Selma and Spooks star David Oyelowo says that there's "no excuse" for the lack of developed, prominent roles for people of color in Game of Thrones. Oyelowo spoke to Radio Times:
"The fact that they put any ethnic minorities in that means that there should be space for bigger characters. Because you’re not just saying ‘OK this is purely a white world, and here are very story-driven reasons why that’s the case.'"
There are several characters of color in Game of Thrones, but Oyelowo is right that these are supporting roles:
- Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel)
- Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson)
- Salladhor Saan (Lucian Msamati)
- Xaro Xhoan Daxos (Nonso Anozie)
- Areo Hotah (DeObia Oparei)
Oyelowo adds that the inclusion of POC in the Game of Thrones world does not excuse the lack of more developed roles for them:
"You are interspersing people of color into it and so therefore it’s a conscious decision to put them on the margins, as opposed to put them front and center. Even if for whatever reason, it’s a world in which people of color in those stories are subservient, or they are more in a helper role, that doesn’t mean they can’t have prominent storylines. All you have to do is shift the focus to focus on those characters. So for me, there is absolutely no excuse in a show like that why there aren’t more prominent characters of color."
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George R.R. Martin has previously commented on the matter via his blog:
"Westeros around 300 AC is nowhere near as diverse as 21st century America, of course… but with that being said, I do have some ‘characters of color’ who will have somewhat larger roles in 'The 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, as witness the casting of Areo Hotah... Of course, Hotah IS a guard... but he is also a viewpoint character in the novels, a brave and loyal warrior."
Check out what Areo Hotah was up to last time we saw him on screen.
Diversity is awesome, but if an author is not interested in telling the big, primary stories of people of color, then they're not the person you want telling those stories. It'll be exciting to see these stories develop organically and give us new cultural icons to enjoy watching on TV.
Have you caught up with all of Season 6 of Game of Thrones? (Of course you have). Here's a recap of everything that happened, all condensed into one, 60-second video (How convenient):