SAG Awards nominee profile: ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’ will satiate voters’ appetite for swordplay to a stunt ensemble victory

A resurgence in hit genre television has resulted in a stacked TV stunt ensemble category at this year’s SAG Awards. Voters have previously favored work from the fantasy world of George R.R. Martin in this race, but Amazon’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” has scored a nomination for its hit inaugural season. If fantasy realms and medieval style combat is what appeals to voters in the stunt category, then this epic series ticks all the boxes by bringing the pages of J.R.R. Tolkien to life.

At this year’s ceremony, “The Rings of Power” stunt team is nominated alongside the ensembles from “Andor,” “The Boys,” “House of the Dragon,” and “Stranger Things.” This is the sole SAG nomination this year for each of these series.

SEE ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’: Top 6 award-worthy performances from season 1

The history of the TV stunt ensemble offers few tea leaves with which to base predictions upon, because so few shows have won the award. “24” claimed the inaugural trophy in 2007, and again in 2009. “Heroes” and “True Blood” also picked up a win. But then “Game of Thrones” debuted and won in 2011, and it just kept winning. That HBO epic claimed this category eight times, a win for every single one of its seasons. The show’s gap year before its final installment allowed the wrestling ladies of “GLOW” to snag the prize, and “The Mandalorian” and “Squid Game” are the two most recent winners.

While some might think that leftover love for “Game of Thrones” might mean that voters will check off its prequel series “House of the Dragon” in this category, there’s an argument to be made that the stunt work in “The Rings of Power” more closely aligns with what these voters loved about “Thrones.” “Rings” captures a scope larger than most shows would ever dare, with the season’s budget reportedly coming in at a staggering $462 million. Plenty of that budget went towards numerous action scenes, complete with waves of stunt performers executing gritty swordplay.

SEE ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’: Looking back on top 5 best moments from season 1

Episode 6 alone contains enough fight sequences to warrant a win. Titled “Udun,” this installment is massive in every sense of the word. An early scene involves a scrappy group of humans who lay a trap in the center of town for a band of invading orcs. Stunt people sling arrows, heave swords, tumble from buildings, and are run over by a wagon of hay set ablaze. As the sun rises, the Numenor army arrives on horseback to turn the tide of battle. Here the swordplay is more intricate given the advanced training of these soldiers, with fighting both on foot and atop horses.

Not only must the stunt team execute precise fight choreography on an enormous scale, but they also have to be great physical actors. Those playing Numenoreans must exhibit skill and grace while bogged down under pounds of armor. Those playing orcs must embody a hunched, animalistic physicality while their face is covered with layers of prosthetics. This is the same type of high caliber stunts that SAG voters couldn’t resist rewarding when “Game of Thrones” was on the air. “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” currently sits in third place in Gold Derby’s combined odds, but considering the history of the category, an upset might be brewing.

This article is a part of Gold Derby’s “SAG Awards nominee profile” series spotlighting the 2023 contenders in film and TV.

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