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

The ‘Rings of Power’ cast made a ‘game’ of guessing Sauron’s true identity

‘[A]s we went on, it just became so clear,” jokes Arondir actor Ismael Cruz Cordova.

By Benjamin Bullard
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Season 1 Finale Trailer

Viewers might’ve been taken aback when Sauron’s true presence was finally revealed in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. But even before the full cast was let in on the secret ahead of time, actor Charlie Vickers (Halbrand aka Sauron) was already getting the suspicious side-eye from some of his wary colleagues.

Actor Ismael Cruz Cordova (Arondir) confessed he was among the Rings of Power cast members who found Halbrand’s character arc just a little bit sus as filming on the series’ first season progressed. Speaking recently with The Hollywood Reporter, Cordova said the cast even made it “kind of a game” to try and correctly guess at the identity of the Dark Lord who walked among them.

“It was kind of a game amongst the cast. I had a feeling from the get-go based on what we were reading, so I would cross people out,” said Cordova. “'This person is canon. This person is not canon. There’s something fishy here.’”

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

Charlie Vickers (Halbrand)

By process of elimination, Cordova and others eventually felt confident they’d all but settled on the right target — though they exercised admirable restraint in refraining from confronting Vickers — at least directly — with their suspicions.

“So a few of us narrowed it down to the possibility that it was either me or Halbrand,” he joked. “The Stranger [Daniel Weyman] was a possibility as well, and Adar [Joseph Mawle] was one of the more obvious ones. But after a second, I was like, ‘It’s definitely not [Arondir]. This guy is good. This guy is good to a fault.’ So I don’t know if he remembers, but there was a moment where I gave Charlie Vickers a big wink. I was like, ‘What’s up, dude?’ and I gave him a very knowing wink.”

Not even Vickers himself knew his character had been flagged from the start for an eventual reveal as Sauron, telling SYFY WIRE recently that he only learned of his dual role after filming the show’s first two episodes. Playing Halbrand as a sympathetic human character whose fate entwined with that of Galadriel (Morfydd Clark), he said, remained important for the sake of the story, even after he knew Halbrand’s evil future would be unveiled in the Season 1 finale.

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

“There were moments with the directors, with Wayne [Che Yip] and Charlotte [Brändström] — I can’t say J.A. [Bayona, who directed Episodes 1 and 2] because I didn’t know I was Sauron when I was filming with J.A. — when they would be like, ‘This moment is really important because it sets up a Sauron Easter egg.’” he explained.

“When I was making decisions, I was making them solely as Halbrand, hoping that my work as Sauron was embedded in the performance and would inform the performance…I think the crucial thing is that one of Sauron’s foremost titles is The Deceiver, and in order to deceive someone like Galadriel, he would have to be fully invested in this character of Halbrand in order to deceive.”

“[H]e was very good at not giving anything away,” Cordvoa admitted to THR, “and as we went on, it just became so clear. I would be like, ‘Hey, what’s up, Sauron?’ just to try to get it out of him, but I knew for a while.”

As Arondir, Cordova’s Season 2 future is as much of a mystery as Sauron’s on-the-set identity — at least for now. “[I]n terms of where the story is going, I have very few details about who’s coming back or not coming back or how they’re coming back,” he told THR. “…But if I do come back, I will feel more centered or grounded in what Arondir is and much more attached.”

That makes sense, especially now that Arondir knows he’s not the ultimate force of evil plotting the doom of all Middle-earth. While we wait for word from Amazon on news of the series’ second season, catch all eight episodes of Season 1 of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, streaming ‘round the clock on Prime Video.

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