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The star of Mortal Kombat has accused Amazon’s upcoming Lord of the Rings TV series of not having enough diversity in Middle-earth.
Chinese Canadian actor Ludi Lin, who plays Liu Kang in the new Warner Bros. film, tweeted Thursday at Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke about the upcoming fantasy series: “It’s going to be difficult to justify building a ‘huge world’ without any characters that look Asian. Turn that imagine on us. It’s not hard, we’re right here.”
Lin was reacting to coverage of The Hollywood Reporter‘s Executive Roundtable, which was posted Wednesday. Salke was asked by executive editor Lacey Rose about the gargantuan Lord of the Rings budget, which THR previously reported had ballooned to $465 million for its first season.
“The market is crazy, as you saw with the Knives Out deal,” Salke replied. “[Netflix paid $469 million for two sequels.] This is a full season of a huge world-building show. The number is a sexy headline or a crazy headline that’s fun to click on, but that is really building the infrastructure of what will sustain the whole series. … As for how many people need to watch Lord of the Rings? A lot. (Laughs.) A giant, global audience needs to show up to it as appointment television, and we are pretty confident that that will happen.” Salke and Amazon have not responded to Lin’s comment.
Amazon’s series has announced 35 castmembers of varying ethnic backgrounds. Lin seems to be correct that none are Asian, though it’s also not clear how many of the actors identify. The majority appear to be white (such as Joseph Mawle, Owain Arthur, Trystan Gravelle, Morfydd Clark, Markella Kavenagh, Simon Merrells, Peter Mullan, Fabian McCallum, Tom Budge, Maxim Baldry, Daniel Weyman, Charlie Vickers, Leon Wadham, Benjamin Walker). There are many apparent actors of color, as well (such as Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Sophia Nomvete, Sir Lenny Henry, Maxine Cunliffe, Ismael Cruz Cordova, Nazanin Boniadi and Sara Zwangobani). You can see headshots of the LOTR TV cast here.
In addition, LOTR is filming in New Zealand and some of its unannounced supporting cast are Māori (which are considered Pacific Islander).
Obviously, the cast is significantly more diverse than Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films, which set the lowest possible bar as the trilogy had an entirely white core cast.
Directors on the Amazon project include Charlotte Brändström (the first woman to direct in the J.R.R. Tolkien universe), J.A. Bayona and Wayne Che Yip.
Overall, Amazon Studios is considered to be a studio that’s embraced diversity, from signing dozens of overall deal with content creators of color, to ordering projects such as Coming 2 America, One Night in Miami, Small Axe and The Underground Railroad.
Lord of the Rings is a prequel to Jackson’s films. Here’s the official description: The Lord of the Rings “brings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and will take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness. Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone.”
The Lord of the Rings will likely premiere in 2022.
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