Casting Featured Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones Casting Director Nina Gold Explains the Lack of Diversity Among the Cast

Game of Thrones
(Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images)

Nina Gold, director of casting for Game of Thrones, recently spoke during a Bafta masterclass at the Academy of Performing Arts in Hong Kong, and among other topics, discussed the lack of diversity among the Game of Thrones cast. As the South China Morning Post explains, Gold, who has been in the casting business for 20 years, spends a lot of time at drama schools, as well as watching films and television shows, and going to the theater, to scout new talent. Gold’s process in finding the right talent for a certain part is very detailed, as she researches each actor’s background, and tests them multiple times to make sure they are right for the part, for which she is scouting.

As to how Gold became the casting director for Game of Thrones, she wasn’t interested in the job, at first, saying, “It wasn’t really my cup of tea.” Speaking to the lack of diversity for which the show has come under fire for, lately, Gold refers to the fact that Game of Thrones is based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, where the appearance of each character is described in very specific detail. This means it is probably difficult to cast a non-white actor in a role based on a white character.

We are more aware that to not take diverse casting seriously is uncreative and silly. We’re all trying to do castings that reflect real life, and real life is full of all sorts of different people. We’ve got to have them all.

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I can only imagine the pressure Gold must be under when she casts an actor in a role for Game of Thrones, who looks nothing like their counterpart in the books. Fans of the books are notorious for raging against the show, when a character is changed, for whatever reason. A great example of this is Areo Hotah, who in the books, was described as a caucasian male with white hair, but on the show, DeObia Oparei, a black actor, was cast in the role.

It is a good thing to see casting directors who aren’t afraid to mix diversity into shows that are largely made up of white actors. Hopefully, we will see this trend continue, especially with visionary leaders in the industry, like Nina Gold.

H/T – Watchers on the Wall

80 Comments

  • Why is this even an issue? The show takes place in a Medieval Northern Europe type setting there were no POC then. Wait for the Hamilton like GOT musical then they can substitute a POC cast.

    • I agree with Veronica. GoT casting overwhelmingly reflects GRRMs character descriptions. There isn’t really any controversy here.

      • This is never even crossed my mind as an issue. once you read the books the appearance the characters is made evident. I appreciate the diversity that they’ve been able to include so far. it would be ridiculous to insert a black actor merely for the sake of diversity .

      • Medieval Europe, particularly around the more urbanised, cosmopolitan Mediterranean and in larger cities such as Paris, Constantinople as well as Moorish Spain was more mixed than many modern people realise. Despite events and individuals from Europe in this time serving as partial models for ASOIAF and GoT, GRRMs world is by no means a direct copy and should not be treated as such. Please can we keep US racial politics out of WiC.net? This is, after all, a site to discuss and enthuse about the books and TV show that we share an interest in.

      • They complained about the casting in Dr. Strange; they’ll complain about the casting of white actors in roles that were explicitly written as nonwhite no matter the popularity of the actor(s) in question. As much as ‘they’ are ever unanimous about anything, anyway….

    • Nina Gold is a celebrated casting director. Just wondering how she was able to cast the actress to play Sansa though. No justice to the character ..

  • F😷ck people are dumb idiots. If Martin writes a character as white why should they go against the description of martins character and cast somebody in the role who doesn’t fit the description? That’s just pc bull dust for the mindless pc mob.
    The story is set in westeros. Which is loosely based on medieval Europe. How many ethnic minorities do we suppose where wandering around medieval Europe??
    Casting an ethnic minority into a role not described in that manner is just a derogatory and insulting attitude.
    I envisaged some of the Dornish characters as Hispanic in appearance……and that’s how they looked.
    I’ll cop flack for my post. But idc.
    And I’m also from an ethnic minority living in a Caucasian environment.
    Peace to all!!!

    • You are refreshingly right!
      Enough of this arbitrary ethnic character casting for the sake of.”diversity”.
      A Caucasian actor loses a role written for him because of “diversity”! What’s right about that?
      If the role is described white, cast it white! Stop trying to change History & truism; like the Black & Hispanic casting “Hamilton”. That’s racist & false!👎

      • Exactly, this stuff is actually becoming a problem. You can also see this in the latest Battlefield game. Why are more than 50% of the western troops in the game people of color? World War 1 was mostly fought by white people, they’re literally just fucking up history with this shit.

