'The Rings of Power' Star Cynthia Addai-Robinson Dissects Míriel's New Vulnerability and the Creation of Mordor

The actor's very first scenes on her first day of shooting were for Episode 7.
by Carita Rizzo — 

Cynthia Addai-Robinson in 'The Rings of Power'

Amazon Studios

Warning: This story contains spoilers for the seventh episode of  The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,  . Read at your own risk! 

While the pure scope of the violent creation of Mordor came as a thrill for even the most casual fan of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings saga, one of the truest shocks of Episode 7, "The Eye" was the physical and emotional toll of the volcanic eruption. The penultimate episode of the inaugural season separated our heroes from each other, slowly revealing the true devastation of the fires of Mount Doom.  

Making their way back to the others, Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) and Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin) open up to each other about their lives, revealing a plot point that could either change canon or imply a hugely important reunion later on in the series: Galadriel tells Theo she was once married, but believes that her husband Celeborn is dead.  

But one the episode's most shocking twists may be the Queen-Regent Míriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) losing her vision in the fiery explosions. Having established an alliance with Galaldriel and Halbrand (Charlie Vickers), Míriel was ready to go into battle for the Southlands. The latest development leaves her particularly vulnerable at a time when her steadfast captain Elendil (Lloyd Owen) is devastated by the presumed loss of his son Isildur (Maxim Baldry) and a likely coup is brewing in Númenor.  

But for Addai-Robinson, watching her character and the other female warriors fight against adversity is one of her favorite aspects of the epic. 

"It's very satisfying to be part of something that feels very overdue in its progressiveness, in terms of that representation — to show these female characters fully three-dimensional, not just there in service to male characters," she says. "I appreciate that both as a performer and as an audience member. And if anything, I think it enhances the male storylines too. I'm excited to see this very well-rounded cast of characters all get the opportunity to shine and be showcased." 

Here, Addai-Robinson talks to Metacritic about her shocking character twist, including the opportunity it presents in terms of storytelling and how it will impact the Queen-Regent's journey going forward.   

Even a casual fan of Tolkien understands the importance of the creation of Mordor. How satisfactory is it to you to see something so significant be depicted on the show? 

I'm definitely somebody who is newer to this material, and newer to Tolkien, so the great pleasure for me has really been to do this deep dive. I was juggling the foundation of these stories, the lore itself and how we, as an adaptation, were approaching some of these major markers that, if you are a Tolkien fan or an expert, there's an expectation to see. Obviously, the creation of Mordor: major mic drop. The very creative way of showing its creation — I don't know if the audience anticipated that this was what the outcome was going to be. I think it's a really great surprise for people who didn't necessarily see it coming, 

When you signed up for this role, were you aware of the character plot twist that was going to take place in Episode 7? 

I was not. I knew very little coming into the project and even when I was cast, the role names all had pseudonyms so I didn't really know the character I was playing. Once I found out, I wasn't familiar with this character even though she existed in the lore. Then, when I went to take a closer look, she is there and she is established in the story, but there are definitely a lot of gaps. There's a lot of room for interpretation and shoring up who this woman is. But this major twist, not only did I not know when I signed on, but my very first day — which I can finally reveal and talk about — is the scene on the mountain where I'm blindfolded and speaking to Galadriel. My first few days of filming were all in Episode 7. I basically had to get this fast-forward explanation of everything that happens before we arrive at this point. So, it was really intense, because I somehow had to channel everything that I hadn't filmed in the lead up to that moment, film those moments, and then work my way backwards to figure out who this woman is. It was an interesting challenge and very, very intimidating.  

It must be so interesting to start from that point of vulnerability. How did it impact your performance of the person she was in those first episodes? 

