In the latest example of Hollywood’s favorite though woefully tired tactic for deflecting criticism, House of the Dragon star Steve Toussaint has implied that fans critical of how the HBO series race-swapped of his character, Lord Corlys Velaryon, from George R.R. Martin’s original depiction of the character are nothing more than racists.

Source: House Of The Dragon: Corlys Velaryon Featurette (2022), HBO Max

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As is easily gleaned from his name, Lord Valeryon was the leader of the eponymous ruling house of Driftmark, whose royal members, as explained by Martin in his second A Song of Ice and Fire novel A Clash of Kings, descended from the same Valyrian people as their neighbors in Dragonstone, House Targaryen.

Source: House of the Dragon | Official Trailer, HBO Max YouTube

Due to this common ancestry, the Lord of the Tides – like all members of House Velaryon – was said to bear a physical resemblance to his peoples’ Dragonrider-counterparts, sharing such features as pale skin, golden silk-like hair, and purple eyes so striking that, as seen in A Feast for Crows, even Cersei finds herself captivated by those possessed by the Bastard of Driftmark, Aurane Waters.

However, with the newly-debuted HBO series’ casting of Toussaint, Savannah Steyn, John MacMillan, and Wil Johnson as the various members of House Velaryon in the upcoming spin-off series, Condal and his co-showrunner Miguel Sapochnik have inverted the family’s appearance – replete with a swap of their lineage’s hair color from gold to silver – to depict them instead as a wealthy clan of Black nobles.

Source: House of the Dragon Official Teaser Trailer, HBO Max YouTube

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The sole exception to this swap appears to be Rhaenys Vlearyon, who will be portrayed by actress Eve Best. However, her depiction of the dragonrider appears to lack her book counterpart’s raven-colored hair – which eventually finds itself merely streaked with white rather than fully colored over.

Source: Eve Best as Rhaenys Targaryen in House of the Dragon

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Unsurprisingly, this decision was met with backlash from fans who – like those of other such franchises as Marvel or The Lord of the Rings – had hoped for a source material-accurate adaptation of the story they had been led by the original works to envision in their mind.

Though he remained quiet on the subject in the months leading up to House of the Dragon’s premiere, Toussaint eventually responded to said criticisms during a recent interview with Men’s Health.

Source: House Of The Dragon: Corlys Velaryon Featurette (2022), HBO Max

Speaking to his feelings joining a franchise as popular as Game of Thrones, the actor recalled to outlet contributor Hanna Flint, “What has been wonderful is for every toxic person that has somehow found their way into my timeline, there have been so many others who have been so supportive and been like, ‘Oh my god, I can’t wait, this is going to be great!’”

“Even when we were doing certain scenes,” he added, “there would be supporting artists who would come up and go, ‘It’s great to have this representation.’”

Source: House of the Dragon (2022), HBO

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In turn met with a response of “Yeah, it’s like when people get annoyed about diversity in period dramas,” from Flint, who added “First of all, people of color existed in the past. Secondly, if you care more about a guy’s skin color than the fact that everyone’s miraculously got gorgeous teeth, it just shows your prejudice,” Toussaint affirmed, “That’s so true.”

“So many people are basing their idea of the history of this country on a few films and stuff that were made in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, which don’t bear any resemblance to the truth,” said the actor. “Historically, people of my hue and your hue, we didn’t just turn up here in the ’70s or the ’60s.”

Source: House Of The Dragon: Corlys Velaryon Featurette (2022), HBO Max

“There was a point when the ruler of his country, ‘the Caesar’, was an African man,” he continued [It’s unclear to which country and leader Toussaint is referring to]. “There are street names that tell you there were people who looked like us in this country even then, but for some reason, it seems to be very hard for people to swallow.”

“And as you said, they are happy with a dragon flying,” Toussaint ultimately and flippantly dismissed his critic’s concerns. “They’re happy with white hair and violet-colored eyes, but a rich Black guy? [To them] That’s beyond the pale.”

Source: House of the Dragon (2022), HBO

House of the Dragon airs Sunday nights on HBO.

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