The cast of “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” issued a statement Wednesday that denounced threats, harassment and racism facing actors of color by people who have complained about the series’ racially diverse Middle-earth.
The cast said their show, which premiered on Amazon Prime Video last week, reflects the multicultural world that “The Lord of the Rings” author J.R.R. Tolkien envisioned.
Unlike the original “The Lord of the Rings” movies, the Amazon series takes place in the second age of Middle-earth and prominently features actors of color in roles such as an Elven soldier, a queen regent, Harfoots (ancestors to Hobbits) and a Dwarf princess.
“Our world has never been all white, fantasy has never been all white, Middle-earth is not all white,” the cast said in the statement, thanking their fans for supporting them. “BIPOC belong in Middle-earth and they are here to stay.”
The statement comes at a time when the show has faced some backlash over its casting decision by people who say the characters depicted in the show are different from what they envisioned reading in Tolkien’s books. In his books, some Elves are described as light-skinned and having long hair.
Other actors of color on fantasy series have also been targeted by online trolls.
“The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” is widely acknowledged as the most expensive television series produced, with Amazon estimated to have spent more than $700 million on its first season, including buying the rights to adapt “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” for television, according to sources. The show’s first season is based on the appendices in “The Return of the King” and centered around Elf Galadriel’s quest to extinguish evil from Middle-earth.
More than 25 million people tuned in to watch the show on its first day, Amazon said. The company has marketed the show widely, including on the packaging tape of Amazon Prime delivery boxes.
Amazon Studios executives have stood by the cast.
“We support our cast 100% and stand behind them in every way,” said Jennifer Salke in a statement last week. “We are proud of them as actors and even more proud of them as people. We welcome discussion and even criticism around the series, however we will not condone racism of any kind.”
The original “The Lord of the Rings” movies directed by Peter Jackson had mainly white men in key roles, including Frodo the Hobbit, Gandalf the wizard and Elven warrior Legolas. Some of the cast from the original movies tweeted their support.
The show has also stirred some controversy over how it has handled the stories of popular characters such as Elf Galadriel, who on the show is portrayed as a commander of the Northern Armies.
“Her name implies that she wrapped her hair in a golden crown on top of her head when she sparred, which told us that she was in fact a soldier and saw battle,” said Lindsey Weber, an executive producer on “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” in an interview last month.
Weber said that the first season and series “bible” were blessed by the Tolkien estate.