Being cast as Galadriel in The Rings of Power, Prime Video’s prequel to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Morfydd Clark was so overwhelmed that she actually fainted. The Welsh actress spent almost six months auditioning for the role in the summer of 2019 — initially without realizing what she was auditioning for. When she finally got the call to play the warrior elf, Clark was at the Toronto International Film Festival promoting Saint Maud and The Personal History of David Copperfield.
“I already had an out-of-body experience, and then I found out about it just before the premiere of ‘David Copperfield,'” Clark recalls. “It was just very strange. It was really exciting, but also secret. I went to the premiere and passed out on stage during the Q&A that followed. It was so embarrassing. It’s on YouTube – I just about get off the stage but you can hear my mic drop. I got caught by a Canadian security guard who was very nice to me.”
Shortly thereafter, Clark flew to New Zealand, where the first season was filmed (season 2 production was moved to the UK). Along with the rest of the cast, Clark had “age” to prepare for the role, which required her to learn to swim, horseback ride, and do stunts. The cast trained with a stunt team prior to filming, which meant that even if they didn’t share scenes, they were all close. Played by Cate Blanchett in the films in her older, wiser years, Galadriel required a great deal of physical stamina and attention. The immortal is a seasoned warrior who carries herself with confidence – something Clark had to learn.
“I decided that I would focus on feeling it,” Clark says. “It wasn’t really about how I looked. It was about trying to feel as strong and powerful and flexible as possible so that I could feel as close to her as my small mortal body would allow. That was one of the great joys of it. [In the past], my characters were often abused and killed in things I enjoyed playing. But it was very liberating to play someone who wasn’t physically scared. I’m often quite physically scared, so it’s been good for me as a person and as an actress to be able to spend this vacation in her universe where she is so powerful.”
Clark was also able to use her own background for the role. Galadriel and her fellow elves speak the fantasy language of Sindarin, and Clark used her familiarity with Welsh to give the character’s voice more power.
“I worked with the voice coach and tried to find the sounds [that I say easily
in] Welsh and English,” says Clark. “And that’s where her voice came from. Maybe it’s because I grew up singing a lot in Welsh, but my Welsh speaking voice is more resonant.”
The actress also drew on her extensive theater background, which was one of the reasons she was initially considered for the series.
“Their main thing was that they wanted people who had experience with Shakespeare, because the way they wrote the elves is actually to their own beat,” notes Clark. “They wanted all the different types of creatures in Middle-earth to be compared in a very specific way.”
Clark has not approached Blanchett, who originated the on-screen role. However, she used the actress and all of her work as inspiration for this version of Galadriel.
“She’s literally like a legend to me,” Clark says. “And I wasn’t sure how useful it would be for me to necessarily speak to her because I would be so confused. So I went back to their performances. I not only rewatched ‘Lord of the Rings’, but a lot of the stuff she did. She has such a connection to cool and hot – I don’t know if that makes sense. That was something I was really fascinated by watching them. So maybe one day I’ll talk to her, but I’m a small risk for that too.”
Galadriel fans won’t encounter the easygoing ruler of Lothlórien seen in the movies in The Rings of Power. She’s still discovering what kind of leader she wants to be, and Clark took inspiration from JRR Tolkien’s books when creating the character (she describes herself as a Lord of the Rings nerd). It was particularly useful that the series acted as a prequel to known events.
“I liked knowing where she ended up,” says Clark. “I feel like a lot of the chilled aging people I know, when they start telling you about their lives, you’re like, ‘What? This is madness!’ So that was something I went to. How far away could she be from this Lady of Lothlórien [when] She will that it will be a shock to her that she could ever find that kind of peace and serenity. She really couldn’t imagine that she would pass the test to return to Valinor.”
The character is complicated and at times severe, which Clark appreciated.
“She’s admired and kind of feared,” says the actress. “She’s not warm and snuggly. I enjoyed this opportunity to play someone who wasn’t exactly meant to make people feel comfortable. I think that’s often what women do in real life and end up performing. But I’ve also played a lot of characters who weren’t happy in the end, and it’s nice to play her knowing that she’ll find peace in the end.”
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/awards/story/2022-11-23/morfydd-clark-galadriel-rings-of-power Morfydd Clark fainted when she learned she’d play Galadriel