Another day, another fandom hurls racist attacks at a Black actor.
As a lifelong fan of sci-fi/fantasy and comic books, who at times has had to prove I belong, I’m so exhausted with writing stories about actors of color being harassed by so-called “fans.” It’s become a sadly predictable part of certain shows or movies’ premieres.
This time around, it’s Game of Thrones causing all the problems. Ahead of the premiere of HBO’s highly anticipated prequel, House of the Dragon, British actor Steve Toussaint (It’s a Sin) revealed that he was the victim of online abuse after his casting was announced.
For those of you not obsessed with dragons, Iron Thrones and ice zombies, the new series takes place around 200 years before the original and follows House Targaryen in a tense battle for power.
Toussaint plays Lord Corlys Velaryon, the richest lord in Westeros and a famous warrior known as the “Sea Snake.” Basically, he’s a badass who doesn’t have time for the Seven Kingdoms’ bullshit.
“He’s unlike just about every other high-born man we meet as he’s a self-made man who’s seen about 14 battles,” Toussaint told The Hollywood Reporter. “He made these legendary nine voyages when he was very young and made his fortune that way. Now he’s wealthy and he likes people to know it.”
While Nathalie Emmanuel’s Missandei and Jacob Anderson’s Grey Worm remain fan favorite characters, the franchise isn’t known for having POC in lead roles. Toussaint didn’t realize it was such a major moment until the racists showed up.
“I literally was like, ‘It’s just another role because I have Black friends who had small parts or recurring parts in [Thrones].’ I didn’t realize it was a bigger deal until I was racially abused on social media when it was announced,” he said. “Yeah, that shit happened.”
So these assholes who call themselves “fans,” are ok with dragons, ice zombies, ancient witches, assassins who can change their faces and a Frankenstein-like monster, but a rich Black guy married to a white royal is a bridge too far?
“It got announced and somebody put up an artist impression of The Sea Snake, which must come from one of the books. So someone put that up opposite my picture…then someone else referred to me by the N-word,” he said. “There was also a Black American chap who is a big fan of the show who contacted me saying that he gets abuse because he championed me for the part. And on platforms like Reddit, which I’m not on, there are such discussions going on about it. I thought, ‘Okay, this means a lot to some people, but I can’t allow that to bother me.’”
Candice Patton (The Flash), John Boyega (Star Wars), Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok), Idris Elba (Thor) and Moses Ingram (Obi-Wan Kenobi) are just a few Black actors who have had to publicly deal with racist attacks after they joined major franchises. Toussaint has seen this happen to other actors he’s worked with or knows, so the online abuse wasn’t a complete surprise for him.
“Someone I’ve known for a long time, he had it [when he was involved with a Marvel project]. A friend of mine who played Hermione in the stage version of Harry Potter, she got it,” Toussaint said. “I’ve worked with John Boyega, and he got it.”
These are fantasy worlds where everything is made up. Just because your imagination isn’t evolved enough to handle Black people appearing in them, doesn’t give you the right to attack actors and fans who want to see themselves included in these stories.
The world is a vast, diverse, beautiful place and we were here for all of its history, so whether it’s dragons, light sabers or magical flying hammers, we’re also going to be involved in all of those worlds too. In the words of Steve Toussaint, “If it bothers you so much, don’t watch.”
House of the Dragon premieres Sunday, Aug. 21 on HBO and is available to stream on HBO Max.