Keeping The Rings Of Power Finale Twist Hidden Was A 'Real Challenge' For The Actor Who Plays Sauron

It turns out it was Halbrand all along. The threat of Sauron's return loomed large over the entire first season of "Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power," but in the end, the dark lord was right under paranoid hero Galadriel's (Morfydd Clark) nose — and in her good graces. By the time the handsome smith she found adrift at sea was revealed to be powerful evil incarnate, plenty of audience members had already guessed at his identity. But others, myself included, fell for the show's red herrings, believing either Adar (Joseph Mawle) or The Stranger (Daniel Weyman) would be revealed as the sinister villain.

The fact that even a fraction of viewers were deceived by Halbrand means that actor Charlie Vickers played his part well. According to an interview with ScreenRant, Vickers found out he was really playing Sauron sometime before filming episode 3, but the actor was careful not to let the knowledge color his performance. "I wholeheartedly played Halbrand in the same way that Sauron is wholeheartedly playing Halbrand, in order to convince someone like Galadriel, who is not easily deceived," he shared.

He also revealed that it was pretty challenging to keep a sense of ambiguity in his performance, even after initial chemistry reads with Clark led him to begin suspecting his character may be more than a simple Southlander. "It was tricky because I didn't want to play into the suspicions too much [in] the beginning because I didn't know if they were true," he shared. "So it was a real challenge as an actor, actually. And I look back on it and think, 'Wow, that was an anxious time for me,' because I felt like I was walking this tightrope."

Vickers dove 'headfirst into the lore'

Vickers explained that he understands why he wasn't told about Halbrand's history right away, saying that the show's crew "had the best intentions" when withholding the information. Once he found out, though, he tried to keep his on-screen performance the same — while diving into some research off-screen. "When I did learn, to be honest, it didn't change my approach too much on the day," Vickers told ScreenRant. "It just changed the fact that I was able to dive headfirst into even more of the lore, and more of the books."

The actor seems committed to getting the full context of Tolkien's extensive bibliography, and says he's currently studying the author's collected letters, "The Silmarillion," and the tenth volume of Christopher Tolkien's "The History of Middle-earth," which is called "Morgoth's Ring." His Tolkien scholarship may have even helped him out when it came to playing the deceiver. "So, I was able to really pinpoint Tolkien's thoughts on Sauron," Vickers says. "And then I would hope that the subconscious work that I did just informed my decisions on the day."

The show's second season, which has already been greenlit and is currently in production, will no doubt include new challenges for Vickers, as he no longer has to deal with the secret identity, but can embody the character in his fully duplicitous glory. The actor calls season 1 Sauron "his repentance stage," but the villain didn't look very sorry anymore by the time the finale's last scene saw him ominously standing over the ruins of Mordor. We won't know exactly what's next for him until season 2 premieres, but just like Vickers, we'll be studying up in the meantime on Tolkien's texts, to figure out what's next for the once and future conquerer of Middle-earth.