Boniadi was on the road promoting another project when she submitted her first audition tape in April 2019 for the then-untitled Lord of the Rings project. The casting process was arduous. It was six months of self-tapes, an in-person meeting with the casting director in London, and lots of anticipation before she found out she got the job and would need to relocate to New Zealand three weeks later. It was the opposite of hurry up and wait until months of intense preparation—stunt training, gym sessions, dialect coaching, and costume fittings—came to a screeching halt in March 2020. “I was a day away from filming, and they had to shut down,” she recalls. Boniadi waited out the early days of the pandemic back home in Los Angeles before being called back to New Zealand in August, where she would stay until filming wrapped in July 2021.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is set in the Second Age of Middle-earth—thousands of years before the events of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings—and features a main cast of 22 people. The story covers major events of the time period, including how the infamous rings were forged. Boniadi plays human Bronwyn from the Southlands, a healer and single mother fighting for the rights of her people who have long been oppressed by the elves. It was a character that immediately resonated with Boniadi—not just because of the serendipitous healing-sciences connection but also Bronwyn’s tenacity and resilience. “There’s an element of fighting for her people’s rights that I can relate to as a longtime human-rights activist for my homeland, Iran,” she says. “The people at the forefront of the movement toward democracy and freedom in Iran are the brave women of Iran. They are risking everything for a better tomorrow. The stories I hear, the cases I work on, the women I speak to inside Iran, they gave me all the inspiration I needed to build Bronwyn from the bottom up, to anchor her in the truth of what women around the world, and in particularly my homeland, are doing, risking everything for a better tomorrow.”
The series showrunners Patrick McKay and JD Payne welcomed creative collaboration from the actors in building out their characters, and for Boniadi, it was important to ensure Bronwyn’s actions came from a place of love. “She is not only a healer, not only the mother of a rebellious teenage son, not only in a forbidden romance with an elf, but she’s a leader,” Boniadi says. “And the thing I related to most and conveyed to the showrunners that they were very receptive to was [this]. As an activist, you can be driven by one of two things: The desire for justice can come from a place of vengeance … or it can come from a place of love for the disenfranchised. So I wanted to base everything that Bronwyn does from a place of love—her love of her people, her love for her son, her love for the elf—and a desire to overcome as opposed to ‘I’m going to show you. I’m going to bring you down.’ And I’m hoping that’s what the audience will see.”