‘House of the Dragon’ Actor Discusses Being Racially Abused Online
HBO’s Game of Thrones spinoff House of the Dragon is working on not only creating a spinoff that will engage fans of the original series and fans of the books, but also correct a lot of the issues present in the original series besides storytelling—namely the issues of race and sexual violence. Today, we are gonna tackle race, because to even begin to touch the latter, I’m gonna need a whole day.
It was announced early that actor Steve Toussaint would be playing Lord Corlys Velaryon, a.k.a. The Sea Snake. Velaryon is descended from Old Valyria like the Targaryens and is the wealthiest man in Westeros after completing nine map-expanding voyages. In the books, Velaryon is white, and being changed to a man of color ultimately doesn’t change anything about the character or the makeup of the show. After all, there were more characters of color in the books than in the HBO adaptation. If anything, this is adding back a lot that was lost.
The Hollywood Reporter piece on House of the Dragon states: “[…] A second controversy surrounding the original series was the show’s lack of actors of color in lead roles. Dragon faced an even bigger challenge to stay authentic to its source material as, let’s face it, the Targaryens are the whitest family in fiction.”
I think there are a lot of families that could say something different, like the Bridgertons, but I digress.
“We knew from the outset that we wanted to change that conversation,” co-showrunner and creator Ryan Condal said. “The world changed a lot between 2011 and 2021 and [so did] what audiences expect to see on camera. The conversations Miguel and I had were: How do we create a diverse cast for House of the Dragon but still do it in a way that feels organic to the world and doesn’t feel like pandering or tokenism — and also have them not be pirates, slaves and mercenaries like you tend to see in high fantasies?”
Well, I feel like people forget that non-white people always existed and just because a particular medieval times fantasy picture has made you believe otherwise, Europe did not exist in, like, a pocket dimension in which Native, Black, and Asian people didn’t exist until the 1700s. In fact, we know that there have been Black ladies in waiting as far back as Katherine of Aragon’s time in England.
Before the phrase “silk road” became code for the online black market, it referred to the trade route between the East and West that existed from the second century BCE until the mid-15th century. We know, now that history is no longer being as whitewashed, that there were Black and Brown pirates, cowboys, and figures that we have made symbols of whiteness. It is exhausting to see fantasy series hold on to false concepts of history.
Toussaint, in response to being cast, dealt with with racial backlash from “fans” who felt like this was “woke” culture infecting the franchise. “I didn’t realize [the casting] was a big deal until I was racially abused on social media,” says Toussaint. “Yeah, that shit happened. I was just like, ‘Oh wow,’ and then I thought: ‘OK, so this means a lot to some people, but I can’t allow that to bother me.’”
He continued: “I loved Game of Thrones, but my only caveat was, ‘Where’s everybody else in this world?’ Because it’s a diverse world Martin has created if you look [beyond Westeros], and I think this show comes closer to that.”
It is disgusting and frustrating to see that even when progress is so basic as casting a talented actor in a good role, people will abuse and mistreat actors for racist reasons, but cover it up with off-base claims of “historical accuracy.”
(via The Hollywood Reporter, featured image: OLLIE UPTON/HBO)
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