It was a series of seven auditions and a blind eye which led him down the path to his biggest role to date, Halbrand in The Lord of the Rings: Ring of Power. Once the series airs, he’ll have undoubtedly earned a space in the hearts of a loyal fanbase which has steadily grown since the release of J. R. R. Tolkien’s novel in 1954. Instinct and trust told him this was going to be something worth waiting for.
He is beyond happy to be here, but he’d also be equally fulfilled living off the grid. We touch upon his absence on social media which is not accompanied by insecurity or jadedness, but genuine satisfaction with privacy and a belief that the work he makes will ultimately speak for itself. In an age where social media often not only offers up our first impression of an individual but defines them, Charlie is refreshingly unbothered by the need to curate a public persona and rightly so. Against the backdrop of a pastel-hued West London townhouse, he is at ease in front of Wanda Martin’s artful lens yet unaware of the striking nature of his portraits. Stylist Tasha Arguile combines a palette of earthy tones with alluring corduroy textures - a perfect complement to the delicate architecture and timeless setting.
A self-effacing air surrounds Vickers, an unassuming charm and an impression that if this role was his last then he’s content to have just been there living it. But for an actor whose world is undoubtedly about to quadruple in size, his sights are still very much set on taking each day as it comes, yet we’re certain those days are only going to get busier.
Follow Charlie Vickers as Halbrand in the new series The Lord of the Rings: Ring of Power. Premiering on 2nd September 2022 exclusively on Amazon Prime Video.
First and foremost, if you had to describe yourself to someone who doesn't know you very well, what sort of picture would you paint of Charlie Vickers?
This is good. It's hard to reflect on yourself because I never really think about myself in those terms. The best way I could describe myself is: on the surface I can come across as quite chilled and relaxed but what's going on inside is usually quite overanalytical, intense and fuelled by a lot of anxiety. I think that juxtaposition is quite an interesting thing.
Definitely. I think a lot of people can relate to that. So, The Lord of The Rings: Ring of Power is set to premiere in September, how does it feel taking on a role within a franchise that has such a loyal and vast following?
It's an amazing privilege. When the opportunity came, I obviously jumped at the chance to be part of it because it's something I grew up loving and it's something so many people care so much about. It's a real honour to be able to bring a story to life we haven't seen visually - it's daunting and it's exciting. I think what I look for in life is new adventures. That is something I've always done even without really knowing it. Going on a new adventure has been a constant in different aspects of my life so far and I think this is one of those for me.
Your character Halbrand has been newly created for this series, what was it that drew you to the role?
It was tricky, because of the initial audition process, I did about seven auditions and because of the nature of the show, everything is behind closed doors so I didn't really know anything about the role. The initial thing that drew me to it was the fact it was Lord of the Rings, I was like ‘holy shit, this would be an amazing thing to be a part of’. Then when I got further down the audition process there were a few things revealed to me about Halbrand. One of the most exciting things about him is we meet him at a point in his life where, he isn’t running away from something as such, but wants to start afresh. He goes on this journey and basically runs into a whole bunch of external forces which alter his path and inevitably start pulling him back toward the life he was trying to escape. When I learned all this, I thought it could be a really cool thing to bring to life. But I didn't know that for quite a while strangely enough. I was quite far into the process before I started to learn these things.
That's really interesting, going in blind yet with a rough idea allows for some elements of surprise which I imagine is quite nice.
Exactly. Because of the quality of the people working on the show and everything I knew about it, that was what got me excited initially because the team was so good and it seemed to have such amazing potential. I just had to trust, if I am going in with blinkers on, not fully blind, then I put my trust in the people I was going to be working with and know that even if I don't know everything, I'll be steered on the right course and it'll be an amazing experience.
What's your process for getting into character on set? Do you have any rituals or habits?
I think it varies completely from character to character, depending on the project too. You just have to follow your gut instinct and see what you think the project needs. I try to remove myself from having a set idea of doing something that gets me into character because each thing offers new challenges. But I suppose there are a few things that are constants, in that I'm quite analytical and I spend a lot of time reading, I just started this show called The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart which is based on an Australian novel and I spent a lot of time mining that text in the same way with Lord of the Rings. There are endless amounts of source material to go back to, I thought when I got into this world I was a Lord of the Rings fan and then all of a sudden these books are slapped down on your desk and it's like, ‘wow, there is so much here’.
