Joseph Rawle, best known for playing the role of Benjen Stark in HBO's Game of Thrones adaptation, will continue in the world of high fantasy with a new, villainous role on Amazon's Lord of the Rings TV adapation, Deadline reports. The series, which could cost as much as $1 billion to create, will begin production in 2020 from writers JD Payne and Patrick McKay, with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom filmmaker J.A. Bayona helming the initial episodes. Deadline reports that Mawle will play the series’ lead villain, Oren, opposite Will Poulter’s young hero Beldor and female lead Tyra, played by Australian actress Arkella Kavenagh.
Details of the series are still in flux and have been heavily guarded, but the assumption is that the stories will be set in J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth, but before the events of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Sauron, then, will likely be a lingering presence but not the series' principal antagonist.
"J.R.R. Tolkien created one of the most extraordinary and inspiring stories of all time, and as a lifelong fan it is an honor and a joy to join this amazing team," Bayona said when his involvement was revealed. "I can’t wait to take audiences around the world to Middle-earth and have them discover the wonders of the Second Age, with a never before seen story."
Taking a theoretically-familiar and much-loved property and creating an ongoing series out of it by moving to another point in the world's timeline is not entirely dissimilar to the strategy HBO and Damon Lindelof are employing with their take on Watchmen, which debuted to huge ratings last night.
Over the summer at the Television Critics Association press tour, Amazon revealed the full creative team behind its upcoming The Lord of the Rings television series. Newly-revealed or confirmed talent include executive producers Lindsey Weber (10 Cloverfield Lane), Bruce Richmond (Game of Thrones), Gene Kelly (Boardwalk Empire), Sharon Tal Yguado; writer and executive producer Gennifer Hutchison (Breaking Bad); writer and executive producer Jason Cahill (The Sopranos); writer and executive producer Justin Doble (Stranger Things); consulting producers Bryan Cogman (Game of Thrones) and Stephany Folsom (Toy Story 4); producer Ron Ames (The Aviator); writer and co-producer Helen Shang (Hannibal); and writing consultant Glenise Mullins.
Amazon also announced costume designer Kate Hawley (Suicide Squad); production designer Rick Heinrichs (Star Wars: The Last Jedi); visual effects supervisor Jason Smith (The Revenant); Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey; and illustrator and concept artist John Howe.
The series will go into production in 2020. No firm release date is yet set.