It was said by J.R.R. Tolkien, “Not all who wander are lost.” Tolkien captures that very idea through many of his works, including The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Interestingly, when the highly successful Lord of the Rings trilogy hit movie theaters, the characters Aragorn, Elrond, Merry, and Gimli were all played by Third Culture Kid (TCK) actors.
Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn) is an adult TCK who was born in New York City. During his childhood, his family moved to Venezuela, Denmark, and Argentina. These experiences have shaped both his professional and personal life. Mortensen is an avid fan of the Argentine and Danish national soccer teams, the New York Mets, and the Montreal Canadians. In fact, he adores the Montreal Canadians so dearly that he wore a team t-shirt beneath his Lord of the Rings armor throughout the filming of the trilogy. Having lived in both Argentina and Venezuela, a bachelor’s degree in Spanish required less work for him (by his own admission) than for most students. This left him with plenty of time to devote to theater. His language skills have also expanded his professional horizons to include Spanish productions such as Alatriste (2006). Mortensen currently lives in Northern Idaho.
Co-star, Hugo Weaving (Elrond), also experienced moving quite frequently as a child. His father’s job required his entire family to move between Nigeria, Great Britain, and Australia. Weaving describes part of his TCK experience saying, “I don’t think I’ll ever escape the fact that I don’t belong to anywhere in particular. I’ve often dreamed about going back to Nigeria, but that’s a very romantic notion.” Weaving is very well known for his roles as Agent Smith in the Matrix, “V” in V for Vendetta, and even the voice of Megatron in the Transformers movies. Currently, Weaving is filming for another movie, Captain America: The First Avenger.
Adult TCK, John Rhys-Davies (Gimli) moved during his childhood from England to Tanzania. He lived a majority of his life in Wales but moved to Tanzania because of his father’s job. Rhys-Davies has played notable roles in The Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusades. He has been appearing in many movies and has done voiceovers since the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The final adult TCK is co-star Dominic Monaghan (Merry). Dominic Monaghan was born and raised in Berlin, Germany, but when he was twelve, his family moved to England. Monaghan explains his childhood, “I’ve always traveled, and as a kid my parents moved me around, a different place in Germany every four years. But I got the travel bug when I was a kid, living in different countries.” Monaghan is fluent in German and is known for his impersonations and ability to replicate accents. This can be at least partially accredited to the different places he has lived throughout his life as a TCK. He is also well known for his role in the television series, LOST. When Monaghan is not busy filming for upcoming TV shows or films, he frequently returns to England to visit his hometown of Manchester.
It is interesting to note that a film about discovering the world beyond “the shire” through a purposeful adventure attracted an above-average number of TCKs. These four characters all share a commonality: their experiences as Third Culture Kids. Throughout their lives they have spent significant time outside of their passport country, experiencing different cultures and gaining a very unique perspective on life. These actors are not only influenced by their experiences, but also influence the many, many fans who look up to them.
Who will the next generation of influential TCKs be?
by Brian Spatz and Caitlin Morse