Owain Arthur and Sophia Nomvete on Dwarf Women, Durin’s Love and Disa

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power represents a host of firsts for JRR Tolkien screen adaptations. It’s the first time fans have seen stories from the second age of Middle-earth on screen (all previous installments are set in the third age), the first time kingdoms and cultures of Tolkienian lore have been seen before their tragic fates find out , and, in what was of particular interest to lovers of this world, the first time we saw Dwarves (including Dwarven women!) at their greatest strength in the depths of Khazad-dûm.

The rich and thriving culture of the Dwarves, not its tragedies seen in Fellowship of the ring and the Hobbit trilogy, is finally detailed in the first season of Prime Video’s fantasy epic, led by Prince Durin IV and Princess Disa, the effortless charmers of Owain Arthur and Sophia Nomvete. Second only to The Hobbits, The Dwarfs have always provided great, boisterous humor and warmth in Tolkien’s world. Durin and Disa were fan favorites when the series debuted in September 2022 because of that warmth and humor.

With Season 2 on the horizon and Emmys voting underway, StrippedPixel connected with Arthur and Nomvete to reveal how they brought dwarven culture to the screen through the endless amount of love that Durin and Disa have for each other, their fellow dwarves and their elven friend from outside, Robert Aramayo’s Elrond.

Sophia Nomvete and Owain Arthur in

Ben Rothstein/Prime Video

Tell me about your auditions.

Sophia Names: We’ve never auditioned together! They risked us being together because we didn’t have a chemistry test. It was very interesting, because at first, I had absolutely no idea who I was playing with and what the show was. But they described her as a cheerful, strong, motherly kind of character. And at the time, I was very, very pregnant. Motherly – I was like I could do this.

I went to an audition and read this incredible script. They asked me to sing off the bat. They said, “Would you mind? If not, that’s totally fine. But if you could do something, we would really appreciate it.” So I sang Eva Cassidy’s version of “Ain’t No Sunshine.” So that was my first audition. I had no idea about the story. Actually, when I think about ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’, it’s such a gorgeous song and so fitting for Disa and Durin for how she feels about him. It was all quite casual.

Then I had the second audition and then the call came to say, “Pack your bags, go to New Zealand. You play Disa, our first dwarf to really be seen on screen in Tolkien’s world and the wife of Owain Arthur playing Prince Durin.” It was pretty wild.

Owain Arthur: (My audition) was similar. Well, obviously I didn’t have a chemistry test, because I was in Serbia (shooting another project) so I couldn’t be released outside of the film, which is why I couldn’t make it to the chemistry reading and, therefore I was biting my nails, saying, “Oh, no! I might have missed that just because I couldn’t be there.” But then the phone came. (You name it) You probably got my job by being brilliant.

Names: I didn’t even know it was supposed to be a chemistry test. Maybe you should have taken a chemistry test with somebody else… (Arthur laughs)

Sophia Nomvete as Disa behind the scenes of

Sophia Nomvete as Disa backstage Rings of Power Season 1 (Credit: Matt Grace/Prime Video)

So you didn’t have a chemistry test. When you met and started working together, did you feel an instant connection there, that you would work well together?

Arthur: Yes, of course. I met her at the apartments where we were staying. She stepped into the elevator with an entourage behind her, her daughter in her left arm, and said, “Oh, hello, love!” It was just instantaneous.

Names: Oh, the biggest hug. You just looked at me and said, “We’ll be fine.”

Arthur: You only need five seconds with her to know, “Well, she’s a hoot!” And luckily, that’s what we had. We felt very comfortable with each other.

It’s cute. What I think audiences love most about your shows is the genuine love, warmth and humor that emanates from Durin and Disa. how did you get there

Names: What I think is great about them, and I think it’s really important, is that I feel like they’re a really iconic couple right now. I am happily married. They’re a tight-knit, strong couple that looks like it, I’ll say. And I think that’s really important: they’re so in love with each other, so comfortable, and so real and authentic in what many marriages look like. I just find them really relatable.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, it was very important that Disa not be in any way enslaved or played “his wife”, and she is not. To be able to do that, you need a character who is strong enough in their own strength, in their confidence, to allow the woman or “his wife” to shine in that way. And both Durin and Owain have that in abundance.

They are so respectful of Disa/Sophia that it is easy to rise to the challenge. And so Durin and Disa are born, who are hilarious and wonderful and powerful and so desperately in love and unapologetic about showing it, but who also have their struggles, which is so true of any relationship, friendship and marriage. It was a really interesting opportunity, because dwarven culture says, “Go.” If you are angry, you break rocks. If you are in love, you kiss with the hardest passion. To play that, we have to feel really safe in each other’s companies, and I think we do, so we have an opportunity to present a love relationship, which we don’t see every day, especially not in the fantasy genre.

