March 28, 2023
'The Rings of Power' cast members speak of a racist backlash: "These characters are unmistakable."  We felt a lot of love '

‘The Rings of Power’ cast members speak of a racist backlash: “These characters are unmistakable.” We felt a lot of love ‘

Cynthia Addai-Robinson, who plays Queen Regent Miriel; Ismael Cruz Córdova, the warrior elf Arondir; and Sophia Nomvete, Princess Disa, who is Middle-earth’s first female black dwarf, made the trip on Sunday to Lucca Comics & Games, the unique event dedicated to pop culture, cosplay and comics that was held in the Tuscan medieval town of Lucca.

In an interview with Variety, the three actors of color have opened up about the racist backlash to their casting as lead characters on the Prime Video show.

“There was a bit of apology, a bit of silence, but there was an undeniable change,” Nomvete said.

Read below for the full conversation.

How does it feel to be at this big Comic-Con type event in a medieval Tuscan town with thousands of cosplayers in the streets?

Cynthia Addai-Robinson: I’m excited when I see the level of creativity and passion. All those different movies, TV shows, books, comics, and manga. Just the time people take to literally make these costumes from what they have at home! It brings you back to something very innocent and pure and non-judgmental. When people come to these events, it’s about finding their community. To feel a little less alone, a little less weird. Given that what we do can sometimes be difficult, it’s a good reminder of why we do what we do – to be part of this larger storytelling environment.

Sophia Nomvete: The only thing I’ll add to that is that the difference here is that you’re usually in a space where there’s a part of the city that’s convention. In Lucca, the whole city becomes the convention.

Ismael Cruz Cordoba: I’m so grateful to whoever created this, for creating a safe space for difference. It is very important for me.

Speaking of which, the inclusion of people of color in the cast of “The Rings of Power” sparked a racist backlash online. A few weeks later, do you feel that the conversation on this aspect has calmed down a bit?

Cruz: The fact that attention has shifted to this shows you what the power of shows like this is. The fact that he touched that nerve, and that our being within him created such a response, just draws attention to the grandeur of fantasy, the grandeur of “Lord of the Rings” and why it’s really good that we are here. Has it gotten a little too much? Absolutely! It took airtime 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 so grateful that it’s us who get to recalibrate, break form, reshape and write history.

Addai Robinson: In order not to have such an impact, the pendulum must oscillate. We are in the middle of this process. We just want to normalize. We need to discuss this, because we are now in a space in society where it is necessary – from time to time – to recognize exactly what is happening. This level of distraction or aggression that was thrust upon us – it was a painful journey to get there – but it lifted us up. It has put us in a position where there will be a plate one day when the pendulum has swung back to where it needs to be. We’ll have badges on people who fought the big fight in order to get to a point where there’s not such a blowout based on that alone, when a casting announcement comes along. Although it was a challenge, it was a phenomenal time to be part of. Doors are open and accessibility is available to make everyone feel safe within a franchise and history of this magnitude. It was very important and stimulating. Tears have been shed, blood has been shed – metaphorically – but here we are.

Named: To answer your question, we still have a ton of controversy, but there has been a change. Do you know what happened? It looks like there was a sit-down. It’s like we have to prove ourselves, almost. We had to defend ourselves. But there’s no denying that these people are in the position where they deserve to be there and should be there. There is no one else who could have played the role. I really feel like there’s been a hiatus. I even got an apology, which I love, even though there was only one person acknowledging that mindset was wrong.

Cruz: In the beginning, there was a lot of, “Tell us what you’re doing.” The show had not come out. Now the characters live in their own right. We created these characters who, with the help of a whole team, live on their own and have their own impact. And as the conversation and noise continues outside, these characters are unmistakable. We felt a lot of love.

Addai Robinson: I was pretty adamant, just on a personal level, that I was never going to let controversy define the role or define the experience. There’s a certain amount of fine-tuning you have to do when people try to reach you. I had to try as best I could to take control of this experience on my own. It’s bigger than me; it’s bigger than us. You can have your personal reasons for being part of something, and then it kind of extends beyond that. People will get out of it what they take. But at this point, we feel pretty free and happy to just talk about the story and the characters.

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