The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power actress Nazanin Boniadi, who plays the original character Bronwyn in the series, recently declared that the casting for the series “isn’t tokenization.”
Boniadi spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the series telling the outlet, “This was not stunt casting.”
She elaborated, “This isn’t tokenization, or a lot of the things that we’re used to in past roles. Every person has been cast because they are the best people for those roles, regardless of ethnicity and race. And I find that super empowering.”
First, this claim does not pass the smell test. As YouTuber Just Some Guy pointed out back in February, “Middle-earth is basically northwestern Europe, mostly England. The native people of those areas are all white. So all the races of Middle-earth would be white. And we know that’s true because Tolkien described what they looked like. They are all white.”
He further added, “The actors can be non-white and if they can pass as European with or without makeup, they can play those characters. They just need to look the part. Casting non-white actors in a Middle-earth Show is like casting white actors in a Black Panther movie. It makes no sense.”
So the idea that the people cast in the roles are the best ones for them falls on its face. As Just Some Guy points out you wouldn’t cast a white man to play Black Panther.
Not only does it fall on its face on that point, but Amazon Studios published their Inclusion Policy and Playbook back in June 2021, where they revealed they have racial quotas for their productions.
Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke touted the Policy and Playbook in a press release saying, “With the establishment of our Inclusion Policy and Inclusion Playbook, Amazon Studios has committed itself to being a thought and action leader in the transformation of our industry.”
She added, “We know how much work there is to be done to improve representation both on camera and behind the scenes, and it starts at home, with us. With clear directives and a commitment to accountability, these guides provide a path toward a more equitable future, both on- and off-camera.”
Specifically, the policy includes:
- Each film or series with a creative team of three or more people in above-the-line roles (Directors, Writers, Producers) should ideally include a minimum 30% women and 30% members of an underrepresented racial/ethnic group. This aspirational goal will increase to 50% by 2024.
- Casting actors whose identity (gender, gender identity, nationality, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability) aligns with the character they will be playing.
- Aiming to include one character from each of the following categories in speaking roles, with minimum 50% of these to be women: LGBTQIA+, person with a disability, and three regionally underrepresented race/ethnic/cultural groups. A single character can fulfill one or more of these identities.
- Seeking at least three bids from vendors or suppliers on productions, one of which must be from a woman-owned business and one from a minority-owned business.
- Pay equity across casting, behind the camera staff and crew, and for vendors and suppliers.
The third bullet point makes it very clear that Prime Video does indeed have racial, gender, and even sexuality quotas.
Not only did Amazon Studios detail these policies, but their Inclusion documents are guided by the Amazon Studios DEI team whose focus is:
- Ensure diverse representation of talent (in front of and behind the camera, above and below the line).
- Dismantle longstanding barriers to success in the Industry and inspect our processes so we do not create or perpetuate inequities.
- And tell inclusive narratives to reach a globally diverse audience.
When Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke first talked about The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, this is what she said, “As for how many people need to watch Lord of the Rings? A lot. (Laughs.) A giant, global audience needs to show up to it as appointment television, and we are pretty confident that that will happen.”
Boniadi can claim that the casting for the show isn’t tokenized, but the fact that Tolkien’s characters are white in his novels directly contradicts that.
On top of that, Amazon Studios has made it very clear they have tokenization policies in place for their productions. And The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is an Amazon Studios production.
What do you make of Boniadi’s assertion?