Sauron speaks! That ‘Rings of Power’ actor opens up about the big finale reveal
Warning : This story contains spoilers from the season 1 finale of The Lord of the Rings .
The Dark Lord is returning home to his dark throne.
Fans quickly speculated about Sauron’s inability to hide himself from plain sight. Was he the mysterious Stranger who fell from heaven? What about Adar, the mysterious orc leader? We may not have met him yet, or he could be lurking in the wings, ready for discord and to plot his rise to power.
The season 1 finale ultimately answers that question: The Rings of Power reveals that Sauron is Halbrand, the Southlander castaway played by Charlie Vickers. His true identity is revealed to the audience by Galadriel (Morfydd) at the same moment. She discovers that the man who saved and defended her life, and the man she wants to restore as king of Southlands, is actually her greatest enemy. He has not only returned to Middle-earth but also quickly made friends with Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards), encouraging him to forge the Rings of Power ..
EW spoke with Vickers before the finale, when the Australian actor opened up about his role as one of fantasy’s greatest villains, and how he kept Halbrand’s identity secret from his costars.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
Sauron reigns in ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’
| Credit: Prime Video
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Take me back to when you were first cast in the show. Did Patrick McKay and JD Payne sit you down and say, “Okay, so you’re playing Sauron?”?
CHARLIE VICKERS: No! There were six to seven auditions. They gave me two monologues at the end. I was given a monologue from RichardIII at the end. It shows him standing over a body and basically being really evil. The second one was from Paradise Lost the poem of Milton and it was literally Satan. When I was delivering those speeches, I knew that the character had a dark arc. [Laughs] But it wasn’t until after our hiatus. After filming the first two episodes, we were forced to take a hiatus due to COVID. I thought I was Halbrand, a Southlands human, the whole time.
But then, the guys sat down with me right before we started filming our third episode and said to me, “There’s more to it.” You’re playing Sauron. Because of my audition material, and a few other things I had, I had an inkling. It was great to confirm it. Did your castmates know your true identity or was it kept secret?
No, no one knew! Because she was my scene partner, I believe Morfydd [Clark] did know. It’s interesting to see Halbrand through the eyes of other characters. They play an important role in how the audience views him and Sauron. Morfydd knew this, but no one else did. It’s been in my head for a while. Evidently, more people knew by the end the season. I believe the entire cast now knows. It’s going be great to be able share it with everyone else.
It’s amazing that you didn’t know his identity when you shot the first few episodes. We’ve seen Halbrand go on a almost redemptive journey throughout the season. At times, it seems he is seeking forgiveness or peace. Is that true? Or is it a smokescreen?
I find it fascinating to look at. It’s fascinating because Tolkien refers to Sauron as repentant. He clearly states that he is sorry and ashamed. He says it in The Silmarillion, and he says it in some notes in Morgoth’s Ring. He always adds the words “out fear” after “repentance.” Fear can lead to genuine repentance. I believe he fears the gods, and he fears retribution. He kneels before Eonwe, and is humbled and taken to his knees. Halbrand, I believe, is an example of him on this repentant stage.
Whether you believe that repentance is genuine or not, his actions show it. It is possible to look back at his actions and see that they could be genuine repentance. If you think of him manipulating everything and using Galadriel for his return… Of course, there are coincidences along the way that play into his hands. He is capable of manipulating people. I have a clear answer, but I like to leave it open for the audience to create a bit more interesting discussion. It’s cool to look back and let the interpretations take place, I think.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
Charlie Vickers as Halbrand in ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’
| Credit: Prime Video
I’m fascinated by the relationship between Galadriel and Halbrand. The finale has him asking her to rule with him. What was it that you liked about this relationship?
The dynamic is fascinating because she is accidentally pulling him back to this darkness. She doesn’t know it, but she’s giving the keys to the kingdom to him. It is unclear if he intends for her to do this. She is telling him, “Come rule.” Numenor is not a place of peace. You can only find peace across the seas as the “king of the Southlands”, which inadvertently turns into Mordor. “Come and rule the kingdom of Mordor.” She doesn’t know that he’s coming back, but she is. I think he makes a pitch to her when he presents himself in the last episode. He says, “Let’s do it. You can be the queen and I’ll become the king. It’s not out of romance. It’s not a proposal. It’s for his personal gain. He believes he can rule more effectively if he has her by his side. It is not the end of the universe if she doesn’t say yes. He is evil and terrible. In the end, he will be in control. He will find a way to do this, regardless of whether she is with him. It will be more effective if she’s there.
