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SYFY WIRE The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

Is the Stranger Gandalf? 'Rings of Power' actor Daniel Weyman is learning along with us

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power revealed who the Stranger may be, but Daniel Weyman's not sure himself.

By James Grebey
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Season 1 Episode 7

Sauron’s true identity wasn’t the only secret revealed in the Season 1 finale of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. We’ve learned who the Stranger — a bearded man who fell from the sky in the series premiere — really is. Well, not exactly, but we’ve narrowed it down to just a few possibilities.

**SPOILER WARNING! This interview contains spoilers for The Rings of Power.**

Although the finale, “Alloyed,” opens with the reveal that the Stranger is Sauron, that’s a fakeout, and the trio of white-cloaked women who were after him was mistaken. We later learn that Halbrand is Sauron, while the Stranger is one of the Istari — the formal name for wizards in Middle-earth. Though the episode stops short of confirming which Istari the Stranger is (the safe money is on him being Gandalf, but there are other possibilities, for sure), the revelation gives the Stranger more control over his magic powers and he’s able to speak and think clearly. 

“I loved the idea of starting with this blank slate as he arrived in the crater,” actor Daniel Weyman says of the Stranger’s story arc. “Whatever the audience watching didn’t know, he didn’t know either. He’s had to patch bits together and he’s had to learn stuff on the journey.”

RELATED: Sauron revealed! The Rings of Power actor explains the twist and the Dark Lord's motives.

For his part, Weyman was learning along with the Stranger, too. Much as Halbrand/Sauron actor Charlie Vickers told SYFY WIRE he shot two full episodes before learning who he was really playing, Weyman spent most of the season knowing about as much of the truth of the Stranger’s identity as the Stranger himself did at any point. In an interview with SYFY WIRE following the season finale, Weyman talked about playing a character who doesn’t know who they are, discussed changes to J.R.R. Tolkien’s lore, and revealed what it takes to pull a Harfoot cart.   

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Season 1 Episode 8

Now that he’s talking in crisp English, how much of the Stranger is, for lack of a better word, formed? He still doesn’t know exactly who he is or what his mission is, but he’s much more coherent and put together. Is this him remembering how to act or did he arrive as a blank slate and he’s picked up everything from the Harfoots?

I think that is a really, really good question. The short answer is that I don’t really have definite points to tell you about that. I know that the last thing he says on the hillside to Nori is that fragments have come back — images and things like that. But, when we leave him in Episode 8, it’s not like he knows exactly everything. I think that’s where I am, certainly where the viewers are, and I’ll have to wait to see what [showrunners Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne] want to do with the second season and his journey going forward. It’s an exciting, fun place to be because it leaves so much open.

How much do you know about your character? I know you’re not going to be able to confirm that he’s Gandalf, but is the Stranger a stranger to you?

I think now we’re up to what I know about the character. That’s all I’ve been given. I felt comfortable, when we were filming, to really learn it scene-by-scene, episode-by-episode because I didn’t need to know the future to play the character. The character came with nothing until the point at which he’s given some momentous insight. Now he knows he’s a wizard, now that that word resonates through time for him. Even before time itself as an idea came to being, he was sort of floating around in the ether. Until that really comes through into his core, I didn’t think he needed to know what the future is. 

I suppose that’s what it is for J.D. and Patrick, they’ve got the arcs in their head and I feel a huge amount of respect for them and inspiration from listening to their stories and getting a chance to play them. For me, I fully trust that when I need to take on board anything, if they need to give me more information in the future, then they will give it to me with enough time for the thing I’m playing to make sense. 

Not to harp on this, but am I correct in that it’s not that you’re not telling people if you’re Gandalf or Saurman or a Blue Wizard or whoever, but you don’t know as an actor yet?

No, I think nobody in our world knows the identity of the Stranger, including the Stranger himself. I’m actually much more excited by the honesty of that. I think we’ll get a much better performance from me and therefore the audience will understand the Stranger and be better able to empathize with his journey if that’s where I am. 

The mystery of the Stranger and who the Stranger was growing into was enjoyable both for me to play day-to-day and also for the people watching it. Because there were certain things we knew we had to hit. Numenor will fall, at some point. Isildur will cut the Ring finger off, if we get that far. There are certain things in the lore that we know we’re going to have to hit. And the pockets of space where J.D. and Patrick are able to extrapolate and invent the extra ideas of Tolkien feel like real gems.

The finale did confirm that the Stranger is one of the Istari, and that’s caused some consternation amongst die-hard Tolkien fans because the wizards were explicitly not around during Middle-earth’s Second Age. I don’t mind it, personally — I’d rather have a Lord of the Rings show with wizards than without — but what is your response to criticism about this change of established lore?

One of the really great things about being on the show is to hear how many people there are in the world that have ownership of Tolkien’s stories because they have lived with them, taken them to heart, researched them, and delved deep into them. I as an actor really have enjoyed doing that myself. Far from feeling like I need to respond or say somebody’s right or somebody’s wrong, I’m much more excited by the idea that people’s own theories are bubbling through and saying, “Well this does or doesn’t fit with my view.” For me, I think that there are all sorts of parts of Tolkien’s writing that have allowed me to feel really comfortable with where JD and Patrick have got. They really respect Tolkien’s work and the way that they’re trying to bring this massive time period of the Second Age to the TV screen is really awesome. I tend to feel like, if people keep watching, they will fall in love if they haven’t already. 

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Season 1 Episode 5

Were those Harfoot carts a pain to pull? They looked heavy and rickety.

I have to give a huge shoutout to my scale double, Paul Sturgess, who ended up having to pull the big, big carts for most of the time. Because, of course, [Markella Kavenagh], who played Nori, and her family unit, when they were pulling carts — those carts were too big for my scale, so Paul was the guy who had to pull an even bigger cart. When I had to pull a cart, it was actually much smaller than what everyone else was pulling. When I had to pull, it wasn’t too bad. But, the big hills and things like that, it was often Paul who was pulled in. Big shoutout to him, I don’t know what I would have done if I’d had to pull it myself. 

Season 1 of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is now streaming on Prime Video. A second season is in production but does not yet have a premiere date. 

Looking for more fantasy? Check out the Harry Potter films streaming now on Peacock.