Arthur: I will add to that that we bring a working class element to Middle Earth as well and domesticity that is quite relatable. I really think there’s a warmth in a working-class marriage to welcome anyone into your house and make them a cake and put the kettle on so you can have a cup of tea and a bun. It’s something I find particularly warm between the two of us. Even though we’re prince and princess, it’s great to have a down-to-earth, down-to-earth couple who are so in love with each other, have each other’s backs. They are a suitable partnership. This is rare not just in fantasy but in storytelling. There are also some challenges ahead. We’re being tested in season 2, which is great.

Owain Arthur as Durin behind the scenes of

Owain Arthur as Durin backstage Rings of Power Season 1 (Credit: Matt Grace/Prime Video)

Would you say their relationship is unique to dwarves in this world, or would you say they are a prime example of dwarven marriage?

Names: Oh, that’s a really interesting question. I think in every world, relationships are generally different. What we’ve tried to emulate is Dwarven culture. We are creatures of Aulë, but with Aulë is Yavanna. We feel like we embody this kind of huge spiritual beginning, if you will. And I think in the whole dwarven culture, we will always try to be like that.

Of course, every relationship is going to be different, but I think we emulate that. Because one thing Tolkien said was that dwarves, especially women and men, you can’t tell the difference. I’m paraphrasing, but as Tolkien invites us to interpret everything he writes in our own way, I took that and said you’re absolutely right. What you can tell is their essence, their power, their status and their respect. I am absolutely on par with that. And so I would like to say that this filters through the entire Dwarven culture, that in any marriage, there will be no hierarchy.

There are some generational differences between Durin and his father, King Durin. Do you think their views on relationships are generationally different? Or do you think they would agree?

Arthur: There is a gap, I think, in both generations. I think Elrond’s effect on Durin opened his eyes and made him think a little further than the rest of Khazad-dûm. And he is constantly learning, as Elrond is constantly learning, about Middle-earth, about himself. And so perhaps Durin III, played by the wonderful Peter Mullan, is not as open-minded, not as broad-minded as Durin.

It is somewhat a mirror of what our society is going through today, in the changes that have taken place and the development for the better that is happening now. But at the same time, I believe that both hearts are full of love and openness. Certainly in the first season, everything is done for what they think is right. Whether we as an audience agree with that or not, I think it’s interesting to explore that avenue where, yes, of course, everyone has a good idea of ​​why they’re doing something. It’s all out of love, but how far into the darkness are you willing to go to achieve that greater good?

As you said, Disa is the first dwarf character I’ve seen in this universe. What are the key traits you wanted to bring out in Disa that differentiate female dwarfs from male dwarfs?

Names: I wanted to bring out the joyous and exciting power in a roller coaster that is feminine. The reality is that we are in a society where we are now exploring the power of a woman. And I think sometimes we can be locked into what it looks like. We must be strong, we must stand up for ourselves, we must also be fearless in our approach. But I think my take on Disa, which has been really helpful to me as a woman in this space and the world space, is that we should celebrate wherever we are.

Sophia Nomvete as Disa singing in

Disa sings to the mountain as part of a resonance ceremony in Khazad-dûm in Rings of Power Season 1 (Credit: Ben Rothstein/Prime Video)

We are usually in a lot of places, sometimes in a single day, where we are fearless, we are absolutely terrified, we are joyful, and we are struck by a feeling that takes us to the depths of sadness.

To be so strong and be able to fight for ourselves and then cower in a corner when we just don’t have the strength. Being a mother, being a parent, and having to own a space in a world that was predominately a certain way, what does that look like? How do we do that? How do we fight for this respect with joy, with happiness, with openness, education and understanding in our hearts? So I wanted to emulate all of that in Disa and make him walk with warmth and love so that she doesn’t say too much, “This is what we do as Ladies!” Everything is done with love, gentleness, intellect, intelligence and forward thinking.

Arthur: It’s also special because it’s a Resonator. It’s something I always look at as Durin in awe and wonder and just, “Do the resonant thing again!” This is something really special about Soph as well. She has a belting voice. Belts.

What are you most proud of with your performances in Season 1?

Names: I’m proud of the uniqueness of their relationship and what we’ve done with Khazad-dûm, with all the relationships in Khazad-dûm. I’m proud of what we represent in the fantasy world just in terms of something we haven’t seen before. And I pride myself on being able to push every emotion to its absolute limit. I like to think – and we often hear, thankfully – that we’ve touched the fans in a way they haven’t seen before. They didn’t see Khazad-dûm that way. They didn’t see the Dwarves that way. It feels like a world of firsts, and I feel very proud that we managed to pull it off relatively unscathed. (laugh)

Arthur: I am proud of the work I have done. The amount of work we personally put into researching our characters and our friendship and our relationship and living that moment in the house. I know I’ve worked hard for it and so I don’t doubt what I’ve done at all, which is quite a strange thing for an actor to say. I support my work here. I suppose it’s a milestone for an actor to be proud of his work.

TThe Lord of the Rings: The Rings of PowerSeason 1 available now, Prime Video

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