Elves - a whole lotta white people?

amysrevenge

Well-Known Member
Yeah and light brown on her kind of looks blonde-ish in context (enough for me that I would consider the above photo a "hit" for a character described as blonde). Doesn't have to be her in particular; I'm using her mostly as an archetype because I don't myself know of anyone else that could fill a similar role as an actor, but I'm confident that there are plenty out there. It's a deficiency in me, not in the talent pool. lol
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
I wouldn't worry about that. If the fans got mad at us casting non-white actors as elves, we could just call them racists and they'd be embarrassed out of the conversation.
Except that whitewashing in casting (particularly in blockbuster films) is definitely a thing. Casting directors frequently are very explicit about what physical body type they want for a role...and that includes skin tone. Which would be fine, if they were just specifying what was needed, but it typically has been used to alter whatever the characters are to something more....white. Need someone to play an Asian character? This white actor in makeup will be perfect! Or, you know, let's alter the story to explain why our white main character is the lead role in a film that takes place in *any place in the world.* Not surprisingly, actual actors from those places get a bit frustrated with this state of affairs. And there is a continued assumption on the part of studios that a film will not do well at the box office unless you have a famous white actor in the lead role.

So when you cast Benedict Cumberbatch, a pasty white British guy, as a character named 'Khan Noonien Singh' to recreate a role originally played by the Mexican actor Ricardo Montalban in Star Trek, a franchise known for its let's-represent-all-people-on-earth-as-one-federation...people do tend to react with a REALLY?! And yet the film makes money, so they have no motivation to behave differently. And if they do go off script, and say cast a black girl as little orphan Annie, the internet loses its mind and acts like this is the end of the world. The casting directors aren't wrong when they decide what audiences will or will not like. And it's why an actor like Antonio Banderas or Omar Shariff could play almost any ethnicity that was 'vaguely maybe not from America' (and why Montalban got the role obviously intended to be Indian in the first place).

We don't have to 'fix' any of that in this project - for one thing, this is not the real world, so even if we do cast people who don't usually get a chance to audition for these roles....it's all fake, so we're not changing anything.

But it does mean that when we gravitate strongly towards a mostly white cast for the elves, people are going to notice and compare us to studios that do this quite intentionally. We have a story specific reason why we're doing this, and the show is set in 'fantasy Northern Europe'. I think it's a defensible choice. But, it keeps coming up, and it obviously doesn't sit well with some people, and it's a frustrating situation.
 
Last edited:

amysrevenge

Well-Known Member
Yeah, ultimately the biggest thing I want for us to do is either deliberately embrace "this is northern European mythology, so we are casting northern European looking actors" or deliberately choose not to do that. Like said above, either of those are defensible - the original text is pretty clear that it is the former, but going with the latter would be easily acceptable too.

What I don't want is for us to pay lip service to an ideal of diversity, but then end up casting all northern European looking actors anyway.
 

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
In regards to Ray's particular concern, I suppose I have never really considered skin tone to be a differentiating factor between folks. Granted, being in the majority of my own culture, that may be a bit easier. I do not need to see skin colors like mine in order to relate to a character. In fact, as I child, I remember reading about historical figures like Tecumseh of the Shawnee or a mythical Navajo boy who turned into an eagle (or committed suicide, depending on how you looked at it) in response to bullying by his peers. The fact that I didn't share their skin tone in no way affected my relationships with their story or characters.

I'm aware that not everyone looks at things this way. In any case, were this a story set in a mythical China, I certainly would not expect casting choices to reflect a need for Europeans to be represented therein. I am fascinated by that culture, it's history, and it's mythology, just as I am many others.

I do think that when we get to men, we'll have more room to play around. When they arrive on the scene, they've already been around for a while. We're not seeing their entire family history laid out in front of us.
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
We have mostly stuck to our decisions. We decided that the Valar could represent a full range of human variation, and have more 'elemental' forms for scenes where being humanoid would be silly. We explicitly wanted diversity amongst the Valar, and kinda specified which ones would be which race. And then we nominated and voted, and not all the nominations fit the original requests, but overall we wound up with a somewhat diverse cast (at least I thought so).

If you want to know what happens in the Casting Session, it's mostly Corey Olsen being confused and trying to figure out who these actors are. :p

Whether or not we 'stick' to the directions we were given for the Elves is, basically, up to us. Even if we stick to 'mostly homogenous' and 'mostly white'...that still leaves room for exceptions. I feel obligated to at least present what the Hosts said and what they requested, so everyone is aware....but there is no restriction on who you can nominate for a role. The voters decide, and the Hosts have final veto power.

As Nick points out, we will get different directions when it comes to casting Dwarves and Men. We can certainly return to the question of race and how to represent it in those groups.
 
Last edited:

Haakon

Administrator
Staff member
Well I nominated a lot of the actors and actresses and I guess they are a bunch of white people... I'm sorry, I realise this can be taken as narrow minded and lacking of variation. Being a white guy, who started reading Tolkien when I was seven and growing up in a sadly homogenous neighbourhood, I suggest actors who are representing fantasies that started to grow at that time and were naturally reflecting the place I grew up in. That's my contribution to the casting. I try to find pictures of the characters in those fantasies. I would not be honest if I went to a different place to find them.
Please contribute with your fantasies if you feel they aren't represented.
I realise this isn't just about me but the fact is I spammed the nomination forum the last two days... I do hope people will nominate more actors and actresses because this is only going to be what we put into it and I don't want to be one of the bigger contributors if people are unhappy with what we come up with.
 

amysrevenge

Well-Known Member
Hey dude, not unhappy. I just want to make sure we are clear about our choices, and not making them by default. That's all, really.

(For what it's worth, the few actors I would be able to come up with, along with a time machine because they're probably all either dead or too old, would also be white dudes - it's my cultural baggage. Like I've said, casting is unexpectedly the most difficult aspect of the whole project to me, all of a sudden, out of nowhere.)
 

Nicholas Palazzo

Well-Known Member
Hey dude, not unhappy. I just want to make sure we are clear about our choices, and not making them by default. That's all, really.

(For what it's worth, the few actors I would be able to come up with, along with a time machine because they're probably all either dead or too old, would also be white dudes - it's my cultural baggage. Like I've said, casting is unexpectedly the most difficult aspect of the whole project to me, all of a sudden, out of nowhere.)

It's also the aspect of this project that would go through the most change if this was somehow magically real tomorrow, so... hasn't been high on my priorities. :)
 

amysrevenge

Well-Known Member
Yeah, you know, that's completely true. If we do our jobs perfectly, someone could come in here and basically use almost 100% of everything we produce and directly turn it into TV, except they would use roughly 0% of the casting. Never thought of it that way...
 

MithLuin

Administrator
Staff member
Character descriptions are useful. That's why I try to include them with my nominations, when possible.
 
Top