Sir Lenny Henry has defended his new Amazon show and its wide multicultural cast following backlash over its use of non-white actors.
The British star stars in Amazon’s fantasy blockbuster The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, a five-season prequel set thousands of years before the events depicted in the classic book series. author JRR Tolkien.
But it has faced unprecedented criticism for casting actors from diverse ethnic backgrounds, with its more vocal critics opposing a perceived “woke” program which they say prompted Amazon to diversify its star cast.
Speaking out: Sir Lenny Henry has defended his new show Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power and its large multicultural cast following backlash over its use of non-white actors
Reflecting on the debate while promoting new memoir Rising To The Surface on Thursday’s edition of Good Morning Britain, Sir Lenny, 64 – who plays the whimsical, country house Sadoc Burrows in Rings Of Power – insisted his critics ‘won’t win’.
He said: “The thing is, fantasy is for all of us. I think fantasy and the belief in creativity and dreams defines us all as human beings.
“Everyone has dreams, everyone has fantasies, so we all deserve to be in this world as creators, as participants.”
New direction: The British star has a starring role as the whimsical Sadoc Burrows in Amazon’s hit fantasy The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
Defiant: Reflecting on the debate during an appearance on Thursday’s edition of Good Morning Britain, Sir Lenny insisted his critics ‘won’t win’
Taking a swipe at the show’s critics, he added, “It’s not for a man in slacks in his room eating Hobnobs to speak ill of it.” The people who think creatively about it are the ones who are going to win.
Sir Lenny, who rose to fame after appearing on the talent show New Faces in 1975, also recalled his introduction to the television industry at a time when few people of color worked either side of the camera.
He said: “There were no black costume designers or photographers. It was the world I loved and I kept thinking, it will come, but it didn’t.
“Then I had a production company and I thought what would happen if I said, ‘It would be cool if it was more diverse – more women, more blacks, more browns,’ and they said yes. It must come from above.
Fair point: “The thing is, fantasy is for all of us. I think fantasy and belief in creativity and dreams defines us all as human beings,” he said.
Read all about it: Sir Lenny was on the show to promote his new memoir, Rising To The Surface
The actor and comedian has previously admitted an effort is being made to make the fantasy genre “more inclusive” after the original Lord of the Rings films featured no black characters.
In a recent interview with GQ, he said, “They have no trouble believing in a dragon, but they have a hard time believing a black person can be a member of the tribunal.” Or that a black person could be a hobbit or an elf.
“In fact, storytellers can do whatever they want, because they are storytellers. In the re-imagining of those stories from 1000 years ago, they are not part of the canon that everyone knows, it is a re-imagining and re-weaving of history.
Change: The actor and comedian previously admitted an effort was being made to make the fantasy genre ‘more inclusive’ after the Lord of the Rings films featured no black characters
Dismissive: Sir Lenny described the show’s critics as a small minority of ‘men in slacks in their bedrooms eating Hobnobs’
Despite the ongoing controversy, Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has become one of the most successful shows in Amazon Prime Video history.
The epic fantasy series drew an audience of over 25 million viewers on its first day of release, according to Deadline.
The outlet also reported that the show’s debut has since become the biggest premiere of any Amazon Prime Video program.
Success: Despite ongoing controversy, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has become one of the most successful shows in Amazon Prime Video history.
Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke released a statement to express her excitement over the show’s success.
She said: “It’s somehow fitting that Tolkien’s stories – some of the most popular of all time, and what many consider to be the true origin of the fantasy genre – have brought us to this proud moment.
“I am so grateful to Tolkien Estate – and our showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay, executive producer Lindsey Weber, cast and crew – for their tireless collaborative efforts and boundless creative energy.”