When will the series premiere on Amazon?
The series currently doesn't have an official premiere date, although Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke told The Hollywood Reporter in 2018 that the goal was to have it on the platform sometime in 2021. Part of this is driven by the fact that Amazon's initial deal, which granted them the rights to the series for a price tag of $250 million, also included a stipulation: the company must begin production two years after the deal was closed in November 2017. Of course, any series with this kind of scope is going to take a while to produce -- hence the 2021 premiere.
The first season will reportedly have 20 episodes, said Tolkien scholar and series consultant Tom Shippey in an interview with Deutsche Tolkien Gesellschaft. Amazon, however, has not yet made an official announcement regarding the episode count.
Who's joining the cast?
So far, the series' casting news has been a little weird. Will Poulter was attached to play a character named "Beldor" (Baldor the Hapless, son of Brego, who passed along the Paths of the Dead?), but that fell through due to scheduling conflicts. Other rumored cast include Australian actress Markella Kavenaugh (Romper Stomper, Picnic at Hanging Rock), who was in talks in July to play "Tyra," which is either a code name for a more important character or someone invented for the show.
Collider reported the semi-secret casting of Years and Years' Maxim Baldry, and a few weeks later Deadline reported that Game of Thrones veteran Joseph Mawle (Uncle Benjen) will play "Oren," the series' lead villain, also not a name that appears in anything written by Tolkien, unless this is a weird reference to Orendil, Isildur's father whose sword his son used to cut the Ring from Sauron's hand.
It was also reported that Morfydd Clark (His Dark Materials, Dracula, the fantastic upcoming Saint Maud) will be playing the only character you might recognize -- a younger version of Galadriel, the powerful Elf queen played by Cate Blanchett in Peter Jackson's movies.
At the January Winter 2020 TCA Press Tour, Amazon announced a nearly complete cast list, including newcomers Robert Aramayo (Game of Thrones' young Ned Stark), Owain Arthur, Nazanin Boniadi (Homeland, Counterpart), Tom Budge, Ismael Cruz Córdova (Berlin Station), Ema Horvath, Tyroe Muhafidin, Sophia Nomvete, Megan Richards (Wanderlust), Dylan Smith, Charlie Vickers, and Daniel Weyman. It's pretty clear just looking at this list that this show is taking pains to be extra inclusive, which is great news considering how LOTR adaptations have been criticized (rightly!) in the past for being very, very white.