        • Don’t usually complain, but that most clueless comment i have seen here. It was a World war and would not have been So if not for the British Empire Campaigns in The Ottoman Empire. Were Britain invaded Bashra(Modern Day Iraq), Yemen, Egypt, Greater Syria(Palestine, Israel, Syria and Lebanon). The French of course took Tunisia and Russian Empire pre revolution invaded large parts of the Caucasus’s and Eastern Anatolia and greater Armenia .
          Most of The British Troops fielded in the east campaign were subjects of the British Empire from the crown in the empire India, people of different ethnic background that is. The French as well fielded, large amounts of North Africans as well as some few Senegalese. I don’t like diversity casting myself and i want them to stay with the material provided, would of course support them in a diverse assembly of ethnic backgrounds. If characters were introduced as mercenary from Sothoryos joining Dany from the east. That at least would make sense.

          I would advise you to read about the fall of the Ottomans and other diverse sources from world war 1, educate yourself.

          • Australia also commited thousands of troops. As did Canada and New Zealand. The British empires commitment of troops was not just from India. Don’t disregard other countries contributions. All commonwealth countries commited as much as they could.

      • Are you equally outraged when a film is white washed? Meaning stripped of its minorities and replaced with white actors. For example, “Aloha” “The Ten commandments” Gods of Egypt” just to name a few. Producers and directors have taken a lot of people of color out and replaced them with white actors in the name of better profits, more marketabilty . So if its done in GOT whats the big deal.

    • Are you also angry over the changes from the books where characters are dropped, scenes are changed, dialogue is assigned to another character, etc.? Kind of hypocritical. (And please stop with the tired excuse that this is based on medieval Europe….yeah Martin picked up some ideas, but bottom line this is fantasy. There are dragons, giants, magic, et al.)

  • I’m basically echoing what Veronica said but I really fail to grasp why a fantasy world based on medieval northern/Western Europe should “reflect (modern time) real life”.

    I’m pro – multiculturalism and applaud shows that support a diverse cast. I’m actually a bit annoyed if there’s a show set in LA and somehow the entire cast is white.

    But above anything i want somewhat credibility or realism in my shows. I don’t want a show about for instance ancient rome having the need for exactly 2 Asians, 2 Africans, 2 Arabs (yeah i know technically…), 2 Latinos and 2 Eskimos otherwise the creator will be deemed a racist.

    Again, it undermines the credibility and comes across as patronizing.

  • Because the show is so wildly successful the hounds have to be released criticizing it because they can stand for it to just be! They don’t mind having a whole channel (BET) and awards which explicitly excludes races. The GOT franchise wasn’t made by GRRM to water down the characters importance so someone doesn’t get their feelings hurt! Must be nice for an actor to get a gig on GOT just to fill the diversity charts, instead of the perfect actor for the part.

    • I completely agree with you. The diversity question wouldn’t even be an issue if GoT wasn’t as successful and popular as it is. I’m all for equality – however, I see nothing wrong with a cast that’s mostly white, if the character description and/or story calls for it…I feel the same way about shows where the majority of the actors are black (i.e. Empire). IMHO, no show runner should have to feel pressured into altering the “look” of a character, just to appease those that want to bitch about one race or another not being fairly represented. I would like to think that the bulk of TV show viewers watch their favorites because the story lines appeal to them, and not necessarily just because a multitude of ethnicities are equally represented.

    • Why pick on BET, you do know the history of how minorities were excluded from American television, that’s why BET was created, should we pick on all Hispanic, Asian, etc., that have their own television programs?

  • Society has gone PC insane!! Enough already with this BS! Next they will make a movie about Jesus and expect him to be cast as black too!

    • Jesus wasn’t white. He was middle-eastern. And yet they have cast White actors to play him most of the time. Thus, I fail to see your point.

          • Cyndy was there, dont mess with her hahhaaha.

            I thought he was Jewish, from Israel. To me, ppl from out there look Israeli (basically white) or Palestian (basically middle eastern/arabic). So that makes Jésus, white, no?

            And yea, who cares about all this race nonsense. GoT can cast gowever they like, and so can The Wire. Good tv is good tv, irrespective of race.

        • Who cares what color Jesus was? Im married to a half black woman and her relatives have pictures of Jesus depicted as black . No big deal. Black,white.brown, or olive I think people are attracted to the idealism of Jesus and not his color or ethnicity.

        • Jews are (and were then) Semitic peoples. Fairly light skinned. The Middle East of today is the result of many migrations, including the Arab caliphate under Mohamed. The residents of Syria today (as an example) are quite ethnically distinguishable from those of the Seleucid Empire, not to mention earlier populations.

