Lenny Henry, Rings of Power star, applauds diversity in Amazon’s new Middle-earth show. Henry is a veteran comedian and actor whom I have seen on screen since I was a child on British TV. Henry plays Sadoc Burrows, a senior Harfoot (early Hobbits) in the show. Along with many other POC actors Henry is raising the diversity of Middle-earth in Amazon’s show. Elves. Men, Harfoots and Dwarven POC actors are all present.
Speaking with The Times, via Deadline, Henry said this.
“That’s to do with it being the 21st century; people want to see themselves. Of course, if you go back, there’s going to be that thing that prevails because the books don’t say . . . although some of the characters are described as hard-skinned and darker in complexion . . . but that was then, this is now and we’re telling the story now.”
Henry was one of the very few POC stars on my TV screen as a kid. We all know how difficult it was for POC actors/performers to get a shot and that’s just in front of camera. The situation was far worse behind the scenes and still hasn’t quite caught up.
“I didn’t see anybody in charge of anything that looked like me for a very long time, so that is lonely,” he told The Times. “You’ve got all of these people now saying the same things that I started saying in 2000, which is ,‘The industry needs to change and can it hurry up, please.’”
There will always be some who claim this diversity was not present on Tolkien’s writings and therefore should not be in an adaptation. Honestly, I’m not sure that really matters anymore? Tolkien wrote most of his mythology in the early to mid-20th Century and the world was most definitely a different place back then. It’s worth remembering that if Tolkien had specifically mixed races in his work he would probably have never had it published in that era.
The other clemency I would give to Tolkien is that he himself came from a different era. Tolkien was attempting to create a mythology of his home nation that was lost after the Roman and then Norman conquests. Britain in Tolkien’s day was a country where the population were like 95% Caucasian. The country I live in now is nothing liken it was when Tolkien passed away.
Do Tolkien’s words and mythology suddenly have less meaning by representing a more diverse population? No, the themes and stories present have exactly the same impact as they did on page. In my mind, given the little of Tolkien’s own works this show has to work with, there is no negative aspect of this move towards diversity. Instead, I think we should be praising the positives of this more diverse culture we are becoming. Why shouldn’t young children get to see people just like them in these big franchise movies and shows?
What do yo think of Lenny Henry’s comments as the Rings of Power star applauds diversity in Amazon’s new Middle-earth show? As always, leave any thoughts below.