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The Lord Of The Rings' Showrunners Strike Back At Fans Over Diversity Backlash

Amazon may own the most anticipated television series of 2022 in "The Lord of The Rings: The Rings of Power," set to premiere on the streaming service on September 2. The show's title and character poster releases have brought Middle-earth fans' hype from a mild simmer to an extreme boil as fans get a look at the first new adventures in J.R.R. Tolkien's fictional world since 2014's "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies." The new series, developed by showrunners John D. Payne and Patrick McKay, takes place thousands of years before the events depicted in "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" and focuses on the creation of the Rings of Power and Sauron's original rise to power in Mordor.

As a result, few characters from the Peter Jackson-directed films, adapted from Tolkien's original mid-20th-century novels, will appear in the series. Fans will recognize those who do: Robert Aramayo and Morfydd Clark will star as significantly younger versions of the near-immortal elves Elrond and Galadriel than those Hugo Weaving and Cate Blanchett played in Peter Jackson's films. Isildur (Maxim Baldry), the warrior who eventually cuts the One Ring from Sauron's hand, will also appear in the series.

The rest of the large cast in "The Rings of Power" is rounded out by humans, elves, dwarves, and hobbit ancestors called harfoots, diverse by Middle-earth standards and in the real-world actors who portray them — which drew some nasty criticism online when character posters were released (via Twitter).

Executive producer Lindsey Weber affirms that 'Tolkien is for everyone'

The team behind "The Rings of Power" is fiercely defending their decision to cast actors who don't fit the typical white, vaguely European sensibilities found in most fantasy literature and entertainment since Tolkien's novels basically reinvented the genre. According to Vanity Fair, Puerto Rican actor Ismael Cruz Córdova will portray an elf named Arondir; Lenny Henry, a British actor of Jamaican descent, will play a harfoot elder; and Black actor Sophia Nomvete will appear as Middle-earth's first on-screen female dwarf.

"It felt only natural to us that an adaptation of Tolkien's work would reflect what the world actually looks like," executive producer Lindsey Weber told Vanity Fair. "Tolkien is for everyone. His stories are about his fictional races doing their best work when they leave the isolation of their own cultures and come together."

Uproar from an intolerant but vocal minority is something of a feature rather than a bug of modern entertainment. "Harry Potter" fans will remember the controversy surrounding the stage play "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child," which premiered with a Black actress portraying Hermione Granger (via HuffPost). Given that Tolkien's books and Peter Jackson's movie adaptations depict a variety of races coming together to defeat forces of evil and usher in a new age of peace and prosperity, it seems the creative team behind "The Rings of Power" are simply striving to better live up to that ideal.