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While everyone’s still dissecting Sunday’s Game of Thrones premiere, one actor is more interested in talking about the series’ diversity problem.
In an interview with GQ, John Boyega pointed out the lack of black actors in the popular HBO series. As part of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens cast, Boyega is no stranger to fantasy franchises that have a history of neglecting actors of color.
“There are no black people on Game of Thrones,” Boyega told GQ. “You don’t see one black person in Lord of the Rings.”
To be fair, there are a few people of color in Game of Thrones, but only in minor roles: black actors Jacob Anderson (Grey Worm) and Nathalie Emmanuel (Missandei). Boyega is correct about Lord of the Rings.
“I ain’t paying money to always see one type of person onscreen,” he said. “You see different people from different backgrounds, different cultures, every day. Even if you’re a racist, you have to live with that. We can ruffle up some feathers.”
Game of Thrones casting director Nina Gold addressed the diversity issue in a recent interview with Vanity Fair—by saying there isn’t an issue at all.
“Even though these are fantasy worlds, there are tribes, families, and dynasties,” Gold told the outlet. “Once you’ve put one mark on the canvas for the Targaryens or the Starks, you really owe it to the, oh I can’t think of the word, but the authenticity of trying to make them a family somehow. In the books, the Targaryens are these white, white people with silver hair and violet eyes. The Starks are kind of rough, like Northern English people. The Lannisters are golden, aren’t they? We really believed we were doing it like the books, basically.”
As far as the books go, George R.R. Martin’s defense is that his (fantasy) world is homogenous because it’s old.
“Westeros around 300 AC is nowhere near as diverse as 21st century America, of course…” Martin wrote on his blog. “But with that being said, I do have some ‘characters of color’ who will have somewhat larger roles in Winds of Winter. Admittedly, these are secondary and tertiary characters, though not without importance.”
But on a show that includes dragons and even Ed Sheeran, would it be such a stretch to include more diverse actors?
Kris Seavers is the IRL editor for the Daily Dot. Her work has appeared in Central Texas publications, including Austin Monthly and San Antonio Magazine, and on NPR.