In response to the hateful backlash for the diverse casting of fantasy characters in House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power, Whoopi Goldberg made a valid point. “I want to start by saying: These are not real. There are no dragons, there are no hobbits.”
“And there are critics who are saying they were too diverse woke by adding — yes — characters. Are you telling me Black people can’t be fake people, too?”
Whoopi got me thinking: If you find yourself full of rage and disgust at the sight of seeing a Black mermaid or Latino fantasy character — you’re racist.
After decades of being sidelined and excluded, people of all genders, ethnicities, sexualities, and other identities are finally getting roles as elves, hobbits, sea pirates, mermaids, and superheroes.
The folks who claim “I’m not racist, BUT” or “the backlash doesn’t exist” have driven the conversation for too long. I’m giving it back to the people who deserve it.
Here are 18 famous people who had the best responses to the backlash for their “diverse casting”:
Halle Bailey responded perfectly to the backlash against her casting as Ariel in the 2023 live-action The Little Mermaid. “I want the little girl in me and the little girls just like me who are watching to know that they’re special and that they should be a princess in every single way.”
Steve Toussaint encountered racist backlash for his role as Corlys Velaryon in the House of the Dragon series. He replied, “I guess some people live in a different world,” he said. “I’m very lucky that I have friends who are of all persuasions. I’ve got Caucasian friends, East Asian friends, South Asian friends, Black friends. That’s my world, and I want to be in programs that reflect that world.”
For her role as Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Kelly Marie Tran refused to be marginalized by the racist harassment. “I want to live in a world where children of color don’t spend their entire adolescence wishing to be white. I want to live in a world where women are not subjected to scrutiny for their appearance, or their actions, or their general existence .”
The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power executive producer, Lindsey Weber, quickly responded to criticism of the series’ casting of several people of color. “We’re all up for criticism,” she said. “We’re not up for racism.”
Moses Ingram stood up to the racist backlash over her casting as Reva Sevander in the new Obi-Wan series. “Obi-Wan is going to bring the most diversity I think we’ve ever seen in the galaxy before,” he said. “To me, it’s long overdue. If you’ve got talking droids and aliens but no people of color, it doesn’t make any sense. It’s 2022, you know. So we’re just at the beginning of that change. But I think to start that change is better than never having started it.”
batwoman actor, Javicia Leslie, powered through the hate with this response. “God brought me here for a reason,” she said. “He put me in this position for a reason. With that, it’s nothing to fear because I know this will empower someone to see a Black female superhero. You don’t get to see it often. It’s so epic. I grew up on Batman and Catwoman and the Joker and Penguin. Now, to see blackness in that, I think it’s very inclusive. Very empowering.”
John Boyega called out the racist backlash when he was cast as Finn in the newest Star Wars trilogy. “It makes you angry with a process like that. It makes you much more militant; it changes you. Because you realize, ‘I got given this opportunity, but I’m in an industry that wasn’t even ready for me.'”
When the 2014 adaptation of annie dropped, fans upset over Quvenzhané Wallis’ casting got this response from her costar Jamie Foxx, “Who was it that played Cleopatra? Liz Taylor—we’ve always sort of adapted Americana to do whatever types of movies we want to do,” Foxx says. “I think the conversation is a little old. To talk about racism with a kid’s movie is a little old.”
Anna Diop shut down the backlash from titans fans after a photo of her as Starfire leaked. “The hate speech that followed was deplorable. And though I am highly unbothered. I do want to use this as an opportunity to say that tearing people down is not something that I tolerate. For myself or anyone else.”
When Michael B. Jordan received hate for being cast as The Human Torch in the 2015 Fantastic Four reboot, he responded, “Sometimes you have to be the person who stands up and says, ‘I’ll be the one to shoulder all this hate. I’ll take the brunt for the next couple of generations.'”
In response to the hatred surrounding her casting as Rue in The Hunger Games, Amandla Stenberg had this to say, “There was resistance to having Black girls in films, and that Black women are dehumanized, and their lives are seen as less valuable than white lives.”
When people criticized Tessa Thompson as the Asgardian heroine Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok, she shut it down, saying, “We just do what we do, and we hope that people respond to it, and we ignore the ones that don’t…”
Idris Elba also responded to the hate for his casting as Heimdall in the Thor films. “It’s so ridiculous. We have a man [Thor] who has a flying hammer and wears horns on his head. And yet me being an actor of African descent playing a Norse god is unbelievable?”
Quintessa Swindell had a comeback to the backlash for their role as Cyclone in the 2022 superhero flick Black Adam. “It’s 2021. Like, I’m tired. I just didn’t really have an opinion of it. My focus is to learn as much about the character as I can about the character and do the character justice… There’s so many elements of Cyclone that are so fascinating and so different than a lot of other superheroes I’ve seen.”
Zendaya got candid about the racially charged backlash over playing MJ in the spider man movies. “Of course, there’s going to be outrage over that because, for some reason some people just aren’t ready.”
Storm Reid had a great response revisiting the backlash for her role in THE Wrinkle in Time. “Some people had problems with me playing Meg because they’d loved her as a Caucasian girl for so long,” said Reid. “They were uncomfortable to have that shift, but the only way to create change in our world is through people willing to be uncomfortable.”
Jodie Turner-Smith let backlash for her portrayal of the titular role of Anne Boleyn roll right off her back. “I did know it would be something that people felt very passionately about, either in a positive or a negative way, because Anne is a human in history who people feel very strongly about. More than anything, I wanted to tell the human story at the center of all of this.”
And lastly, the original author of Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, Rick Riordan, called out racist fans following backlash of Leah Jeffries’ casting as Annabeth Chase. “You are judging her appropriateness for this role solely and exclusively on how she looks. She is a Black girl playing someone who was described in the books as white,” he wrote. “Friends, that is racism.”
What is your response to the backlash for the diverse casting? If now is not the time to change, then when?