Rory Kinnear’s character in the upcoming second season of Prime Video’s Rings of Power, Tom Bombadil, has just been released by Vanity Fair.

Old Tom, as the books call him, is getting his moment in the sun in Kinnear’s form. Tom has long been considered as one of the more eccentric characters in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of Rings. The Prime Video series, with its second season starting Aug. 29, will feature the often flamboyantly dressed character.

In the books, he was described as being “older than the old,” a benevolent entity who has existed when life began. Tolkien told his publisher in 1937 that Tom was “the spirit of the (vanishing) Oxford and Berkshire countryside.” And even though the author disliked the idea that he writes in allegory, Bombadil is most likely nature personified, with his lackadaisical attitude when it comes to the happenings around him.

Rings of Power introduces a new mysterious character

Scene from Rings of Power and Prime Video logo.

Showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay then had to figure out how to get Tom to show up in the show — and also why.

“There’s a reason why he hasn’t been in prior adaptations, because in some way he’s sort of an anti-dramatic character,” Payne said.

“He’s not a character who has a particularly strong agenda. He observes drama, but largely doesn’t participate in it. In The Fellowship of the Ring, the characters just go there and hang out for a while, and Tom drops some knowledge on them,” he continued.

“Knowledge that’s not particularly relevant to anything that they’re doing or about to do,” McKay elaborated.

We (if you’ve read the books) first meet Old Tom when Merry and Pippin encounter an angry tree in the Old Forest, Old Man Willow. Since both hobbits were swallowed into the folds of his bark, Bombadil soothes the savage tree with a song so the halflings could be released.

Payne characterized Tom as someone who “can be a force for good,” however it’s difficult to write him into a storyline because he doesn’t exactly drive a plot point. In other words, writing him in wouldn’t do anything “for the plot.”

Rory Kinnear is Tom Bombadil

But he is there for the plot because Rory Kinnear plays him now. He’s best known as part of the James Bond universe, as M’s chief of staff. He also played Frankenstein’s monster in Penny Dreadful, which ran for three seasons from 2014 to 2016. For Black Mirror fans, he was that British PM, you know the one in the first episode.

The actor wasn’t exactly a fan of the Lord of the Rings before he signed on to play Tom Bombadil.

“There are people who knew it from the books, people who knew it from the films, and there are those who had managed to get to 46 without knowing that much about it at all,” he said.

Kinnear was honest about not having read it the books when he was offered the part. However, when he was, he went to the LOTR expert in his life, partner and Penny Dreadful co-star Pandora Colin.

She was surprised when he told her that not only was he offered the part, the part actually existed for the series.

“Her words were, ‘He’s my favorite character in all of the books,” the actor related.

Bombadil’s confusing part in the books is part of his charm. Even Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson has tried to integrate him into the films.

He told Cinefantastique in 2001, “What we did contemplate, and it was really for the fans, was to have the hobbits walking through the Old Forest and to see a feathered cap come darting through the trees, to hear the sound of Tom Bombadil’s voice and song and then have the hobbits turn and run away as fast as they could!”

The Mystery of Old Tom

Since Jackson, who’s immersed in the LOTR universe, effectively brought it to life to a new generation, couldn’t put him in his movies, HarperCollins is publishing a new edition of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, originally released in 1962. This edition will be released on Aug. 20, nine days before The Rings of Power season two premieres.

Chris Smith, HarperCollins’ publishing director for Tolkien titles describes Old Tom as having “a pure and unaffected joy in the living things of the world, very much removed from the oppressive menace of the overarching tale of the quest of the Ring.”

However, this isn’t exactly helpful to Kinnear. He needed to bring humanity to an entity that is almost always described as nature personified.

“I was really interested to see how they were then going to process the character through the prism of their eyes and the way that they see the show developing,” Kinnear said about Payne and McKay’s writing of his scenes.

“There’s this sense of huge experience, huge openness, huge empathy, and having gone through so much that he knows it’s the small things that are important. That felt actually quite domestic, felt quite reachable in terms of my understanding of who he was,” he added.

Getting the look and sound just right

The actor zeroed in on Bombadil’s outfit.

“His boots are yellow, the jacket is blue, and he’s got a feather in his hat, so all the main beats were hit,” he said.

Kinnear likened the ensemble to that of a child’s getup.

“My daughter is 10, and for a year and a half she wore a sheep hat throughout the school day and through the hottest, hottest summer. It was just the face of a sheep with big, long woolly straps around the side. I mean—absolutely ridiculous. Too small for her as well. But I could not get it off her. There you are. She didn’t care. We can take something from that attitude, I think, as adults,” the actor explained.

However, he also needed to suss out how Old Tom would sound.

“The big thing was, how’s he going to talk? There are lots of different dialects and accents going on throughout the show, and I wanted him to be somewhat distinct from those,” Kinnear stated.

He leaned into the ancient part of the character.

“But I also wanted to choose an accent that felt old—that was British, but felt like the oldest part of Britain,” he elaborated.

For that accent, he got the idea while he was swimming in Cornwall, which is located in the westernmost part of England.

“The rock in Cornwall just sort of erupts out of the sea, and you can see all the layers of accretion. I was looking at it and just thinking, God, this has been here for so long. It’s a bit like standing on Table Mountain [overlooking Cape Town in South Africa] and you think, This mountain has seen everything, has seen this silly little city develop from this tiny little speck. It must feel so young to this mountain, this tiny little city, now a fantastic city,” the actor noted.

Kinnear worked with the dialect coach Leith McPherson on working up the Cornish accent, which he described as a major building block of his version of Tom Bombadil.

The light in the dark

For Payne, Old Tom is all about aid and comfort. Not just to the Stranger, but also to the viewers of The Rings of Power. Since the first season already set the story and the characters, season two’s task is to set all that in motion. It’s also going to be about the villains.

“You’ve got Sauron, who is not cloaked behind the guise of [the human refugee] Halbrand anymore. The audience knows he’s Sauron, so no we’re watching him maneuver as he’s manipulating [the burn-scar covered dark elf] Adar, who’s another big villain of the season,” the showrunner explained.

Tom Bombadil is set up as a curiosity, with his singing and rhyming ways. He’s meant to be the tonal shift of the season, and as Payne said he’s “a real point of light amidst an otherwise sea of darkness.”

Kinnear’s job as Old Tom may not exactly be as comic relief, but as one who brings levity while still being a mysterious character. Both Payne and McKay decided not to provide any more details.

Smith added, “Perhaps the only answer to the enigma that is Tom Bombadil is simply to accept that, as Tolkien wrote in The Lord of the Rings, ‘He is.'”