My way into it on this project was just pouring through the material because there was so much; there’s The Silmarillion which is a big back catalogue, there is the trilogy and so many other stories that have been summarised by Christopher Tolkien, [J. R. R.] Tolkien's son. There are also Tolkien's letters which have been taken and collated by his son from different points in his life. I found them really useful because you see his psychology, not only related to his work but what kind of man he was and he literally describes his characters which I find really useful. Even though Halbrand isn't a canon character, you can see he is drawn from so many other things - it was pretty remarkable. Then from there, I spent a lot of time working in New Zealand and it’s such a rich, amazing landscape. I used a lot of my surroundings and where I was living to inform the process. You can only do so much intellectually and spend so much time thinking and writing. I went hiking by myself for five days in Tongariro National Park which is where they filmed a lot of the Peter Jackson trilogy and I used that to be in character. I think other people might have been looking at me quite strangely but luckily there weren't too many people around. I became part of the landscape because it was so evocative and fed the creative process so much.
You really have to merge the two - physical and mental. Does one often offer more weight than the other?
Yeah, because I can veer off down a hole of too much intellect, focusing on so much thinking, and that is when I think it can start to work in the opposite direction for acting because ultimately it is a physical experience. If I'm in my body then I think I'll be doing the best work I can.
As an actor at the moment, what work do you feel is important to be making?
I think there are so many amazing shows being made at the moment, it’s such a good time for TV and an amazing time for film as well. There is still a way to go in the industry but I think diversity and representation are something really important to our show - every actor in our show is there for a reason because they are perfect for their role. The industry as a whole is moving towards more diversity. Having so many strong female characters I think is really, really important in the industry at the moment too.
I want to take it back in time a little bit, imagine yourself back to being a kid. Do you see it? What was the moment that sparked in you: "I want to be an actor!"
It was something I always did from when I was at school, I was always interested in acting and it was something I did throughout junior, middle, and high school but it took me a while to realise this was a career. My high school drama teacher was very influential in making me believe I could be an actor and I was good enough to pursue it as a profession. It took me a lot of time to gather up the courage to do it. I had been in countless plays in school but the moment I was really like; ‘this could be a cool career’, I think I was 17.
Our drama class did an excursion to the Melbourne Theatre Company. I saw a production of Richard III which had this Australian actor called Ewen Leslie in it who is one of my favourite actors. It was just amazing, I remember watching and being like ‘whatever he is doing is so incredible and so inspiring, maybe I could do that’. We were doing a production of Richard III at school and I was playing Richard. It was obviously such a vastly smaller scale but I was so inspired by what the production was offering and what he was doing. Then from that point, I went to university in Melbourne instead of going to acting school. I didn't have the courage to try to get into drama school at that point. I don't know what it was that was stopping me, maybe a lack of self-belief which I still struggle with. It wasn't until three years later I plucked up the courage to go and audition for drama school. Luckily I got in, but even then looking back I didn't tell anyone I was auditioning. I lived in Melbourne but I flew up to Sydney for the weekend to audition, I told my mum but no one else knew. Then I eventually found out I got in and that was a whole big moment in itself because I had to face the prospect of leaving. The school I auditioned for was in London so I had to face the prospect of changing my life.
I couldn't help but notice you don't have a huge social media presence, can you tell us a bit about your relationship with it?
Social media is something I try not to engage with. It's a complex relationship, I used it publicly many years ago and I think it's something that can be really useful for staying in touch with friends and your immediate connections. But for me, with my disposition, the world of social media is a bit too much. It has some amazing uses and is really useful for so many people but I try to maintain quite a bit of privacy in what I'm doing. Who knows what the future holds but it's something I’ve put a pin in for now.
Striking a balance can be hard because it is something you can end up in a real minefield with if you're not careful. Do you fear you may begin to feel an increased pressure to share more of yourself online once your upcoming show is out in the world?
