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Billy Todd

From the Two Rivers: Casting and Race in The Wheel of Time

“It’s about my story, isn’t it? That’s what this is all about. He didn’t want to publish my story. And we all know why—because my hero is a colored man.”
—Benny Russell, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, “Far Beyond the Stars”

“Momma! There’s a black lady on TV and she ain’t no maid!”
—Caryn Elaine Johnson, age 10, watching Star Trek in 1966, 16 years before becoming Whoopi Goldberg

Last week the producers of Amazon’s Wheel of Time television adaptation announced the cast for what can reasonably be called the show’s main protagonists, insofar as a 15-book series with over 2000 named characters and 147 unique point of view characters has main protagonists. In the books, the five characters announced today serve as the reader’s eyes for over 40% of the action, whether counting by words or by POVs. These characters matter—they are among the most famous characters in all of Western fantasy, with over 80 million copies of the Wheel of Time novels sold in the past thirty years.

Three of the five actors are of African ancestry or are Aboriginal Australian.

The announcement has sent shock waves across much of the fandom, and for an important reason: it serves as explicit rejection of an implicit promise made a very long time ago.

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