone or have a problem, I’m going to end you and Galadriel saves Adar in that situation.
DEADLINE: Throughout season one, there’s an evolution of Halbrand and Galadriel’s relationship, they saved each other’s lives, but now they’re mortal enemies. How are we going to see that relationship develop in Season 2?
VICKERS: I think it’ll be really exciting. We only have the first few scripts of the second season, so I don’t really know exactly where it’s going to go, but I certainly hope that they meet again. They’ve set up this great relationship that would hopefully be able to endure over five seasons. And when they do meet, they have this really rich history. I hope we have a confrontation in the next season. I don’t know, but I imagine when they see each other, it’s going to be frosty, it’s going to be an icy relationship.
DEADLINE: You spoke about Halbrand as Sauron talking about healing Middle Earth. What does that mean going forward into season two?
VICKERS: I think it’s an example of his belief in his fair motives, Tolkien writes a lot about Sauron, that he had good intentions, at least at the beginning. And I think it’s really nice because it sets the show up moving forward to watch his descent into real darkness. And obviously he’s done a lot of horrible things already.
But we’re in this repentance stage, and whether or not his repentance is genuine is a nice thing to leave unanswered. In saying healing, I think he means reorganization and rehabilitation of the world in that he will do whatever it takes because I think in his mind that’s why Galadriel says ‘heal or rule’.
And for him I think if he’s in charge, he can heal the world, he can order things. And I think he views it as this is not going to be just great for me, it’s going to be great for everyone else, I’m going to fix the chaos in the Southlands, in the East. Everyone will fit together in perfect harmony as long as you guys let me tell everyone what to do.
DEADLINE: In that scene by the stream, Halbrand almost kills Galadriel. He’s pure evil. You had put a human face on him with Halbrand, a character many of the fans fell in love with. Is he still in there somewhere? Is there anything good and redeemable about him as he’s transformed into Sauron?
VICKERS: I think that’s subjective, depending on the viewer. Certainly from Halbrand’s perspective, from Sauron’s perspective, there is a lot of good in him. He thinks that he’s doing good. I think when he takes those steps down into Mordor, his plan is very much, I’m going to do this not to be evil.
It’s to do this for the good of all inhabitants of Middle Earth. Whether you look at it from the outside, I think you can judge that he tries to kill Galadriel. That is evil. And I think Tolkien says that Sauron should be thought of as terrible, and I think there’s no debating the fact that eventually and at his core, Sauron is very evil. And he is the epitome of evil. But in his mind, he doesn’t believe that.
DEADLINE: Talk about portraying that transition into evil.
VICKERS: It was really fun. I think I can really remember that day, that Morfydd and I filmed the scene down by the river, and that was the first time I really got to experience that switch into shedding the cloak of Halbrand and the line that he says, ‘I’ve been awake since the breaking of the first silence.’ That was a really profound moment for me because it was like, wow, it really gave me a perspective on just how long this character had been alive and the things he had seen and allowing that to settle felt to me completely different from Halbrand. And it was like any pretense, any guided missile shield that he had put up was gone.
And below is someone with good intentions. But to the viewer, probably quite dark intentions to rule and to dominate. And for me as an actor, I mean, it was just an absolutely thrill to play it. And I’m fully nerding out and being able to talk about it for the first time.
Dominic Patten contributed to this report.