'I was racially abused': Steve Toussaint reveals he was harassed on Internet after 'House of the Dragon' casting

'I can't allow that to bother me,' Toussaint said about facing racial abuse following his casting in the 'Game of Thrones' prequel 'House of the Dragon'

'I was racially abused': Steve Toussaint reveals he was harassed on Internet after 'House of the Dragon' casting
Steve Toussaint (L) plays the role of Lord Corlys Velaryon, aka the "Sea Snake" (R) in 'House of the Dragon' (IMDb)
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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: A star of the 'Game of Thrones' prequel series 'House of the Dragon' has spoken out against racist online abuse. The HBO drama, which premieres on August 21, already boasts a considerably diverse cast than its predecessor 'Thrones,' but social media outcry over casting Black actors has dogged the series in the lead-up to its release. Following his casting announcement, lead actor Steve Toussaint, who plays the role of Lord Corlys Velaryon, aka the "Sea Snake", says he received racist messages from so-called fans.

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When 'Game of Thrones' first aired in 2011, it was almost instantly chastised for its conspicuous lack of diversity in its cast. Despite the show's huge popularity, it was criticized for its casting and representation of minorities in the narrative. With significantly more varied performers, the next prequel 'House of the Dragon,' attempted to resolve some of these problems. However, several of the show's cast members have faced hostility and racial threats as a result of their association with the series.

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Eve Best and Steve Toussaint in 'House of the Dragon' (IMDb)
Eve Best and Steve Toussaint in 'House of the Dragon' (IMDb)

The British actor told The Hollywood Reporter that when he was cast in the first significant part for a person of color in the 'Game of Thrones' realm, he misjudged the response. "When I got the gig, I literally was like, 'It's just another role because I have Black friends who had small parts or recurring parts in' Game of Thrones," Toussaint explained to the site. "I didn't realize it was a bigger deal until I was racially abused on social media when it was announced. Yeah, that s*** happened."

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Touissant claimed that one individual called him the N-word, and that others produced art mocking his casting on the show. He recalled a fan who stated he'd seen the same anger when defending Toussaint's casting on the show. Touissant stated: "There was also a Black American chap who is a big fan of the show who contacted me saying that he gets abuse because he championed me for the part. On platforms like Reddit, which I'm not on, there are such discussions going on about it. I was like, 'Oh wow,' and then I thought, 'Okay, this means a lot to some people,' but I can't allow that to bother me."

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Toussaint stated that he has heard from other colleagues in the entertainment sector who have also been the victim of racist remarks after being cast in prominent roles. He said that someone he's "known for a long time" received racist remarks after landing a part in a Marvel film. "A friend of mine who played Hermione in the stage version of Harry Potter, she got it," Toussaint said. "I've worked with John Boyega, and he got it. If it bothers you so much, don't watch."

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Toussaint told the source that while he recognizes "in that sense, it's a big deal," he intends to move on. "We have a saying that today's headlines are just tomorrow's chip paper; people forget about it," the actor explained. The actor further added that he believes "there is certainly more color in this show. For me, it’s a good thing. We must never forget it’s a fantasy, and it’s based on medieval law and so forth. But it still has to reflect a world. And I think this does that. I loved Game of Thrones ... but my only caveat was, 'Where’s everybody else in this world?'"

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He stated that George RR Martin, the writer of 'House of the Dragon,' has built "a diverse world... if you look [beyond Westeros] at the whole thing," and that "this show comes closer to that."

Cast diversity was a priority for the showrunners

Eve Best and Steve Toussaint in 'House of the Dragon' (IMDb)
Eve Best and Steve Toussaint in 'House of the Dragon' (IMDb)

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Ryan Condal and Miguel Sapochnik wanted to guarantee that the cast and crew of 'House of the Dragon' were more diverse than those of 'Game of Thrones,' so they put measures in place to help. Condal and Sapochnik spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about their excitement for the upcoming series. "We knew from the outset that we wanted to change that conversation. The world changed a lot between 2011 and 2021 and [so did] what audiences expect to see on camera. The conversations that Miguel and I had were: How do we create a diverse cast for House of the Dragon but still do it in a way that feels organic to the world and doesn't feel like pandering or tokenism — and also have them not be pirates, slaves and mercenaries like you tend to see in high fantasies?"

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"We worked really hard to ensure that there was real diversity across our entire ship," says HBO's EVP Francesca Orsi. Four of the ten episodes are directed by women, and numerous mentoring programs have been developed to help attract crew members from underrepresented backgrounds, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

'House of the Dragon' will premiere on HBO on August 21 at 9/8c, followed by weekly episodes.

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