The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power Showrunners Address Backlash To Diverse Casting

Any adaptation of the work of a beloved author is sure to inspire equal amounts of excitement and kneejerk criticism — even before anyone's ever actually seen the adaptation in question! Some criticisms can certainly be valid, coming from a well-intentioned place and involving reasonable fans who sincerely want their favorite stories fully realized with respect and faithfulness. Others ... well, others are hardly worth the effort of getting mad about in the first place.

"The Lord of the Rings" comes with a higher amount of scrutiny than many other franchises, having originated from the mind of author J.R.R. Tolkien and resulting in his acclaimed fantasy novels that did much to significantly set the mold for the entire genre in the first place. Thanks to Peter Jackson's film trilogy, another whole generation of fans were introduced to the classic tale of the most insignificant of Hobbits (and their slightly taller allies!) defeating one of the greatest evils that Middle-earth has ever seen. But that's not to say that all opinions about the material are created equally. I'm willing to listen to anyone who might think "The Scouring of the Shire" should've remained in Jackson's adaptation of "The Return of the King," but complaining about (gasp) the audacity to cast more women and people of color in Amazon's "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" series will get you nowhere.

When Amazon first released a collection of almost two dozen new character posters, one poster in particular drew the ire of some of the absolute worst internet trolls when posted on Twitter, simply because the character's barely visible hands revealed a person of color in the cast. The fact that the resulting onslaught of racist replies forced the official "Rings of Power" account to take the step of hiding some of the most appalling responses says it all. Instances like this didn't escape the notice of the creative team behind the show, who took the opportunity afforded by our first real look at the series to address their commitment to diversifying "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power."

"Tolkien Is For Everyone"

Vanity Fair's in-depth coverage of "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" has given us our most exhaustive look yet at the upcoming series ... but not everyone is entirely pleased by what they saw. A vocal segment of the fanbase made their racism known loud and clear at the thought of people of color existing in Middle-earth (which, it needs to be said, is fully in-canon with Tolkien's writing ... though his depictions of non-white cultures weren't always the most flattering) and now those behind the scenes are speaking out to let everyone know exactly where they stand.

Among the many new and familiar faces that will comprise the ensemble cast, "The Rings of Power" will feature actor Ismael Cruz Córdova in the role of a Silvan Elf named Arondir, becoming the first person of color in the franchise to play an Elf. The report describes his "forbidden relationship" with a mortal named Bronwyn, played by Nazanin Boniadi (who is of Iranian heritage). Sir Lenny Henry, of Jamaican descent, will portray a Harfoot (an ancestor of Hobbits) while Sophia Nomvete, the franchise's very first Black woman, will portray the franchise's first female Dwarf Disa. How's that for a statement of intent? Executive producer Lindsey Weber reflected on this, saying:

"It felt only natural to us that an adaptation of Tolkien's work would reflect what the world actually looks like. Tolkien is for everyone. His stories are about his fictional races doing their best work when they leave the isolation of their own cultures and come together."

Despite the disturbing insistence among some circles that fantasy characters must always remain Eurocentric in appearance, as many of the most seminal works abided by in decades past, it's reassuring to hear that the artists in charge of these big budget productions are willing to risk "controversy" for the sake of casting the best possible actors for the job. At this point, there really is no excuse anymore. Whether fans like it or not, these conversations will only continue with every major adaptation of a somewhat dated work.

"The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" will premiere on Amazon Prime Video on September 2, 2022.