          • Jesus like many people of the Roman province of Judea was of Pre-Pottery Neolithic B origins. Before these people morphed in to various groups like phoenicians, copts, canaanites, jews and other semitic people . It can been argued that therefore that its hard to exactly say what Jesus looked like but personally believe he looked more like a copt (Rami Malek with a beard) then modern interpretation of St nicholas. Syrians like Turks are of a diverse people you must remember that in the later day of the Ottoman Empire specifically during the days of the Balkan independence wars as well as the Russian expansion in the caucasus region many ottomans loyalists had to be resettled within the empire. While some of the Turks ,and some Syrian are of a mongoloid origins. Though I am not certain to what degree the population of the Seleucid Empire were ethnically distinguishable from modern day inheritors of Syria. Personally i believe that like in England and Anatolia/Armenia there has been a cultural shift but i highly doubt an entire change of ethnicity.

  • The problem integrating diversity into an already set story is the inevitable social issues brings. This would change characters personalities and social situations from those built into the world building.

  • Wow the comments on this post are disappointing, seriously disappointing. For some reason I expect better from this fandom. I think the point of this article was missed.

        • Racist comments? Please give me an example champ. All I’ve seen are people saying it’s ridiculous to rewrite a white character to be an ethnic minority in order to pander to the retard pc halfwitts.
          If a character is written as Asian, cast them as such. Etc etc.
          I’ll reiterate that I’m not white. So get over yourself precious.

        • Hey cyndy, you silly little thing, please copy and paste the racist comments, I am curious to see what your liberal brain is thinking, us rational thinking people just get confused by you left wing crack pots

    • Ditto on this “white only” stuff. This is freakin’ fantasy and if a character is cast, I really don’t give a hoot what race the actor is. Are you whining over Scarlett Johansson as “Lucy” or Matt Damon as the Great White Hope in “The Great Wall”? Always a double standard. For heaven’s sake, stop this crap and let’s go out of shitty 2016 with some dignity.

  • When a character is described as being white in a novel, it makes perfect sense to cast a white actor to play it in the novel’s adaptation – not only for ASOIAF, but generally. If someone wants more diversity, well, he is free to create a grasping and involving story for PoC only and then cast as much PoC as he needs. The rest is only SJW bullshit.

  • It’s a fantasy show, set in a fantasy world, with monsters and demons. Diversity COULD be major in this world. If they find the right people. All this nonsense about it being medieval Europe is ridiculous. I am latino and watch every type of show out there. Would be nice if they stretched reality with people, you know like they do, with zombies and dragons!!

    • You know who said it was based on medieval Europe? GRRM himself said that. Ya know the guy who created the characters in the first place.

  • I think the next Civil War movie ought to have Black Generals leading the Confederate Army. Some of the slaves should be white and some Asian!

    • Hehe! Yep, topics like this always become very divisive. Just to make everybody feel better, they’re discussing this topic over at Watchers on Wall as well, and they’re going around about the same as us…..

      • Many of those whining about changes never even read the books. It’s always a pile on now when diversity is brought up. And always the transparent “I’m not a racist” bullshit. That is not a free pass to say anything you want without consequences or not to take responsibility. I thought this was a fandom into fantasy.

        • Can you copy and past one single comment that requires any type of “consequence” because all I see is people airing their valid opinions on the pitiful PC aspect of this article

  • I’ll break it down for the special people. It’s not racist to want truth in casting.

    If a character is described as morbidly obese I don’t want to see a gym junkie in the role

    If a character is written as female, I don’t want to see a dude in the role.

    If a character is written as black, I don’t want to see a whitey in the role.

    If they’re written as middle eastern I want somebody who fits that description. And so on and so forth.

    And to those pc losers saying people on this thread are being racist, please present a single example? I believe everybody is entitled to their own opinion. But if your going to go around accusing people of something abhorrent like racism, at least have the evidence to back yourself!!🍺

    • Slizzy give it a rest.
      Noone hears people complaining about any of those.
      Just white characters. Alot of people just want less whites guys period. See it how it is

      • See speaktruth, and pray tell, who and why would someone want less white guys? If I were to say I want less blacks on my tv, that would most definitely earn me the racist tag, does it work the other way around too?

        • I hear you Haha! I was thinking the same thing myself. Imagine if a white person said “I just wanna see less poc on tv”.

        • Of course it would. And people would want that because they are sick of white guys. They simplywant more blacks in everything if u haven’t noticed.
          Never hear complaints on white females in shows/movies either

  • Opera has had open casting for years and the world hasn’t ended. It is difficult enough to get singers with the right voices for roles without worrying about whether they looked right . Audiences had gotten used to watching plump Mimis dying of consumption it wasn’t that big of a stretch to see a Maori woman playing the Italian Tosca or an African-American woman playing Seglinda in The Valkurie (although Richard Wagner was probably spinning in his grave).