Yeah, I think there is madness down there and you can fall down the rabbit hole. Part of my personality can overthink that and overanalyse, so removing myself from that domain makes me happier as a person. It is strange but I think my involvement in the world will be implicit from just supporting the show. I don't think I necessarily need to use a social media platform to add extra publicity to a show or to myself for whatever reason. It's such an amazing show to be a part of, just doing things, sharing our work, and talking about it is enough. It's a tricky one because even though sometimes there is reluctance for me to do publicity naturally because of the way I am. The other side of it is of course the fact that you really want to help the show. Give your time, just be kind to the people you're working with, and support the show as much as you can because it's given me such an incredible opportunity. So, it is all about striking that balance. If I realised I needed social media in order to do that then I would consider it but I don't think I do at this point.
Lord of the Rings is obviously rooted in fantasy, but what would it look like if you could create your own fantasy world?
Oooh! [laughs] Purely from a selfish point of view I'd be living somewhere in the countryside with not many people around, lots of beautiful nature, and maybe a beach a five-minute walk away with the perfect surfing waves every day. Then lots of my friends and family all living within a five-minute walk in a tiny little secluded village. To me, that would be my fantasy.
That does sound pretty dreamy. When do you feel the most content? And when are the moments you may not feel so content?
There is contentment in the idea of being somewhere remote or being secluded. I'm definitely drawn to that and drawn to being quiet - separated from the hustle, bustle and madness. But there is also something about when I'm working on set; specifically being on set or being involved in a project when you're completely engaged, physically, intellectually and you're working with other actors, directors, the crew and you're all in flow. You're doing a scene and you're in the process of making something special or doing something really cool, I feel really content then and there is nowhere I feel more at home than on days like that.
I’m still at the start of my career but as I’ve gotten more experienced, I would've previously answered the other half of your question by saying when things aren't working and you can start to feel frustration, anxiety or whatever it may be. But I think I'm getting better at understanding that when things aren't working that's really part of the process and there is contentment and enjoyment in that. To answer the other side of it now, I think big crowds and lots of people for me, anything that triggers negative anxiety. There are obviously things we all have where it triggers a level of stress or anxiety which can be really useful, it can feed a creative process or feed whatever you're doing, but when it tips into the other thing is when I start to feel the opposite to content.
Some people feed off that emotion and it fuels them in a way, but there is a real dichotomy when things start to tip in the other direction.
I completely agree. You can definitely feed off it to an extent, but the more I've worked, I'm realising the more relaxed I am, the more in flow I can get and the more focused I am. That's the key for me, in life and work.
What is your go-to remedy if you are having a particularly tough day?
Just trying to bring yourself back to the present and try to let go of things that are out of your control. You can control the things you can control and anything you can't, you can't. I think a big journey I went on was letting go of other people's expectations and it's something I think was brought about by doing this show and going through the process of making something that is so important to so many people. You wonder: ‘what are people going to say? Is this going to live up to their standard or what they hope for this thing they love so much?’. But a big breakthrough for me came when I realised, and this was through a lot of work - these things don't happen instantly, but it's realising you can't control what other people think so you can just focus on doing your own thing and doing what you think is best. That was a big process for me.
While we're in this realm of thinking, how would you define your outlook on life or your own personal philosophy?
I think looking for a purpose is a really good way of thinking and finding some kind of direction in your life but also I think the idea of living a quiet life or just getting on with your life, just trying to be happy and content in whatever you're doing. In this world of ambition, striving, and trying to achieve and do more, we are so geared in this society towards success and competition. As I've gotten older I've become less ambitious, I don't really desire that kind of stuff anymore and I appreciate the quiet life being happy and spending time with friends and family. If you can link that to some kind of purpose then I guess that makes your life all the more fulfilling, but then if you asked me what my purpose is I'd have to think hard about it to try and work it out.
What would your perfect Sunday consist of?
