HELLO! caught up with Rings of Power star Lenny Henry to talk about his new Netflix series, The Witcher: Blood Origins.
A self-confessed bibliophile, Sir Lenny Henry has spent his life devouring the pages of Conan the Barbarian, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Narnia and Game of Thrones – so his grand entrance on the stage of fantasy film & TV feels like a predestined prophecy.
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A year of major milestones for the actor, fans have watched Sir Lenny shine in The Sandman and Rings of Power, and now his list of fantastical on-screen adventures includes his portrayal of chief sage Balor in The Witcher: Blood Origins.
WATCH: Will you be watching The Witcher: Blood Origins?
Opening up about the new series – which is set 1200 years before the time of The Witcher – Sir Lenny revealed his most magical memories from the set which sparked a new venture, plus the surprising props that he managed to take home. Keep reading for some behind-the-scenes secrets…
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After he decided to immerse himself in yet another fantasy series, Sir Lenny's role as Balor was inevitably compared to that of the Harfoot, Sadoc Burrows – his character from Rings of Power, but the reality is that they couldn't be more opposite.
"The fact of the matter is they are very different characters," he said.
Sir Lenny Henry stars as chief sage Balor in The Witcher: Blood Origins
Explaining why he was so attracted to the roles of both Sadoc and Balor, the 64-year-old recalled:
"I've been reading these stories since I was six years old at the library. I went to Dudley Library with my auntie Pearl, and she made me join, and she pointed at the librarian and she said, 'This is the woman who will help you' and so I've been reading fantasy and magical stories and sorcery stories since I was six. Even though I was never in these stories because someone like me was never in these stories, I knew that there was a vast array of characterisations and characters to be played."
Sir Lenny's portrayal of Sadoc Burrows in Rings of Power couldn't be more different to Balor
"How blessed am I to play Sadoc and to play Balor," Sir Lenny added, "It means that people are now starting to see people of colour playing all kinds of characters and I think that's really, really good."
Sir Lenny also spoke about the CGI elements that play a huge role in the creation of intricate fantasy worlds, like those featured in The Witcher: Blood Origins and Rings of Power.
"The last two years have been me talking to tennis balls or somebody's finger or looking at a cross on the wall or fighting with myself – it's been hell!" he joked.
The actor spoke about his hilarious experiences with CGI
"But it's been really good fun. I remember watching an interview with Samuel. L. Jackson when he played Mace Windu and he just said, 'I got to hold something like this which is like a stick and I got to go da da da in my head and you're doing everything you did as a kid.'"
"When you get to a certain age, you forget about playing," continued Sir Lenny. "I think what actors are doing now in this space of sci-fi, effects and fantasy is we're having to rediscover that thing we had as kids. When you're just making up your own stories and peopling them with your characters that you made up in your mind. So it's very similar to playing in the park when I was 12 but with 100 technicians standing around going, 'No, you need to look at the tennis ball, now look at the tennis ball and cry.'"
Starring in the fantasy series has transported Sir Lenny back to his childhood
Reflecting on his favourite moments from filming, Sir Lenny also opened up about his close connection with fellow Blood Origin co-star, Amy Murray – which has even sparked a new and exciting venture for the TV star.
"I worked with Amy Murray, who's deaf and I had to do lots of scenes where she's signing and I don't sign, so [...] I was missing my cues because I was fascinated with her fingers and I wasn't really listening to what the interpreter was saying," explained Sir Lenny.
Sir Lenny was particularly inspired by his co-star, Amy Murray
"Balor is supposed to be able to understand sign language so it was very difficult and I have to say it's interesting that we live in a world where signing should be a language that's mandatory at school…and Amy taught me some things. She taught me 'L' 'E' 'N' 'N' 'Y' and some rude things [...] I mean it's hilarious. So I loved the entire experience, it was brilliant but the biggest thing was working with Amy Murray, she was wonderful and I've written a book which is called 'The Book of Legends' which is a quest for kids, and it was inspired by Amy. One of the kids is deaf, he's called Bran and he signs all the way through, and there's a page for signing in the book so check it out if you get a chance."
Commemorating his time on The Witcher: Blood Origins, Sir Lenny also has a few sneaky mementoes from the set, which he exclusively revealed to HELLO!:
"Sometimes I do go down to shops in bigger ears than I usually have! That's all I'm saying," he laughed.
Sir Lenny has managed to take home a few epic props from The Witcher: Blood Origins
"The other thing is, I got a phone call a couple of months ago…I have this wizard staff [...] it's beautiful, it has a kind of jade carving on the top and I had to carry it in every scene like this, 'I am Balor my staff is powerful.' I had to carry it all the time and it was annoying, you know. 'Lenny turn it round the other way, Lenny you need to angle it down.' It was every day, all the time with this staff thing and just after filming finished they called me and said 'do you want the staff' and I said 'I'd love the staff,' and so I now have it in my office and it's beautiful. It hangs there on the wall deflecting bad vibes, day in and day out and it is a good thing."
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