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Game of Thrones actors among Lord of the Rings TV show cast

The Guardian logo The Guardian 15/01/2020 Eleanor Ainge Roy in Dunedin

Joseph Mawle posing for the camera: Photograph: David M Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Fortnum & Mason © Provided by The Guardian Photograph: David M Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Fortnum & Mason Production on Amazon’s highly anticipated Lord of the Rings television series will begin in New Zealand next month, with the company unveiling a cast that includes two fantasy veterans from HBO mega-hit Game of Thrones.

Among the 15 cast members revealed on Tuesday were British actors Robert Aramayo, who portrayed a young Ned Stark, and Joseph Mawle, who played Benjen Stark on HBO’s fantasy series.

Others coming to the Lord of the Rings include British theatre actor Owain Arthur, British-Iranian actress Nazanin Boniadi, Australian actor Tom Budge, British actress Morfydd Clark, and Slovak-American actress Ema Horvath, the company said.

Producers and showrunners behind the scenes include veterans from The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and Stranger Things.

New Zealander Sir Peter Jackson adapted Lord of the Rings into a highly acclaimed film trilogy, which garnered 11 Oscars in the early 2000s. There is scepticism in New Zealand that the success of the movie trilogy can be topped, and concern that filming will place even more pressure on scenic hot-spots already buckling under tourist pressure.

The Lord of the Rings remains a perennial favourite the world over, however. It was named Amazon customers’ favourite book of the millennium in 1999 and Britain’s best-loved novel of all time in BBC’s the Big Read in 2003.

In New Zealand – which many tourists still refer to as Middle-earth – the government made a vigorous effort to secure the Amazon series, with the studio raising concerns about the safety of filming in the country following the Christchurch terror attack last March.

Phil Twyford, New Zealand’s economic development minister, described the “ambitious production” as fantastic for the country, and said it would create jobs and significant overseas investment.

Gallery: The best movie trilogies (Wonderwall)

Last month, the producers started casting for extras from a pool of nearly 5 million people, advertising for people to come forward with “wonderful noses”, and “character faces”.

Locals who were less than 1.5 metres tall, or over 1.95 metres, were also in demand, as well as those with heavily wrinkled skin and a lack of teeth – namely, orcs.

“HAIR HAIR HAIR — if you have natural red hair, white hair, or lots and lots of freckles,” the advertisement read.

“After undertaking an extensive global search, we are delighted finally to reveal the first group of brilliant performers who will take part in Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings series,” show runners JD Payne and Patrick McKay said in a statement.

“These exceptionally talented women and men are more than just our actors, they are the newest members of an ever-expanding creative family that is now working tirelessly to bring Middle-earth to life anew for fans and audiences worldwide,” they added.

The TV adaptation will explore new storylines preceding JRR Tolkien’s the Fellowship of the Ring, the first installment in the famed trilogy.

Amazon announced the cast at a Television Critics Association event where TV networks preview upcoming shows.

The series still has a “few key roles left to cast,” said Vernon Sanders, Amazon’s co-head of television.

The company did not reveal details about the roles the actors would play or the storyline.

The series is slated to cost NZ$1.3bn – making it the most expensive television show ever made.

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