"I love how fantasy can be an escape for people and it was for me growing up. It just filled me with imagination."
Maxim Baldry is Isildur in 'The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power', Prime Video's prequel series set thousands of years before 'The Hobbit'.
Isildur is one of the more tragic characters from 'The Lord of the Rings' lore, created by J.R.R. Tolkien, as he's the one who had the opportunity to destroy "the one ring to rule them all", but he didn't take it, clouded by his mere mortal mind. He's a character who appeared briefly in the first Peter Jackson film, played by Harry Sinclair. Although we don't know much about him, we're going to be delving deeper into the character throughout Amazon Studios' mega production - in fact, he will play a pivotal role over the planned five seasons.
And 26-year-old Maxim Baldry is going to be the one to bring Isildur to the screen. Set to appear in this weekend's third episode of season one, we first encounter him as a humble seafaring man who eventually gets swept up into the world of elves, orcs and world-destroying rings.
Baldry will be familiar to anyone who loves Rowan Atkinson's dithering buffoon, as he made his acting debut as Stefan in 'Mr. Bean's Holiday' from 2007. Since then, he's stretched his acting chops considerably and has had starring roles in 'Hollyoaks', Russell T. Davies' 'Years and Years' and in an episode of 'Doctor Who'.
We caught up with 'The Rings of Power' star over the phone ahead of the season premiering on Prime Video.
Hey Maxim, you've probably had a crazy day so far?
Yes, we got up and went on a boat for a photocall. It's very special because today marks the end of our global tour promoting season one and it's been lovely.
Oh wow, that's very in line with your character this season, right?
I know, I had to take my morning sickness pills again - or rather my seasick pills again. I'm not good on the water, you see. So that was an obstacle for that storyline but what an amazing experience (laughs) and it's been amazing to shoot.
This is the first fantasy franchise that you've boarded (apart from an episode of 'Doctor Who'), what's it been like?
It's been a dream come true. I was a fan ever since I was a kid. We used to watch it as a family together and everyone got very into it. I remember telling my dad "I want to be an actor! I want to be in 'Lord of the Rings'", and he would say "Well son, I think the films are done", and so it's ironic that it's happening again. And so it's a dream come true.
What was the casting process like - was it a long one?
So I got an email from my agent saying 'Untitled Amazon Project' but it was filming in New Zealand so we did a bit of research but realised that 'Lord of the Rings' films there. The role I was up for was described as "a mercurial young man with the weight of the world on his shoulders". It was very unclear who I was supposed to be playing but after a serious round of auditions, I think I ended up doing the right thing - and somehow got it! Still don't know how it happened.
I got a "yes" from the showrunners and they told me I was playing a very, very important part in the Tolkien legendarium. Your story spans the whole show - it's big. But I still had no idea who it was.
You're playing Isildur, a character we saw briefly in the Peter Jackson trilogy and who plays a big part in Tolkien's works. Did you feel some pressure in that regard?
Yes - but we don't know much about him from the trilogy. We see him not throw the ring into the fires of Mount Doom, so he's presented as this evil/tragic character. But there's so much more to him - he's got this really interesting journey. He's an innately good man who loses everything when he gets displaced. I wanted to put myself into him and make him human, and for everyone to see themselves in him.
How did you find doing all of the greenscreen action?
I remember being on a ship that was built and placed on a studio stage and mimicked being at sea - which again wasn't great for my sea sickness - but then there were wind tunnels and water machines. The production value on this was insane. I will say that the greenscreen work was there to enhance the actual practical elements that we shot ourselves.
Are you a big fantasy fan yourself?
Yeah, I love how fantasy can be an escape for people and it was for me growing up. It just filled me with imagination. I remember sitting at the New York screening of 'The Rings of Power' recently with my 10-year-old niece who lives there, and she told me at the end of the screening "I see myself in Galadriel" and that for me was just everything. Fantasy should be stories that give you a sense of hope and wanderlust.
There's a real sense of Community with 'The Rings of Power'. Are there any characters you hope Isildur crosses paths with in the future?
The Harfoots have such warmth to them, but then so do the Dwarves. I'd love to meet them, break bread and drink wine. That would be lovely, wouldn't it? I'd love to do that in real life!
I have to ask you about 'Mr. Bean's Holiday'. Do you EVER get recognised for your break-out role these days?
Only when I really don't want them to do I get recognised for being Stefan in 'Mr. Bean's Holiday. My career peaked in 2007 you know, and this is my last hurrah! it's very random when I get recognised - but I sometimes do!
Are there any stories from your childhood that you would love to see get adapted into a TV series or movie?
Oh, great question... I don't want to sound like a cliché, but honestly, 'The Lord of the Rings' was my thing. I remember watching it when I was down, and it was that sort of "light at the end of the tunnel" that I wanted to do with my performance and be in a production that also fills people with that. It's surreal to be sat here talking to you about it. So yeah, it would have to be 'The Lord of the Rings', and I guess the Second Age hasn't been adapted - so there you go.
And finally - what's your weapon of choice if you were to go into battle?
Most people would say a bow and arrow or a sword or an axe - but I'm going to say my horse. Bereck - who is the only named animal in the show might I add - he is a warrior. And we can fight battles together - just you wait and see.
Catch Maxim Baldry as Isildur in 'The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power', which continues with a new episode dropping on Prime Video every Friday until September 30.