Whether you are a fan of Middle Earth adventures or not, there is no question that The Lord of the Rings phenomenon continues to make an incomparable impression on the world at large. Written in stages between 1937 and 1949 by author J.R.R. Tolkien, his elaborate fantasy world jumped off the page and onto the big screen with Peter Jackson’s three massive blockbuster films: The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001, The Two Towers in 2002 and The Return of the King in 2003, which took home the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2004. Filmed across the incredibly picturesque landscape of New Zealand, this holy trilogy raked in nearly $3 billion dollars collectively worldwide at the box office, which does not even include the home video and now digital sales that continue to occur for these films after almost two decades. With The Fellowship of the Ring celebrating the 20th anniversary of its initial theatrical release this year, two familiar faces have effectively re-emerged by bringing their well-known cinematic mischief to the real world.
Actors Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd, known for playing best friend Hobbits Merry and Pippin in The Lord of the Rings saga of films, have taken the humorous connection of their well-known characters and blossomed it into an undeniable rapport as real-life friends ever since their filming days. The two men recently decided to turn their inseparable bond into a full-fledged business with the launch of their new The Friendship Onion podcast this past May with Kast Media, a communication outlet Billy never considered until Dominic introduced him to the in-demand medium.
“It came about because Dom was a fan of podcasts long before I was,” Billy tells me at Forbes of how their interest in podcasting together initially came about. “I didn’t really get it. We went to a podcast of one of Dom’s friends. We said [to his friend] Could we have a go at doing a podcast in your studio afterwards and record it, just to see if it was fun? When we recorded it, we really enjoyed it. During that first recording, we came up with that name.” Dominic adds, “And I said maybe it’s an opportunity for us to unpeel our friendship. And Billy says Like an onion! and then I jokingly say Welcome to The Friendship Onion! We both crack up laughing and it just stuck.”
On the podcast, Billy and Dominic discuss all things The Lord of the Rings including special guest conversations with co-stars like Elijah Wood and fun trivia games with call-in listeners. They also often make it a point to interact with their fans and listeners as much as they can, with fun trivia games and by answering burning questions surrounding The Lord of the Rings and beyond. “If we’re searching for a structure, then a lot of times it will sit back on The Lord of the Rings thing because that was such a profound moment in our lives but really, it’s the people listening to it that are dictating where the show is going,” Dominic says of their podcast format.
Life has truly come to imitate art with this real-life duo, which Dominic and Billy are the first to admit. “Well, Merry and Pippin are one of the great examples, I think, of a pure friendship in Lord of the Rings,” Dominic continues. “Merry and Pippin are equals, are peers. When they are together, they are as close to their essence as they ever would be. In terms of the way of that Billy and I spend time with each other, we go on holiday together quite a bit, spend a lot of time with each other, watch sporting events together, have surfed together, have scuba dived together, enjoy each other’s company. Just two people going through life with a lot of similar interests really, isn’t it?” When it comes to them being spotted in public, Billy lightheartedly shares a type of fan response they often receive. “My favorite is the people who react Well of course you’re together, because you’re Merry and Pippin.”
Looking back today on 20 years of cinematic glory, Billy and Dominic have many fond memories on-set of these powerhouse films. “As well as the film being an adventure, it was such an adventure for us to go to the other side of the world and meet all these people,” Billy recalls of their New Zealand production days with cast and crew. “It was too long to be in a hotel, so they were trying to find us apartments and all that. Just the whole adventure of it. Just when you get settled, Okay, we’re all going on helicopters to the south island to go on top of the mountain [to film]. The sheer adventure of it was the thing that sticks in my mind.”
So after all these years, does this fellowship of actors, on and off-screen, still keep in touch? “Yeah, we all keep in touch,” Dominic reveals. “It’s very hard for all of us to be in the same room together. It’s like herding cats at the best of times. So unless you’re together for a Lord of the Rings-based thing, but at any given point, there’s nine members in the fellowship. Of those nine members, I wouldn’t think any of us have been in the same city at any point in the last 20 years all together. Everyone’s busy, you know, but we’re all on an email chain, so if it’s someone’s birthday. It was Andy Serkis’s birthday recently, Cate Blanchett’s birthday recently. We all kind of said hello, sent love, maybe you find an old photo Oh, check this out!, Merry Christmas, we’ll do those things, won’t we? But we’ve yet to have any kind of official capacity thing for the 20th year anniversary, like we’re going to show The Fellowship of the Ring at Cannes again or show it in LA and we’d like to invite you all. We’ve yet to do that. I think that would be the only way that we could all come together.” Billy chimes in following Dominic to say, “We’re all getting older.” Dominic quickly responds, “One of us will be dead soon (laughs)!”
Since their first episode of The Friendship Onion premiered on May 18, Kast Media says the podcast has already surpassed one million downloads and continues to rise. As Dominic and Billy look to the future, the podcast hosts say that authenticity remains their top priority with the content they choose to put out over the airwaves. When speaking about the days they are recording their episodes in-studio together, Dominic confesses, “I think the person who I want to make the most laugh on the planet is Billy, so if he laughs, I feed on that. It’s a real energizing thing. It’s an hour where we try as hard as we can to make each other laugh and it’s great fun.” Billy adds to Dominic’s candid words, “It’s just us being us and I really love that. I’m really excited about what it’s going to morph into over the months and hopefully years. Maybe we’ll do a little five-minute play and maybe it will become a live thing. I just love that it’s all coming from us, that there’s no producers or investors saying do this or do that. It’s just us, you know? I love that.”