Prime Video and Wheel of Time showrunner Rafe Judkins recently announced they will continue to race swap characters in the series with the casting of Ayoola Smart as the Aiel warrior and one of Rand al’Thor’s love interests Aviendha.
As part of a recorded video for JordanCon, showrunner Rafe Judkins made the announcement from the set of Wheel of Time Season 2 in Morocco.
He stated, “We’ve actually gotten permission to give you an exclusive first piece of news, which is casting. And it’s the casting of probably my favorite character in the books, Aviendha.”
“So I’d like to announce here at JordanCon for the very first time that the role of Aviendha will be played on Wheel of Time by the amazing actress Ayoola Smart.”
“Ayoola’s been fantastic,” Judkins asserted. “She is a part of the fight scene that’s happening right around the corner right now. So it feels very hitting to be announcing her in this place where were seeing her months of hard work learning how to use spears, how to do flips, how to pull up a veil and convey a death glare with her eyes all come into play.”
“This woman is going to make you very, very excited to see more of the Aiel. So Ayoola welcome to The Wheel of Time, everyone start Googling her now,” he added.
Smart’s casting should not be a big surprise, Judkins and Prime Video have race swapped many of the characters from Robert Jordan’s book series including Perrin, Egwene, Nynaeve, Siuan Sanche, and Min.
In fact, it was more surprising that they accurately cast Ceara Coveney as Elayne Trakand when they announced the casting back at New York Comic Con in 2021.
But what makes the casting of smart as Aviendha interesting is that it actually violates Amazon Studios’ Inclusion Policy.
Announced back in June 16, 2021, Amazon Studios’ Inclusion Policy very clearly states it includes the following goal: “Casting actors whose identity (gender, gender identity, nationality, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability) aligns with the character they will be playing.”
Smart’s casting does not align with the race/ethnicity of Aviendha.
In Robert Jordan’s The Dragon Reborn book, which includes the first appearance of Aviendha, the author described her appearance, “Bluegreen eyes and reddish hair cut short except for a narrow tail that hung to her shoulders; soft, laced kneeboots and closefitting coat and breeches all in the shades of earth and rock. Such coloring and clothing had been described to her once; this woman was Aiel.”
Jordan further provided this to describe her as well, “She looks like Rand’s cousin.”
An e-book cover for The Path of Daggers also clearly shows Aviendha as a white woman with red hair although her hair should be shorter given the description Jordan provides of her in The Dragon Reborn.
Robert Jordan also provided notes on who he modeled his characters after. For Aviendha he imagined a young Sophia Loren.
What do you make of this casting? What do you make of the fact it blatantly violates Amazon Studios’ own Inclusion Policy?