Waking up very well rested and reasonably early, having a little snack then doing some kind of exercise. I like to be outdoors and all that kind of stuff, whether it's going to the gym or going for a run or a swim. I'd say probably going for a surf then coming back and spending time with family and friends. If it was a Grand Prix Sunday then lying down on the sofa watching Formula 1 at 2pm would be great. I'm also a big Tottenham fan so probably watching Tottenham after - the dream would be a 2pm Grand Prix and then a 5pm kick-off. Then having dinner with friends and family and going to bed quite early to wake up for the week ahead. When you're an actor the weeks are a bit discombobulated, and I don't get the Sunday evening blues as much as I used to when working part-time jobs all the time.
It’s a great silver lining not to get the Sunday evening blues. Can you tell us something most people don't know about you?
Since I moved to London and finished drama school, I've worked a lot of quite eccentric part-time jobs as I was trying to get acting going. I've got quite an elaborate CV, so if acting doesn't work out, I'm very experienced in lots of different industries [laughs].
Are there any dream roles you would love to portray in the future?
It's so tricky because you have these roles which you've grown up doing. I'd love to work more in theatre. I haven't had many opportunities to do that since I finished drama school, I guess drama school was theatrical training - you train for the theatre really. Each year that goes past, I'm like ‘Could I really do it? Could I get back on stage?’, and I think I'd love to. Roles like Richard III - I like that kind of antagonist role. This is a silly one, do you remember the Tim Burton Batman with Arnold Schwarzenegger playing Mr. Freeze?
I do indeed.
I would love to play Mr. Freeze. I love the Batman universe but I think Robert Pattinson has got that one down pat for now and there have been so many amazing Batmans. But I would love to play Mr. Freeze in a future Batman - any time, any place.
Anytime they pick up the phone, you're there. [both laugh]
Exactly! But having said that regarding dream roles, this might be a bit of a boring answer but I would hope a lot of the dream roles or a lot of the things I'd love to play are still out there that I don't even know exist yet. Sometimes you get an audition come through often for a character you've never heard of and there is so much amazing new writing going on, so hopefully, the dream role is out there but I don't know exactly what it is yet.
Have you watched or read anything recently that has had an impact on you?
I watch quite a lot and I read quite a lot as well. I read a Tim Winton book recently called Eyrie and that was a pretty impactful story. He's a very famous Australian writer and I loved that story. I've been watching quite a lot, my favourite show is Severance on Apple TV, I don't know if you've seen it.
I haven't seen it but I've heard good things.
It's unbelievable. That is probably the thing I've watched recently which has had the most impact, I was screaming at the TV during it and that never happens. I love Adam Scott and one of the questions I got asked in one of my first meetings with the show runners when I was still auditioning [for The Lord of the Rings: Ring of Power] was who my favourite actor was. I panicked and I didn't know who to say. I said Adam Scott because he plays this amazing role in Big Little Lies and he was the only person who came into my head. Then Severance reinforced I wasn't just making it up, I really do love him [laughs].
Is the storyline really gripping? What is it that drew you in?
Yeah, it's gripping but it's also really psychological and otherworldly. I won't spoil it but it's such an otherworldly, out-there concept which I'm really drawn to yet it's still grounded in relationships and human connection which is such a powerful combination if it’s in this exciting world. That's what our show is hopefully going to tap into as well. It can take you to this world that is different to our own, yet we still share these fundamental things we all go through day to day.
I think tapping into the universal themes in cinema will always remain universal despite the environments they exist within. The relatability is the beauty of it.
Exactly. Even if it is in this high fantasy world, it still exists. Ultimately, that is what we go to the cinema for - to try and find some kind of escape or connection to different parts of our lives and to understand ourselves more.
Finally, looking forward to the next few years, what is your personal vision? What do you see?
I think it's a boring answer, maybe it isn't, but I think I'm taking it day by day. At the moment, I'm trying not to think too far ahead and I don't really want to think about what is to come yet. I'm just trying to enjoy the present and enjoy this amazing journey we're going on now and the privilege and joy of doing this project. Each day as an actor brings a new challenge or a new opportunity and I think it comes with trying to step away from ambition, I don't really feel I want to strive for anything right now in my life. I just want to enjoy the stuff I'm doing, just be content and at peace.
I don't think that was a boring answer at all, I think that was the perfect answer.
I'm very glad.