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Much Needed Diversity in New Lord of the Rings Series is Welcome

The original LOTR trilogy had an almost exclusive white casting. Its spin-off series, The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power, has much-needed diversity, led by British-Iranian-Muslim actress Nazanin Boniadi.

The original LOTR trilogy had an almost exclusive white casting. Its spin-off series, The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power, has much-needed diversity, led by British-Iranian-Muslim actress Nazanin Boniadi.

The new Amazon series – The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power released on 1st and 2nd September 2022 on Amazon Prime.

The show has been a hot topic amongst social media commentators. There seems to be a group of media critics who have an issue with this new series before it has even been released. I had tried to avoid listening to the controversy before viewing the series, as it is hard to judge a show fairly without at least watching the first few episodes.

The Rings of Power series follows the original The Lord of the Rings trilogy storytelling style. The audience is introduced to multiple characters in different parts of Middle-earth, and we follow their journey as the stories unfold. The script does an outstanding job inviting viewers into the story and keeping their attention there. The story moves along quickly and avoids lingering around long enough to bore the viewer. In the first two episodes, the main plot revolves around the journeys of Galadriel, Bronwyn and Arondir, Elrond and Elanor. The series jumps back and forth between these main plotlines, where I assume at some point they will culminate. The scope of the production value, set, and art direction feel very much like a Peter Jackson-quality epic production. The series should look spectacular on a 4K screen. I could only review the drama series on a smaller PC monitor.

It is too early to say whether The Rings of Power can equal the groundbreaking cinematic trilogy from two decades ago. Peter Jackson’s attempt was a masterclass in epic storytelling. His The Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of the best trilogies in cinematic history. However, the Amazon series has captured much of the magic from the original film trilogy. No doubt, once the first two episodes are viewed, they will capture the audience’s attention all the way through.

Ethnic Casting ‘Controversy’

The controversy around the diversity of actors from different ethnicities playing roles that white actors in the drama series would have played is unwarranted. Unlike other big-budgeted streaming series, the script and acting in The Rings of Power are excellent. The diverse characters’ ethnicity does not distract from the story or the emotional investment in the drama series. As the audience, we are not left confused or distracted by the diverse casting, as it feels natural to the story being told. Some fans do not favour some of the ethnic diversity castings, but those fans need to step back and relax and give the series a chance. It is fiction, after all, and not historical facts. The series has been made with much respect to the original author, and the visual style reflects Peter Jackson’s introduction to the genre many years ago. I am delighted to see a diverse cast playing these roles in the series. It was something missing from the film trilogy, which has been addressed in this epic drama series.

Many other fantasy series have embraced talented actors from diverse ethnic backgrounds. The Amazon adaptation of The Wheel of Time series was very successful, containing a diverse cast. Even going back to the classic Hollywood fantasy films of Conan the Barbarian (1982) and Conan the Destroyer (1984), there was some diversity in the casting of these and some other fantasy genre films.

In The Rings of Power, the British-Iranian Muslim actress Nazanin Boniadi takes one of the lead roles in the series. She plays Bronwyn, who falls in love with Arondir, played by Ismael Cruz C贸rdova, an actor originally from Puerto Rico. Boniadi is an actor and an activist campaigning for women’s rights in Iran. Irrespective of her political and social views, it is important to accept that an Iranian actress playing one of the main leads in such a large drama series is something that can help open the door for other actors from West Asia to play in major Hollywood film roles and television series.

Ismael Cruz C贸rdova grew up watching the Ring trilogies, but along with many other fans, always wondered why they could not see themselves depicted in those films: “I wondered: why is there nobody like me in these movies?”

He worked hard as an actor and twenty years later clinched an audition for The Rings of Power series. He worked tirelessly even when he was initially rejected for the role and did not give up on a chance for a part in the new The Lord of the Rings series. He went as far as writing a letter to the showrunners, and his determination proved to them that C贸rdova has what it takes to play Arondir the elf better than anyone else. Over the moon at getting the role, C贸rdova said:

Characters like this, it’s like they find you. I just always knew that this was mine.”

The first female dwarf, Princess Disa, is played by Sophia Nomvete, who is of South African and Iranian heritage. Her approach to the role is of utmost respect toward the importance of the character. She stated in a recent interview:

“It’s so important that we display the message of empowerment in every single one of its forms, be it diversity or by being female. So to be able to carry that torch and fly that flag with such a strong image is the biggest turning point of my entire life and career.”

Nomvete plays the first female dwarf character in the Rings franchise. Nomvete wanted, like C贸rdova, to be a role model for other actors in the future who wish to play roles such as this:

“I am flying the flag in order for generations ahead of me to be able to see themselves in a franchise of this scale”.

Above and beyond all the politics of production, the epic drama series is great entertainment. Get your popcorn ready, turn on Amazon Prime, sit back, and enjoy a new story about Middle-Earth.

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