It's interesting because, in some ways, I felt vulnerable as an actor. I started filming in the beginning of 2021 and I had been in lockdown for many, many months. I was already coming from a place where I felt very skittish. I had been in isolation and suddenly I'm on one of the biggest series, around tons of people, and trying to just process everything. So certainly, in terms of my state of mind, I was definitely re-entering the world and it just so happened that the world I was reentering was Middle-earth. How strange and how beautiful. It's hard for me to articulate how I worked backward. I'm not sure that I had a choice, so it was a very real-time scenario of figuring out who Míriel is, but not doing it alone. I had obviously conversations with [creators and showrunners] JD Payne and Patrick McKay. I worked quite closely with Charlotte [Brändström] who directed [Episodes] 6 and 7, as well as Wayne [Che Yip] who directed the bulk of the scenes where I'm in my moment of strength, before. It was definitely an interesting challenge for me and hopefully, it all works. Because, of course, when you start backward, you're like, I hope it matches as a performance. I hope that this feels like it is the inevitable payoff of everything that led up to it. 

What do you think is the opportunity here, from a storytelling perspective?  

I think the opportunity for me, and the thing I am trying to be very aware of, is that this is somebody who, while there's obviously a vulnerability, I don't want her to be diminished. I think perhaps it's a situation of how a perceived weakness can become a strength. I remember when I was initially told that this was happening, I had to really process and really try to think through not only how to play that, but what that experience would be or mean or how one would feel. It's a major thing to tell an actor before they're going to start. Starting at that place, for me, was portraying something that is incredibly destabilizing, but I don't want it to be diminishing, if that makes sense. 

Even before anything happens to Míriel, she has a political situation brewing at home. What impact will her predicament have on her role as Queen-Regent when she returns back to Númenor? 

It is an interesting thing to note that, as she has left on this expedition without really having a sense of what laid before her, there are other people back in Númenor. So it's a question of, what's been going on in her absence? What is the mood for the people who have stayed behind? I, myself, am really curious to see what happens now that this has not quite worked out as Míriel hoped. One of the things that's been interesting for me to explore is that idea of when something seems predetermined, how much can you alter the course of something that perhaps is inevitable. Obviously, you would certainly hope that you would give it a try, but it's that question of, is it a domino effect of what's been set in motion or was it already in motion to begin with? Were these things inevitable? 

She's also created this strong and somewhat surprising alliance with Galadriel. Can we talk about how those two march onward? 

An aspect that I really enjoyed, not just as a performer but as a fan and somebody who's also invested in these stories, is that alliance between Míriel and Galadriel. Some of my favorite scenes were those two women in conversation and that recognition of, in some ways, a kindred spirit. They're both in very similar situations in terms of where their mind is at, but they're also different, whether about their philosophies or ideas around the best way forward. I love the joining of those two very formidable women and I'm definitely intrigued to see what their relationship looks like beyond what we've seen. 

In Episode 7, it feels like everyone gets hit under the belt. What would you say to encourage the viewer as we head into the season finale? 

JD and Patrick are very much trying to present moments of light, however small, amidst all this darkness. Dramatically, oftentimes, you have to take your characters to the brink and, as an audience member you certainly hope that before the scariest part there's that shred of hope or that 11th hour-save. People who know this material and Tolkien's lore know that it can get very dark and it can get bleak. We've certainly put all of the characters through their paces, and I think there's a level of investment from the audience where you want to care about the fate of these characters and you want them to learn the lesson or be saved or save themselves. This first season really is, for a lot of people, an introduction to these worlds and characters and setting up a lot of the storylines. I think as long as the audience stays with us, even when it seems like all is lost, there will be those moments of hope, even when it feels like you don't quite know how it's possible. I, along with the viewers, am excited to see that pay off. 

Anything we can say about the last episode of the season? 

It's a big one. [Laughs] I've said too much already.  

Actually, before you go, I have another quick question. Why can't Míriel be cured with Elven medicine? 

[Laughs] I'll kick that one over to JD and Patrick. If you get the chance to talk to them, that's definitely a good question. I would defer to them on that one. 

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power streams new episodes Fridays


Get to know Cynthia Addai-Robinson:  
The Rings of Power is not the first mythology-heavy show for the English-born American actress. Addai-Robinson portrayed head of Suicide Squad Amanda Waller on three seasons of Arrow (Metascore: 73) and Naevia on two seasons of Spartacus (52). She has also appeared as FBI agent Nadine Memphis on Shooter (60), Dr. Vicki Glass on Chicago Med (52), and Ramona Garrity on Power (61).