    • Unlike opera, TV isnt focused on live vocal musical projecting talent. TV is supposed to put you in the world it is depicting. A good TV focuses on the characters themselves and the world they live in. Gender, ethnicity, age, and economic standing all play a part in these depictions. To change ANY of these aspects has a butterfly effect on the entire story and makes it less believable or true to the original story. Making the Stark’s excessively rich wouldn’t make any sense to the story we’ve been presented, making all the stark children women wouldn’t make sense in the world we’ve presented, making one or all of them black, brown, Asian, or middle Eastern wouldn’t make sense when we know where these people all come from in their world.

      • Agreed. Opera basically pioneered what’s known as colourblind casting, something I heartily approve of. Opera is all about the singing voice and not naturalism. Frankly, until Callas and Domingo, most opera singers would or could not even act. Live theatre has gone fairly colourblind too and IMO it usually succeeds.

        Film and television are very naturalistic and need more plausibility in casting against expected ethnicity/gender. Non-Dornish Westerosi need to be Caucasians not only because GRRM described them thusly but also because Westeros is basically mediaeval Britain plus hints of Mediterranean Europe. And since most of the main characters are from Westeros, so are most of the main roles. I think GoT has gone out of its way to bring in more POC than GRRM depicted.

        BBC recently did Hollow Crown 2–three Shakespeare history plays, and cast Sophie Okonedo as Queen Maragaret. She’s a 46YO(!) highly regarded British actress of Nigerian extraction. In the first play, where she’s a young French princess (with a white father), she stood out like a sore thumb. By the second play, you’d gotten used to her and she fit in well. By the third play, she was a dynamo and absolutely gripping. She could have had purple polka dots and15 fingers and it would not have mattered. That’s because she’s so experienced and fiercely talented.
        But talent and experience like that are not common. Colourblind casting, so right in principle, can backfire dramatically. It needs to be handled discreetly. On this site a few years ago you often saw the phrase “In Gold we trust”. Nina Gold regularly scored real casting coups, whether with child actors like Jack Gleeson, Maisie and the Stark kids, or obtaining giants like Ian McShane or Richard E Grant and Essie Davis for small roles. GRRM, D&D, and presumably Gold are liberals and do what they can within reason. And by every measure it has worked, for the narrative and the show’s success and for diversity. I hope film and telly will continue to make progress for POC so that they can obtain the kind of reputation and experience Okonedo has, but IMO GoT has done a splendid job.

  • For those who read the books and a world of ice and fire know, there are other ethnicities. Obviously the Dothraki and the Dornish (Rhoynish history) are in the show already, but other places like the Summer Isles and Yi Ti would show other ethnicities as well. Unfortunately the show will not go that far from Westeros, they do not have the time to show every area of world and the complexity would be confusing for some. Since Westeros does not participate in the slave trade of Essos, few people would choose to travel to the other side of the world to be peasants or more likely only merchants could afford such a trip. Furthermore the Andals and First men which the major houses descended from were white. GRRM in this fantasty makes geneolgy extremely significant! From the Targaryans silver hair, the Norths dark hair and grey eyes, the Tullys red haired and blue eyes, and the Lannisters bonde hair. How did we figure out Jeoffry wasn’t a Baratheon again? Additionally, adding random race changes to characters from the books would add another dimension to the show that wasn’t explored, or are we assuming that it’s supposed to be so common place it wouldn’t effect people’s dialog or actions?

    • I hear people talk about the Summer Isles a lot in response to GOT diversity but because I haven’t read the book I’m pretty oblivious

  • This show is my happy place. It doesn’t need people of color to make it better or more diverse I actually like it the way it is. Are there other movies and shows where they fuck up POC characters? Absolutely list start with the last Airbender and a slew of white savior tropes every single time they feel like Matt Damon or Tom Cruise can come rescue a nation full of people of color… seriously this is my happy place let’s not fuck it up with race arguments

  • I will just say the tone here is refreshing compared to much of the commentary made on the subject at WotW. Thread even got closed. Many SJW’s hang about that site and it’s soured me on it so I will come here more often. Much less divisive.

    • so what your saying is, there is a website somewhere on the web that practices freedom-of-speech?

      if so… could you post a link in your reply, please.

  • Ok… I appreciate the diversity that we are presented. It’s not just the minimum amount of black characters that bothers me – it’s folks who insist that people of color can’t exist in a world full of dragons, giants, and ice zombies

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