Oliver’s World: The real reason people should be upset about Amazon’s ‘Rings’ series
Oh boy, controversy.
The upcoming Amazon streaming series, “Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power” has released some early promotional images and a teaser trailer. It showed off some of the cast, allowing us to see them in full makeup and costume — and the internet is really upset about some of the actors who have been revealed in the footage.
Honestly, I do think there is reason to be upset.
I mean, you can always find a reason to be upset by something if you try. But I have a very specific reason — and it’s one I feel is more valid what’s actually upsetting people, which is the producers’ various casting decisions.
But first, to spell out the current uproar, one issue that people are protesting is that Disa the Dwarf Princess is played by a Black actor.
Also the actor, Sophia Nomvete, is British.
She is getting a lot of attention, both negative and positive.
Some people are fine with the choice of actor but are complaining that she doesn’t have a beard, because in the original Tolkien books, it is explicitly stated that dwarf women have beards.
I really would love to get into this, as I do enjoy the current dialogue about race-changing or gender-swapping in popular culture. I love questions like, “Can Superman be Black?” or “ When you take an Anime and make it live action, is it okay for them to be white?” or “Could James Bond be played by a woman?”
Such conversations are often worth having, because they help identify the unique and delicate nature of all of this. The internet, unfortunately — filled with comments by people about various images and videos — is generally a bad place to have such conversations.
Anyway, let me say that personally I am comfortable with all the casting choices made by the producers of “Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power,” and I assume each of these actors, who all have a high degree of experience, were chosen appropriately by the show-runners and will do a good job.
This leads me to what I am actually upset about — the show-runners themselves. They are J. D. Payne and Patrick McKay, who have next-to-no writing credits at all, though of course, being a show-runner doesn't mean you have to know how to write.
The title of “show-runner” has shifted over the years, from a “developed by” credit to “executive producer” to “head writer.” In the last decade or so, the position has settled comfortably into the name “show-runner.”
A show-runner oversees scripts and manages the studio and handles various production details. For example, Vince Gilligan, of “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” fame, held the position of show-runner for those series. He also wrote at least one episode per season on those series, as well as having done a lot of work prior to creating those shows.
In the case of Payne and McKay, at least one of them reportedly did some uncredited writing on “Star Trek Beyond,” and there appears to have been a script for a new “Flash Gordon” film they wrote together, but which will not be used in the upcoming film version.
I guess that’s a little impressive, but not that impressive.
So, am I saying that the only people who deserve work are people who have loads of experience? That position does kind of seem like where I am falling.
But no, I do want unknowns to get work. Some of the actors on “Rings of Power” are stage actors with little-to-no TV work, and I like that. But I can't find any verified samples of J.D. Payne or Patrick McKay's writing work. I say “verified” because their names are fairly common and other people with the same name show up in Google searches.
Also, lets be real.
Acting for TV isn't that hard. Some days all a person has to do is turn and look at another actor. Anyone can do that. And many decent writers are unknown and deserving of a shot. I definitely want people with limited writing experience to be able to write for TV shows. They do deserve a chance — but this still highly suspect.
This Amazon series cost one billion dollars to make and has a five-season commitment to Amazon, and will likely take eight to 10 years to produce, all in order to hook subscribers to the service. Overseeing it all is a much bigger job than acting in it or even writing it.
But it's such a huge and important project, why are there unknowns running it? Why isn't there someone who has experience working on on a show this important to so many?
I guess I already said the answer earlier.
I’m guessing they hired these unknowns because they could get them for cheap, and entice them to sign a long term contract at bargain prices. It would be very expensive to hire a Peter Jackson-type or a Vince Gilligan to run the show, because they have a proven track record and the skills to handle this project. To hire them, or someone like them, would probably cost a good amount of money.
Based on what we’ve seen they could do a great job, and be worth all of that money. But like I said: Amazon.
If there's one thing that Amazon isn't known for, is paying it's employees the money that they deserve.
“Oliver’s World” runs on the first and third Thursdays of the month. Find out more about Oliver, award-winning columnist and stand-up comic, at OliverGraves.com.