The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’s Owain Arthur, who plays Durin IV, is the latest actor on the show to push the narrative that critics of the show are racist.
The narrative began throughout the promotion of the show leading up to the Season 1 premiere. The show’s producer Lindsey Weber made it clear she believed individuals criticizing the race-swapping of characters in the show as well as the depiction of Galadriel were racists.
She told Time, “We’re all up for criticism. We’re not up for racism.”
The series’ showrunner J.D. Payne also described critics as trolls quoting Tolkien saying they are “creatures of dull and lumpish nature that had no more language than beasts.”
Amazon Studios and Prime Video really ramped up the narrative when they posted to the official The Lord of the Rings on Prime Twitter account back in September, “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.”
They continued, “JRR Tolkien created a world which, by definition, is multi-cultural. 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, fantasy has never been all white, Middle-earth is not all white. BIPOC belong in Middle-earth and they are here to stay.”
In conclusion, they wrote, “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. 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.”
“You are an integral part of the LOTR family — thanks for having our backs,” they concluded.
Following these accusations of which they provided no evidence to back up their claims they rolled out Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd, who played Frodo, Samwise, Merry and Pippin in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Wood shared a picture of himself, Monaghan, and Boyd standing side-by-side and clad in matching t-shirts alongside the caption “You Are Welcome Here,” the phrase that just so happened to be used as the hashtag by The Lord of the Rings on Prime.
Astin shared a selfie of himself wearing the hat with the phrase in Elvish. as well. He tweeted the phrase too, “You are all welcome here.”
It didn’t stop there. Actors Ismael Cruz Córdova, who played Arondir, Sophia Nomvete, who played the Princess Disa, and Cynthia Addai-Robinson, who played Queen Regent Miriel, spoke with Variety’s Nick Vivarelli where they were asked about a supposed racist backlash to the casting.
Cruz responded saying, “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.
Addai-Robinson then shared her thoughts, “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. 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,” she continued.
Addai-Robinson then asserted, “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. ”
Sophia 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.”
She elaborated, “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.”
“I genuinely feel that there has been a shut down,” she added. “I’ve even had apologies, which I love, even if it were just one person acknowledging that that frame of mind was wrong.”
Showrunner J.D. Payne would go on to describe critics’ actions as “patently evil.” He told The Hollywood Reporter, “The spirit of Tolkien is about disparate peoples who don’t trust one another and look different from one another finding common ground in friendship and accomplishing big things.”
He adds, “That’s the spirit we’ve tried to inculcate into every single comma and period in the show. That this aspiration would be offensive to people and enrage them … it’s very hard for us to understand.”
“What are they protecting? I don’t see how people who are saying these things think that they’re fighting for good. There’s a line in episode seven where Galadriel says every war is fought from without and within. Even if you’re fighting for something you think is good, if you do something worse in that fight, then you become evil. I don’t see how people who are saying these things think that they’re fighting for good. It’s patently evil,” he concluded.
More recently Córdova claims he was the victim of death threat and racism. As reported by Deadline, he said, “By the time we started shooting, I had already faced a year of backlash: a lot of negativity, death threats, racism, all of that. I knew going in that I would have to be bulletproof to prove to all these people that I belong there.”
Speaking with Marc Malkin for the Just for Variety podcast, Córdova also stated, “My phone got hacked. I had like bank accounts attempts at being hacked. My PayPal got hacked. My friends got messages. I got death threats. I got things mailed to me. People found out my address. It was a lot of that. But we’re still here. That’s the thing. We’re still here. Scrolling and chuckling, drinking my San Pellegrino.”
Sophia Nomvete would also claim she was the “statistically most attacked castmember.”
During an appearance at The Hollywood Reporter’s Raising Our Voices luncheon she said, “When the announcement came out and pictures went up about just our faces of who we were playing, I was statistically the most attacked castmember of the entire show.”
She continued, “There were N-bombs, I had no place here. ‘You’re too fat, you’re too black. Why are you here?’ I had one that was actually very polite, who said, ‘I’m sure that you’re a wonderful actress and a really lovely person. I just, I don’t think you should be part of this, it’s not right. If you could potentially just send a letter to Amazon with your resignation, I’d be very grateful.’”
“I thought, ‘No, I’m not going to do that, I can’t.’ I can’t afford to resign for you, so sadly I’m here to stay,” Nomvete said.
Now, actor Owain Arthur has accused critics of racism telling Variety, “I mean, it is infuriating. Like, you go: ‘Oh, God, really? Are we still there as a human race?’ That drives me wild… The guys have been through a lot — to be on the receiving end of things — and I hope one day, we will, as a human race, just be one.”
“I mean, it sounds kind of maybe pathetic or dramatic what I’m saying here, but, genuinely, just stop racism,” he stated.
Interestingly, Cynthia Addai-Robinson says she ready to move on from the narrative, “What I’m looking forward to, as we move on to Season 2, is allowing that conversation to be in the past and just plow ahead.”
She added, “When you have progress, it’s like we’re not going to go backward from the things that we’ve established. I’m ready to acknowledge it and move on from it, because I think we’ve kind of said all there is to say, really. I know that I have.”
What do you make of Owain Arthur pushing the racism narrative?