Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd are together again in Moriarty: The Devil's Game. Not that they have ever spent long without each other since filming the Lord of the Rings trilogy 20 years ago, given their weekly podcast The Friendship Onion.
Moriarty: The Devil's Game, a fascinating new podcast from Treefort Media that is exclusively available on Audible, follows professor James Moriarty (Monaghan) as he struggles to recover from the murder of his fiancée, Rose Winslow. To make matters worse, he is accused of being the culprit and must turn to Sherlock Holmes for help. Boyd voices his right-hand man, Moran.
While at San Diego Comic-Con, Screen Rant had the honor of speaking to Monaghan about his interesting in tackling a different side of James Moriarty, his enduring friendship with Billy Boyd decades after The Lord of The Rings first began filming, and whether or not he'd return to the Star Wars franchise. Watch the video above. and read the full interview below.
Screen Rant: Happy Comic-Con! How does it feel to be back?
Dominic Monaghan: It's good. Yeah, this is a happy place. I was just saying that there's a lovely energy here. Maybe for 51 weekends of the year, you're not able to wear that thing or lean into that fandom - and then for this weekend, even if it's not the fandom that you're into, you're accepting of everyone's fandom. I think that's a really beautiful, positive thing.
Did you lean into it, go to The Rings of Power experience, and be like, "What's this about?"
Dominic Monaghan: Yeah, we did explore the idea of me going to The Rings of Power. But I think the word that came back was it may be a little distracting and pull a little focus. Unless I'm actually doing something specific for that, it might come across as a little strange. So, we're going to avoid that.
Let's talk about Moriarty: The Devil's Game. I'm a big Sherlock fan, and Moriarty has always been kind of a villain character. But this explores a different side. Tell me how this podcast came about, and what interested you about it?
Dominic Monaghan: I had been exploring doing some sort of show with Treefort Media. We thought about doing a podcast about football - or soccer, as you call it in the United States - and then we were thinking about doing it as a TV show. That was in deep development and kind of fell off a little bit, and then we thought about what else we could do.
I said how interested I was in the world of Sherlock Holmes and different angles of that. What we come to know very quickly with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's writing is that the only person that can really contend with Sherlock Holmes - in terms of intelligence; in terms of beating him at his game; in terms of staying one step ahead of him - is Professor James Moriarty. At that point, we were like, "What if we look at all these dynamic characters, but from the angle of Moriarty, where he feels like he's been wronged?"
Because if you look at these characters in fiction, or even in history, for them to do the things that they do - which objectively we think is wrong - they must think they're right. They think, "Well, I'm doing the right thing here. I'm doing the right thing for me." And I think to explore that with James Moriarty is kind of fascinating. Now it's a podcast, and we hope to do it again. At some point, maybe it turns into a movie or a TV show.
I love that perspective. Like, did the Wicked Witch of the [East] have a point? She just wanted the shoes from her sister, and she was crushed by a house.
Dominic Monaghan: Right, any of those quote-unquote evil characters. I mean, I think it's a little complicated to talk about real people that are objectively seen as being evil.
But if you look at someone in fiction - let's say, for instance, Voldemort - he probably just thinks, "Well, Harry Potter is behaving in a way that I don't like, and he's threatening me and threatening everything that I represent. He's clearly trying to attack me and wants to hurt me, so I'm going to defend myself." You could understand how he would do those things. If you can't relate to these dark characters, then they just become so two-dimensional. You think, "Well, they're just stupid. They're just dark for no apparent reason." Darth Vader, you think, "I can understand how he got there."
And with Moriarty, he feels like he's been wronged by crimes against him. There's obviously a complicated element with his love life, and Sherlock Holmes is someone who is threatening his very existence. So, we're coming at it from that angle.
You mentioned the other iterations you'd like to see this take. Tell me more about that.
Dominic Monaghan: I think it works really well as a podcast. What's fantastic for me is being transported back to London in that time, with the cobblestones and the horses and Big Ben; the clock chimes and all that kind of stuff. You close your eyes and you can hear it. But if it is so well-rounded as an audio piece when you close your eyes, when you go to bed at night, or when you're driving your car - then, of course, that world can exist in a visual way as well.
I think these characters are compelling. I think they're stories that we can continue to tell; they're compelling, and there's more stories to tell. We are exploring this idea of, "If it seems to have found an audience in an audio form, then maybe there would be an audience in a visual form." At some point in the future, we'll see.
I keep wanting to say you're reuniting with Billy Boyd, but I feel like you guys never separated.
Dominic Monaghan: We have a weekly podcast called The Friendship Onion, which we do every Tuesday. So, I see Billy all the time. Obviously, we're very close and live in the same city, which is helpful. But we're always in business with each other.
