Amazon Executive Vernon Sanders Doubles Down On Diversifying Middle-earth For ‘The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power’ Season 2

Markella Kavenagh as Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot, Lenny Henry as Sadoc Burrows in The Lord of the Ring: The Rings of Power

Amazon Studios executive Vernon Sanders recently stated that the second season for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power will double down on the first season’s diversification of Middle-earth through its casting.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 15: (L-R) Vernon Sanders, Head of Global TV of Amazon Studios, and Jennifer Salke, Head of Amazon Studios attends “The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power” Los Angeles Red Carpet Premiere & Screening on August 15, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Prime Video)

In a brief interview with Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva, Sanders was asked, “From the Season 2 cast addition announcements so far it appears that you are continuing to bring diversity to Middle-earth. Can you speak about that and tease more familiar characters from the lore that we can expect?”

He responded, “The series continues to be cast from all around the world. We think that represents the show that we created in Season 1, and we’re doing the same thing for Season Two, we are trying to find the best actor for the role.”

“We’ve already announced that there’ll be some characters from the lore. I don’t think we’ve announced all of them, so there are surprises to come. I think the fans will be really delighted,” he asserted.

Thusitha Jayasundera, Lenny Henry as Sadoc Burrows, and Sara Zwangobani as Marigold Brandyfoot in Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

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Not only did Sanders reveal the show will continue to “diversify” Tolkien’s Middle-earth through its casting, but he also tried to explain why the show hasn’t been greenlit for a third season despite claiming Amazon Studios is committed to five season.

 Sanders was specifically asked if he and Amazon Studios were still committed to showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay’s five season plan for the series.

Sanders responded, “We are absolutely committed, we have every reason to be excited. They’ve done a tremendous job.”

Morfydd Clark as Galadriel and Lloyd Owen as Elendil in ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’

However, despite this bluster of commitment, Sander went on to state that the third season was not yet greenlit, “It’s a great question about Season 3, we’re probably two to three months in on Season 3 but I think there could be news certainly in the new year.”

He then appeared to explain why the show hasn’t been greenlit for Season 3 yet despite the supposed commitment for five seasons, “There’s so much planning and prep that’s necessary for us to get this mounted that the only reason we probably haven’t gotten there quite yet is we’ve just been so heads down in Season 2, but I would expect there to be news in the new year.”

Morfydd Clark as Galadriel, Lloyd Owen as Elendil, and Cynthia Addai-Robinson as Queen Regent Míriel in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

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Sanders comments should come as a surprise, Amazon Studios insulted and denigrated fans who wanted casting consistent with Tolkien’s writings and the lore he created for The Lord of the Rings.

They did this from the onset of their marketing for their first season at the beginning of this year when they used Vanity Fair to run a smear campaign against Tolkien fans.

As part of the smear article, Rings of Power executive producer Lindsey Weber said the show altered and race swapped multiple characters because “it felt only natural to us that an adaptation of Tolkien’s work would reflect what the world actually looks like.”

Weber went on to say, “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.”

Daniel Weyman as The Stranger in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

Vanity Fair, seemingly at the behest of Amazon or at the very least approved by Amazon, then cited a woman named Mariana Rios Maldonado, who claims she’s a Tolkien scholar, but in reality she’s the Equality and Diversity Officer for the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic who “is nterested in ethics, feminist theory, and encountering the Other in Tolkien’s works.”

Maldonado told Vanity Fair, “Obviously there was going to be push and backlash, but the question is from whom? Who are these people that feel so threatened or disgusted by the idea that an elf is Black or Latino or Asian?” 

Charles Edwards as Celebrimbor and Robert Aramayo as Elrond in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

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If these attacks weren’t clear enough that they were originating from Amazon Studios, Morfydd Clark, who plays Galadriel, told Tolkien fans and critics of the show’s vast changes to Tolkien’s writing to shut up.

She wrote on her Instagram stories, “Anyone sending hate to my black cast mates, get off my page, get off the internet, and shut up.”

Morfydd Clark Instagram

She then shared a short video of her castmate, Charles Edwards as Celebrimbor, making a hand motion that reveals the phrase “Shut the f*** up.”

Clark would seemingly ask in a caption below the video, “Who made this?”

Morfydd Clark Instagram

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As the show’s promotion continued, Weber’s façade would fall apart and she outright described critics as racists.

She told Time Magazine, “We’re all up for criticism. We’re not up for racism.”

LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 30: (L-R) JD Payne, Lindsey Weber and Patrick McKay attends “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” World Premiere at Odeon Luxe Leicester Square on August 30, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for Prime Video)

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Amazon then outright called Tolkien fans racists in a PR move straight out of Lucasfilm and Star Wars, one that has significantly contributed to the degradation and downfall of the vaunted franchise.

The official The Lord of the Rings on Prime Twitter account issued a statement accusing fans of racism while at the same time using a slogan “You Are All Welcome Here.”

The statement began, “We, the cast of Rings of Power, stand together in absolute solidarity and against the relentless racism, threats, harassment, and abuse some of our castmates of color are being subjected to on a daily basis. We refuse to ignore it or tolerate it.”

The Lord of the Rings on Prime Twitter

“JRR Tolkien created a world which, by definition, is multi-cultural,” the statement continued. “A world in which free peoples from different races and cultures join together, in fellowship, to defeat the forces of evil. Rings of Power reflects that. Our world has never been all white, Middle-earth is not all white. BIPOC belong in Middle-earth and they are here to stay.”

The Lord of the Rings on Prime Twitter

“Finally, all our love and fellowship go out to the fans supporting us, especially fans of colour who are themselves being attacked simply for existing in this fandom,” added the series’ production team. “We see you, your bravery, and endless creativity. Your cosplays, fancams, fan art, and insights make this community a richer place and remind us of our purpose.”

“You are valid, you are loved, and you belong,” they concluded. “You are an integral part of the LOTR family — thanks for having our backs. Namárië.”

The Lord of the Rings on Prime Twitter

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It didn’t stop there though. At the end of October, cast members Ismael Cruz Córdova, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, and Sophia Nomvete claimed they were victims of racism while speaking with Variety.

Variety’s Nick Vivarelli asked the trio, “Speaking of which, the inclusion of people of color in the cast of “The Rings of Power” sparked racist backlash online. A few weeks later, do you feel that the conversation about this aspect has subsided a bit?”

Cruz responded, “The fact that the attention was shifted toward that shows you what the power of shows like this is. The fact that it hit that nerve, and that our being in it created such as response, just brings attention to the greatness of fantasy, the greatness of Lord of the Rings and why it’s actually good that we are here.”

“Did it become a bit too much? Absolutely! It’s taken air time from the depth of who we are as artists. But it just shows you where we are in the world and how much work we still have to do. I’m just very grateful that it’s us who are able to recalibrate, break form, reshape and make history,” he added.

Ismael Cruz Córdova as Arondir in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

Addai-Robinson also answered, “In order to not have such an impact, the pendulum has to swing. We are right in the middle of that process. We just want to normalize. We do have to discuss it, because we are now in a space in society where need to – now and again – acknowledge exactly what is happening.”

“That level of distraction or aggression that was put towards us – it’s been a painful journey to get there – but it has elevated us,” she continued. “It has put us in a position where there will be a plaque one day when the pendulum has swung to where it needs to be. We will have badges upon the people who fought the great fight in order to get to a point to where there isn’t such an eruption based solely on that, when a casting announcement comes.”

“While it’s been a challenge, it has been a phenomenal moment to be a part of. Doors are open and accessibility is available for absolutely everyone to feel safe within a franchise and a story of this scale. It’s been really important and empowering. Tears have been shed, blood has been spilled – metaphorically – but we are here,” she concluded.

Cynthia Addai-Robinson as Queen Regent Míriel in Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

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Nomvete then stated, “To answer your question, we still get a ton of controversy, but there has been a shift. You know what there has been? It feels like there has been a sit-down.”

“It feels like we had to prove ourselves, almost. We had to defend ourselves. But it’s undeniable that these people are in the position that they are in deserve to be there and should be there. There is nobody else that could have played the role,” she said.

“I genuinely feel that there has been a shut down,” she asserted. “I’ve even had apologies, which I love, even if it were just one person acknowledging that that frame of mind was wrong.”

Sophia Nomvete as Princess Disa in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

Given the vitriol and hate Amazon Studios has directed towards Tolkien fans, it’s likely this will continue. It’s also highly likely the show will continue to bleed its audience in a similar vein to Star Wars as they continue to act like Grima Wormtongue.

However, Tolkien fans have been enlightened by Gandalf the White and see through the lies and deception.

Sara Zwangobani (Marigold Brandyfoot), Dylan Smith (Largo Brandyfoot), Beau Cassidy (Dilly), Markella Kavenagh (Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot)

What do you make of Sanders’ comments and Amazon Studios’ commitment to diversify Tolkien?

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