Last week, Game of Thrones announced that Chilean actor Pedro Pascal has been cast in the crucial role of the Red Viper of Dorne. Because this is Game of Thrones and the Internet loves to get bent out of shape about SOMETHING, a.k.a. EVERYTHING, George R.R. Martin felt it necessary to address on his LiveJournal blog criticisms that Pascal does not possess the “darker features” that “would match up to people of color in our world,” i.e., he’s not black.
There are spoilers in his response, I guess (though, it doesn’t seem particularly spoilish to me).
I wasn’t present for Pedro Pascal’s audition, but I understand that he really killed it with his reading. And since his casting was announced, the producer of another TV show on which he appeared recently has written me to say how terrific Pascal is, and to congratulate us on the casting. So I suspect that he will turn out to be a wonderful Red Viper.
I do know that David and Dan and HBO do favor having a racially and ethnically diverse cast on the series. It is true that we’ve lost several black characters who appear in the novels (Chataya and Alayaya, Jalabhar Xho, Strong Belwas), but to balance that, characters like Salladhor Saan and Xaro Xhoan Daxos, both white in the books, have been played by black actors. Missandei as well, though in the books the Naathi are golden-skinned, not white.
As for the Dornishmen, well, though by and large I reject one to one analogies, I’ve always pictured the “salty Dornish” as being more Mediterranean than African in appearance; Greek, Spanish, Italian, Portugese, etc. Dark hair and eyes, olive skin. Pedro Pascal is Chilean. (Check out Amok’s version of the Red Viper, that’s how I saw him. Or Magali Villenueve’s beautiful and sexy portrait of Princess Arianne).
When and if the show introduces Prince Oberyn’s daughters, the Sand Snakes, I expect we will see the same diversity as in the books, ranging from Tyene (blond and blue-eyed) to Sarella (light brown skin, as her mother was a Summer Islander). And I expect that the crew of the CINNAMON WIND will all be cast with black actors… assuming, of course, that Sam’s voyage remains in the story.
That’s the Internet for you. Hire a Chilean actor, and they complain because he’s not ethnic enough. I didn’t hear anyone complain when terrible white rapper Ed Skrein was cast as Daario Naharis instead of a guy with a blue, three-pronged beard with a moustache painted gold. WHERE WERE THE CRITICS THEN?