Elijah Wood, Sean Astin and the core cast of Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” film trilogy are understandably protective of the beloved fantasy property. But they won’t tolerate racism or hatred toward the new generation of Tolkien actors.
Several performers in Amazon’s new series “Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” have been besieged by hateful comments from viewers who have criticized casting people of color as Elves, Dwarves and Harfoots, among other fictional races. (Most of the roles were created for the show, including the Silvan elf Arondir, played by Ismael Cruz Córdova, and Princess Disa the dwarf, portrayed by Sophia Nomvete, two actors who have been the targets of hateful messaging.)
Cast members have spoken out about the racist comments they’ve received, and now, they have the support of original hobbits Wood, Astin, Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd, who played Frodo, Samwise, Merry and Pippin, respectively. All four actors appeared wearing gear that reads, in Elvish, “You all are welcome here,” along with several ears of different characters in a spectrum of skin tones. (Tolkien created various dialects of Elvish for his works.)
The shirts and hats were made by Don Marshall, a TikTok user with more than 590,000 followers who shares “obscure ‘LOTR’ facts.” Earlier this month Marshall, who expressed enthusiasm about the new series and its new characters, asked his fans to help him identify users who left racist comments on his videos, saying he’d blocked around 100 of them already.
The cast of “Rings of Power” also shared a statement through the series’ Twitter account with the hashtag #YouAreAllWelcomeHere, writing that they “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.
“Our world has never been all white, fantasy has never been all white, Middle-earth is not all white,” the statement said. “BIPOC belong in Middle-earth and they are here to stay.”
Even the “Star Wars” franchise, which has experienced its own wave of racism aimed at cast members of color, spoke out in support of the cast statement. “From Middle-earth to a galaxy far, far away… #YouAreAllWelcomeHere,” the franchise’s Twitter account wrote.
Last week, Jen Salke, head of Amazon Studios, told the Los Angeles Times that while Amazon welcomes criticism, “we will not condone racism of any kind.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, who wrote “The Hobbit” and the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy between World Wars I and II and in the period following, has been accused by some readers of espousing racist ideas in his novels, particularly in his portrayal of Elves, Dwarves and Orcs. And Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” film trilogy features next-to-no people of color in critical roles.
“The Rings of Power,” meanwhile, includes people of color in central roles, including Córdova, Nomvete and Nazanin Boniadi, who plays Bronwyn. The British-Iranian actress thanked the “tenacious, brave and resilient women of (her) homeland” for inspiring her character.
But some fans have been angered by the newly inclusive Middle-earth, sending hateful comments to the actors themselves amid reports of the series being “review-bombed” (that is, flooding the internet with so many poor reviews that it misrepresents the true percentage of critics and viewers who liked it).
Córdova, an Afro-Latino actor from Puerto Rico, is the first person of color to play a Tolkien elf, and yet for the past two years, he’s been inundated with “pure and vicious hate speech” on social media, he told Esquire.
“I fought so hard for this role for this very reason,” he said. “I felt that I could carry that torch. I made sure that my elf was the most Elven, the most incredible, because I knew this was coming.”
Nomvete, too, anticipated a hateful reaction to her casting, especially as she’s also the first woman dwarf in a filmed adaptation of Tolkien’s work. She told the Daily Beast that she’s mostly focused on improving representation in the fantasy realm.
“People of color exist in the world. And so I find it utter madness that we don’t or couldn’t exist within the world of fantasy, of all places.”
Other members of the cast have defended each other: Morfydd Clark, who plays the elf hero Galadriel, told Inverse that fan claims that the series strays from Tolkien’s original ideas are unfounded.
“This idea that anyone could know exactly what (Tolkien) would’ve wanted or what he would’ve liked is, I feel, nonsense,” she said.
Córdova thanked Astin and Wood for supporting the cast of “Rings of Power.”
“We belong in Middle-earth,” Córdova wrote.