Historically, Sauron has always been depicted as an unknowable figure. He is literally faceless, regardless of whether he is depicted with a giant flaming eyes or an enormous helmet. This show humanizes him. What attracted you to this side of the iconic figure?
It’s an exciting experience and I feel really privileged that I was able to create the character and portray him at this stage in his journey. He is the deceiver, right?! He’s also a shape-shifter. These are just two of his main abilities. His deception is what I like to think about when creating a human face. If he wants to deceive Galadriel, or Elendil, Miriel, or Pharazon, he must be fully invested in his deception. It was very helpful to think that Sauron, if he were a human, would experience all the things he does as a human to create this character and deceive. He’s like the greatest Method actor in the world. He is like Daniel Day-Lewis. [Laughs] He has to fully immerse himself. It was very helpful for me to see him feel and experience things like a human. The eighth episode is when he finally sheds that and you can really see his full power. It was really enjoyable to be able play that episode. There’s that fantastic finale sequence where Galadriel and Sauron meet. What are your most memorable memories of those scenes?
I remember saying this line. However, I can’t say it exactly. I have trouble remembering lines. It goes something like this: “I have been awake since before dawn. “ That was so powerful for my. It was like being able take a deep breath and expand. It was a physical sensation, just settling into the many years of experience he had. You are this human Halbrand, who has a certain amount of wisdom and power. As an actor, I think the lifespan of the deceiver is much shorter to make it so complete. It was an amazing moment when I could fully accept that and allow the world of Maia to enter my body. It was amazing. “
Then, she tries and stabs me with the dagger. He just effortlessly holds her arm. We’ve seen her power and lethalness, as well as what she does to others. It was amazing to be able to hold her and then manipulate her mind. It’s amazing to be able play like that.
I imagine that it would be a great place to live in. This is someone who’s literally older that the sun rises, as you mentioned.
Exactly. I mean, Morfydd says that Galadriel has a longer life than the moon. She is. You think about Sauron. He was there before the music from the Ainur. He was Mairon the Fair back when he was a long, long-standing presence.
It sounds like you really delved into the Tolkien lore. Did you find a particular section of Tolkien’s work particularly helpful or stayed with you when trying to understand Sauron’s world? I loved digging into the lore. I used a lot. To help me deal with the enormity and enormity of this task and the enormity involved in doing justice to this character, I returned to the books and to the source material. This was where I spent most of my time reading and trying to understand the character, from his origins in The First Age to the end Return to the King .
Tolkien discusses some very interesting letters. There’s letter 131, where you hear about his repentance, and you can see Tolkien’s perspective on what he wanted Sauron to be. He still wants Sauron to be viewed as very evil, despite his repentance. This is crucial, as we move down the line. He is evil. He is the epitome and embodiment of evil. The letters were what really informed me about the reemergence Sauron. Tolkien speaks of how he lingers on Middle-earth and slowly reforms. This is what I see in Halbrand. You can see the lingering effects of this evil and Halbrand slowly changing from someone who is humbled, floating on a boat in the sea, to being king of Southlands. It is easy to see the building blocks and how everything reemerges. This is exactly what Tolkien meant. There are also other stories in The Silmarillion , like Beren or Luthien. It is fascinating to see Sauron’s journey.
What has the past few weeks been like, while people have been speculating and theorizing? What is the wildest fan theory about you?
I don’t like fan theories. It is usually sent by friends. Since he first appeared onscreen, I have had many friends guess his identity. He first said that “Looks can deceive.” They’ve been like, “Oh hang on, what’s up with this guy?” So, I have heard some theories from friends. There have been some theories about Sauron. There are many theories about the Witch King. What other theories? My friends have sent me a lot of King of the Dead photos. He is the one Aragorn takes and enlists to fight at ReturnoftheKing. Someone sent me this picture of my face next the King of the Dead’s, which looks like this skeleton. [Laughs] I was like, “Thanks, man. Thank you very much. That’s very kind. “
I don’t know if there is a resemblance.
Exactly! It’s a little harsh!
Did any cast members have funny reactions to learning the identity of Halbrand? There was a lot of suspicion as we all knew Sauron was someone but no one knew where he was. We were all pointing fingers at one another. Although I don’t recall any specific reactions, I think it was nice for everyone to get an answer and to be able to see what was going on. It’s exactly what Sauron would have wanted: no one trusting the other. This interview has been edited to improve clarity and length.
For more with Charlie Vickers on the Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power finale, listen to EW’s weekly podcast, All Rings Considered, breaking down each episode and featuring exclusive interviews with the cast and creators.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (TV series)
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