When this started to come together, Audible and Treefort said to me, "We need your right hand man. What do you think about Billy?" I was like, "Well, of course, that's a brilliant idea."
We know each other, and I was just talking on this panel. As an actor, there are certain things that you have to do with new actors just to get along. "Where are you from? How did you get into acting? Do you want a cup of coffee?" Just a little bit of shorthand, and that can be a little energetically draining sometimes. And the great thing about Billy is I know all those things. I know when he's energizing me, or I'm energizing him, or if he's tired, or if he wants a cup of coffee; what helps or what makes him laugh. That was really helpful, and it's always a pleasure going to work with him.
How did you find the voice of Moriarty?
Dominic Monaghan: Well, I was conscious of trying to not make him too posh. He's obviously from the London glitterati; he's a well-known person who has a relationship with the Queen of England and is well-respected. So, obviously, he speaks correctly. But I didn't want to make him so exclusive in the way that he spoke that he becomes someone that you can't access. I think I probably made him a little less posh than some of the other iterations of Moriarty.
And again, with Billy - because Billy plays my right hand man; the Watson to my Sherlock Holmes, if you will - Billy's character's voice is so grounded. A grounded, Scottish, earthy kind of bloke. I thought, "Okay, if he's the ground for me, then I can be a little above him." But you don't want to be so above him that those two can't be friends. So, that's how I found his voice.
Speaking of the podcast you have with Billy, what is your favorite thing you have unearthed about your time on Lord of the Rings that you didn't initially remember?
Dominic Monaghan: I think the thing that really stuck in my head - which is only a little thing, but it just completely fell out of the back of my brain - is that Billy had said to me that on day one of filming, I had given him a card before we started shooting. He opened it, and inside the card I had written, "If you watch my back, I'll watch your back. Love, Merry," to Pippin.
I was like, "What, really?" He said, "Yeah," and I was like, "Oh, that's interesting." Because throughout the entire trilogy, I was always conscious of, "Okay, I'm good. How's Billy?" And if that was okay, then obviously at that point, I'd be like, "How's Elijah? How's Sean? How's Viggo? How's Orlando?" It kind of automatically, became this thing of, "If I'm okay, then how's my partner in crime?" And for that to have been captured in a card on day one is kind of interesting.
What is like seeing Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power stuff everywhere?
Dominic Monaghan: It's a little peculiar. We were lucky enough to be taken out for dinner last night by the wonderful people at Audible and TreeFort, and we went to Nobu, which is an amazing Japanese restaurant. And directly opposite from Nobu was a massive, 100-foot Rings of Power thing. I sat just looking at these characters for the rest of the evening, and I kind of said to the guys, "That's kind of weird." It's strange to see it.
I wish it a lot of luck. I hope that it goes well, and especially for the actors - because I'm inclined to actors. I hope they're having fun. I hope they don't feel the pressure of expectation or from what had occurred with the Peter Jackson trilogy. I hope they just think, "This is a great job, made some great friends, hope that it continues," and they embrace it, because these types of jobs - the jobs that end up being the best jobs that you ever do - can disappear in the blink of an eye. You can be like, "Oh, I'm going to do this for years," and then suddenly, three years go by and you're like, "What, where's that gone?" And it's done.
I hope that they enjoy it, I hope they're having a nice time, I hope that it's a huge success.
There's a [Star Wars] book that just came out called Shadow of the Sith, and I'm curious if you've read anything about it, because your character Beaumont is really expanded upon in this book.
Dominic Monaghan: I did hear this. I'm gonna have to read this book. A few people have told me on Instagram that Beaumont, my character, features in the book relatively significantly; that he does a few things and has a relatively crucial role in it.
I was really tickled by the fact that the Star Wars encyclopedia came out after The Rise of Skywalker, and my character got a double-page spread. They kind of extended on his previous life: he had a complicated relationship with his parents, and they didn't want him to go into the Resistance. They kind of rejected him when he did, and then he became a high flyer in the university; graduated with honors and became a really intelligent codebreaker.
I think there's a lot to that character. I love that universe. Obviously, I would love to play Beaumont again.
I've said this previously, and I think I got in a little bit of trouble for it, but whatever. I think they're telling different stories with different characters in the Star Wars universe, and I just wonder if maybe after focusing so heavily on Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Ewan McGregor, and Hayden Christensen, maybe they should quite rightly be telling stories from female points of view or from different people's points of view. So, I'll just sit and wait.
Moriarty: The Devil's Game Synopsis
A bold new addition to the Sherlock Holmes universe, Moriarty: The Devils Game dares to ask, "What if Holmes’ most villainous nemesis was actually an innocent man?" Featuring Dominic Monaghan (Lord of the Rings, Lost).
Moriarty: The Devil's Game is now exclusively available on Audible.