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‘Rings of Power’ Showrunners Weren’t Interested in ‘LOTR’ Prequel: We Craved a ‘Blank Canvas’

Co-creators JD Payne and Patrick McKay crafted the epic Prime Video series as "stewards" of J.R.R. Tolkien's source material.

Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

“The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power”

screenshot/Prime Video

The forging of the fabled rings isn’t the only origin story at the center of Prime Video’s upcoming “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” series.

Premiering September 2, the prequel series is co-created by showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay using appendices and footnotes from J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novels to focus on a fresh story in Middle-earth, set thousands of years before the events of “The Lord of the Rings.”

“We were not interested in doing a show about the younger version of the same world you knew, where it’s a little bit of a prequel,” McKay told Entertainment Weekly in a cover story. “We wanted to go way, way, way back and find a story that could exist on its own two feet. This was one that we felt hadn’t been told on the level and the scale and with the depth that we felt it deserved.”

Co-showrunner Payne added, “It was one place that we were just laser-focused on saying, ‘We need to get this right.’ It’s never been seen before. People have some ideas of what elves look like or what dwarves look like and what those kingdoms might look like. But Númenor was, in some ways, a blank canvas.”

Amazon purchased the rights to a “50-hour show” for the adaptation which is set for at least a five-season run on streamer Prime Video.

“They knew from the beginning that was the size of the canvas…this was a big story with a clear beginning, middle and end,” Payne previously told Empire magazine. “There are things in the first season that don’t pay off until Season 5. We even know what our final shot of the last episode is going to be.”

He added, “It was like Tolkien put some stars in the sky and let us make out the constellations. We’re doing what Tolkien wanted. As long as we felt like every invention of ours was true to his essence, we knew we were on the right track.”

Fellow showrunner McKay called “The Rings of Power” the result of being “stewards” to the source material.

“The pressure would drive us insane if we didn’t feel like there was a story here that didn’t come from us. It comes from a bigger place,” McKay said. “We trust those ideas so deeply, because they’re not ours. We’re custodians, at best.”

Prime Video’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” captures the start of the Second Age and follows the forging of the titular rings, the rise of the Dark Lord Sauron, the epic tale of Númenor, and the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. The series stars Charles Edwards, Will Fletcher, Amelie Child-Villiers, and newcomer Beau Cassidy among the ensemble cast.

And “The Lord of the Rings” isn’t the only fantasy IP getting a facelift: Oscar-winning writer-director Taika Waititi is moving away from the known characters in “Star Wars” with his upcoming Disney film.

“Look, I think for the ‘Star Wars’ universe to expand, it has to expand,” Waititi told Total Film about his yet-to-be-titled movie. “I don’t think that I’m any use in the ‘Star Wars’ universe making a film where everyone’s like, ‘Oh great, well that’s the blueprints to the Millennium Falcon, ah that’s Chewbacca’s grandmother.'”

Waititi, who was tapped for a “Star Wars” installment with a December 2025 release date, added, “That all stands alone, that’s great, though I would like to take something new and create some new characters and just expand the world, otherwise it feels like it’s a very small story.”

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