John Boyega (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) isn’t impressed by the fantasy genre’s utter lack of diverse casting. The prominent actor is currently doing press for his latest film “Detroit,” directed by Katherine Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”). Boyega, who plays Finn, an ex-stormtrooper turned Resistance fighter, is particularly irritated by HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” which has only two black supporting characters, and the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, which has none. In an interview with GQ, Boyega said of the show:
There are no black people on Game of Thrones. You don’t see one black person in Lord of the Rings…I ain’t paying money to always see one type of person on-screen. Because you see different people from different backgrounds, different cultures, every day. Even if you’re a racist, you have to live with that. We can ruffle up some feathers.”
Boyega astutely recognizes the fantasy genre’s ability to suspend reality throughout its oeuvre of works, yet balks at the idea of people of color in their fantasy landscape. According to Uproxx, “Game of Thrones” author George R. R. Martin has previously acknowledged the lack of people of color in his books. In a 2014 interview, Martin noted:
Westeros around 300 AC is nowhere near as diverse as 21st century America…I do have some ‘characters of color’ who will have somewhat larger roles in WINDS OF WINTER. Admittedly, these are secondary and tertiary characters, though not without importance. Of course, I am talking about the books here, and you are talking about the show, which is a thing apart. I do think HBO and David and Dan are doing what they can to promote diversity as well.
Seeing as Westeros is a made up country with dragons and ice zombies clawing at its borders, it’s hard to take Martin’s comments without an ocean of salt. As a side note, comedian Wyatt Cenac has a great comedic breakdown of fantasy’s diversity limitations in action in a standup act about a real life LoTR controversy. An Indian actor who tried out for a role as a Hobbit was turned away because she was “too dark to be a Hobbit,” which ultimately led to the casting director’s firing. Watch his take here.
The seventh season of “Game of Thrones” airs Sunday nights on HBO. “Detroit” premieres Aug. 4.