Lenny Henry says fantasy fans can ‘believe in dragons’ but can’t accept Black actors

‘Storytellers can do what they want, because they’re storytellers,’ comedian said

Isobel Lewis
Wednesday 31 August 2022 18:17 BST
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Lenny Henry has spoken about racism within the fantasy genre.

The British comedian is set to star in Lord of the Rings spin-off The Rings of Power, which is released later this week. You can read The Independent’s review of the series here.

While the original LOTR films featured no Black characters, both The Rings of Power and new Game of Thrones spin-off House of the Dragon have worked to feature more racially diverse casts.

In a new interview with GQ, Henry said that an effort was being made to make the genre “more inclusive”.

Recalling a conversation he had with Steve Toussaint about the actor’s casting in House of the Dragon, Henry said that “the purists were saying things” about a Black performer starring in the HBO series.

“God bless them,” Henry said. “They have no trouble believing in a dragon, but they do have trouble believing that a Black person could be a member of the court. Or that a Black person could be a hobbit or an elf.

“Actually, storytellers can do what they want, because they’re storytellers. In the reimagining of these stories from 1000 years ago, they are not part of the canon that everybody knows, this is a reimagining and re-weaving of the story.”

Henry added: “[Rings of Power showrunners] JD Payne and Patrick McKay have just gone, ‘What if?’ The greatest two words in storytelling: What if.”

The Rings of Power comes to Prime Video on Friday 2 September.

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