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Rings Of Power's Nazanin Boniadi Weighs In On The Elves' Occupation Of The Southlands - Exclusive

The southern portion of the Middle-earth map is a complicated and troublesome region. In "The Lord of the Rings," it's an area occupied by Mordor and Gondor. The story of "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" starts before that point, but the area is a powder keg nonetheless. Referred to as "the Southlands" in the adaptation, the district is settled by semi-prosperous groups of humans who are tilling the green earth around Mount Doom before the land becomes a charred and blackened hellscape. This may sound idyllic, but as the first season of the story has unfolded, circumstances have proven to be more unstable than they appear at first glance.

The Oliphaunt in the room is the underground invasion of Orcs that is slowly creeping into the picture, looting towns and hunting for a broken sword hilt. But there's something else undermining the peace of the Southlands long before any Orcs show up on the scene: the division between Elves and Men. When the story starts, we find that the Men of the Southlands, whose ancestors fought for the Dark Lord Morgoth a millennium ago, are still being watched by Elvish wardens, who are apparently an extension of the military forces from Lindon far off in the north.

This power dynamic of Elves keeping an eye on Men through a military occupation causes tension from the get-go, and it begs the question: "Are Elves the bad guys in this part of the story?" We recently sat down with "Rings of Power" actress Nazanin Boniadi (who plays the Southlander human Bronwyn) to pick her brain on the subject, and she provided some clarity on the political state of affairs between Elves and Men during the first season of the show.

Elves aren't necessarily bad guys in the Southlands

Earlier in the summer, we initially talked to Nazanin Boniadi and Ismael Cruz Córdova (who play Bronwyn and the Elf Arondir, respectively) about the state of affairs in the Southlands, and they brought up a "huge power dynamic" between their characters' peoples. When we caught up with them just before the premiere, we followed up on the conversation, digging into the complexities of human-Elvish politics in the Southlands. One specific question we asked was if Elves are perceived as legitimate "bad guys" in the region since, you know, they're watching over its inhabitants, occupation style. Nazanin Boniadi's response helped clear things up a bit.

"It's less about being the bad guys — it's more about being the occupiers, or like, 'Just let us be. Our ancestors did something, it's been hundreds of years. Let it go.'" The actress went on to clarify the importance of immortal verses mortal worldviews: "What we forget is that the human perception of time is so different from the Elven perception of time, because they're immortal and we're not. What to us is, 'Oh, that was ages ago,' is fresh in the minds of the Elves. With that comes this source of conflict of, 'Let that go. It was a long time ago,' and for them, it's very, very new."

It's good to know that relations between Elves and humans haven't completely deteriorated, since the impending arrival of the new Dark Lord, Sauron, will require a union of all of the free peoples of Middle-earth to stop him ... a Last Alliance, perhaps? The question is, how many of the Southlanders will be in that group?

"Rings of Power" airs weekly on Fridays at 12 a.m. ET for the remainder of its eight-episode first season.