Nazanin Boniadi has our attention, both on screen and on the red carpet

Boniadi was on the road promoting another project when she submitted her first audition tape in April 2019 for the then-untitled Lord of the Rings project. The casting process was difficult. It was six months of self-shoots, a one-on-one meeting with the casting director in London and plenty of anticipation before she found out she got the job and was moving to New Zealand three weeks later. It was the opposite of “hurry up and wait,” until months of intense preparation—stunt training, workouts, dialect coaching, and costume fitting—came to a screeching halt in March 2020. “I was a day away from filming and they had to shut down,” she recalls. Boniadi waited out the early days of the pandemic at home in Los Angeles before being called back to New Zealand in August, where she would stay until filming wrapped in July 2021.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power takes place in the Second Age of Middle-earth – thousands of years before the events of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings— and has a main cast of 22 people. The story covers major events of the period, including how the infamous rings were forged. Boniadi plays the human Bronwyn of the Southlands, a healer and single mother who fights for the rights of her people, long oppressed by the elves. It was a character that immediately resonated with Boniadi—not only because of the serendipitous connection between healing and science, but also Bronwyn’s tenacity and resilience. “There is an element of fighting for the rights of her people that I can relate to as a long-time human rights activist for my native Iran,” she says. “The people who are leading the movement towards democracy and freedom in Iran are the brave women of Iran. They are risking everything for a better tomorrow. The stories I hear, the cases I work on, the women I talk to inside in Iran, they gave me all the inspiration I needed to build Bronwyn from scratch [and] to ground her in the truth of what women around the world and in my home country are doing – risking everything for a better future.”

Series showrunners Patrick McKay and JD Payne welcomed creative collaboration from the actors to build their characters, and for Boniadi it was important to ensure that Bronwyn’s actions came from a place of love. “She’s not just a healer, not just the mother of a rebellious teenage son, not just in a forbidden romance with an elf, but she’s a leader,” Boniadi says. “And what I related to the most and conveyed to the showrunners was that they were very receptive to that [this]. As an activist, you can be driven by one of two things: the desire for justice can come from a place of revenge…or it can come from a place of love for the disenfranchised. So I wanted to base everything Bronwyn does from a place of love—her love for her people, her love for her son, her love for the elf—and a desire to overcome as opposed to ‘I’ll show you. I’ll bring you down.’ And I hope that’s what the audience wants to see.”

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