‘LOTR: The Rings of Power’ Star Maxim Baldry on Númenor Going to War, Isildur’s Destiny
[Warning: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Episode 5, “Partings.”]
There are a lot of characters to track in Prime Video’s blockbuster fantasy drama The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power but only a few that we know will play a major role later on in the series. One of those key characters is Maxim Baldry‘s young sailor, Isildur.
In Peter Jackson‘s Lord of the Rings films, we see Isildur in flashbacks (played by Harry Sinclair) as the man who will eventually destroy Sauron—but not the ever-important ring. For now, he’s just an angsty young Númenórean with big dreams, and a father—Lloyd Owen’s Elendil—who is constantly having to knock him down a few pegs to keep him in line. In this upcoming episode, we’ll (hopefully) see some more action for Isildur, who has finally “earned” a spot aboard one of the warships sailing out of Númenór.
Below, Baldry teases what’s next for his headstrong character.
Obviously, fans know Isildur is going to play a huge role in the greater story. Has knowing that helped you shape this character at all? Have you found it more difficult or less to figure out who this guy is?
Maxim Baldry: It’s difficult and it’s also a blessing. We know the ending, and we know certain signposts that Tolkien has written for us. We know things and actions that he does, but we know very little about him as a human being, as a person. So building that was definitely a challenge. We decided the best place to start is Isildur as a young sailor on the cusp of adulthood. Not quite the full warrior that we expect him to be, but one that is on the way there, on the cusp of it. And that’s, I think, a lovely place to start because you’ll watch him grow, become a man, become heroic, and then you’ll watch certain elements of darkness pull him down. And then what happens? He keeps the ring.
I think every single detail of Isildur’s upbringing is important to him. I was just speaking about the clothes that he wears, and in Episodes 4, 5, you see him wearing his Númenórean civilian costume, and there’s a beautiful Númenórean detailing on his sleeve, it’s kind of gold embroidery. I think he doesn’t quite know the importance of home yet, and the importance of Númenór in his life. And when he rockets through the next few seasons, I think you’ll look back and really appreciate some of these moments we’re building now. Which is lovely to play, because we have the gift of foresight and we know where he’s going, but how does he get there?
In Episode 5, he says that he wants to do something “worthy of Númenór.” What do you think that means to him?
I think he’s hellbent on getting on the ship. And by “worthy of Númenór,” it means he’s better than most people on the island. He’s slightly arrogant in saying that. He knows he’s the best sailor out of all of them, but that’s not quite what Elendil is looking for. He’s looking for dedication and commitment, something Isildur is not willing to give him. So, he’s learning.
But then he saves someone else’s life. He saves Kemen’s [Leon Wadham] life, and whilst [Kemen] was about to burn down a ship, which is an act of treason. But Isildur uses that piece of information, hides it from his father, and goes “I saved him.” And so Elendil is gobsmacked, which in turn gets Isildur onto the ship, which in turn gives him what he wants. He’s complex, and the way in which he does things can get him what he wants.
And it seems like he’s going to be seeing war pretty soon, now that he has what he wants. What can you tease about Episode 6 and beyond?
So sadly he has gotten onto the ship, but his ego has been slightly hit. He’s not in the cavalry, which is where he assumed he was going to be. Rather he’s going to be looking after the horses underneath the ship, and he’s going to be mucking them out and sweeping the mess that they all make.
Obviously, his friends find that hilarious too, but the lovely thing about that is that they all reconcile. He does really love [his friends] and they are important to him. He’s feeling like a misfit, but they have stuck by him through all of this and there’s a lovely moment between them that is really special for Isildur.
We got to see his friends do some fighting, going up against elven warrior Galadriel (Morfydd Clark), but we haven’t seen you do any fight choreography. Is that coming soon for you?
Yes. Maybe in a week’s time [said after Episode 5 aired]. All in good time.
Going back to shooting the scene where he rescues Kemen—was that all TV magic, or were you actually swimming with Leon?
Oh, yeah, that water was very cold. I was in, like, a 6mm wetsuit, in the middle of winter, in New Zealand. Very cold. And yeah, we got in the water and I had to swim and carry him. It’s very hard to carry someone in the water, let me tell you. And there were flames. It was a big, big deal. It was great. But I love doing stunts, so I was grateful for that.
What would you say has been the most surprising physical challenge for you while shooting this show?
Probably maintaining—the show is an eight-month shoot, versus [projects] that take maybe four weeks to shoot. You have to really maintain your mental state and be patient with the process. I didn’t want to burn out, so I paced myself for eight months, which was something I also felt like I grew from personally as well as professionally.
That sounds like something Isildur wouldn’t be capable of doing—pacing himself.
Yeah, exactly. And that was just for me! [Laughs]
Let’s talk about his family. We have some knowledge of nearly everyone in his family, but what do we know about Isildur’s mother?
Well, I guess, she’s dead. And that has just caused our family to really fall apart. You will find out [what happened] to her, I assure you that. It will definitely play a big part in Isildur’s future and the person he becomes.
Some fans have been suspecting online that the woman’s voice he hears calling to him in Episode 3 over the sunset could potentially be connected to the mother storyline.
Could be. Very well could be. There’s also the possibility of it being destiny, or fate, calling out to him. And the fact that whether or not Isildur really has free will. Is he in charge of it? Are there other forces at play? Is it the ending foreshadowing this beginning for Isildur? I don’t know!
How about his brother, Anárion, whom we haven’t seen yet but have heard about some from Isildur and Elendil? How does he feel about this brother who left him behind?
I think they’ve always been in contact, and there’s definitely been a map that has been left for Isildur, for a way to find him. But in truth, Anárion did abandon him, and Isildur is wary of not destroying the one thing he loves the most, which is his family. But like all relationships, there are schisms that form, and you’re watching a schism form from a nucleus, which is important to Isildur’s understanding and foundation.
Anárion will definitely play a big role, and it’s very important for Isildur to reconnect with him.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Fridays, Prime Video