‘Game of Thrones’ Star Addresses HBO Series’ Lack of Diversity

Game of Thrones was one of the most popular shows on TV, and through its eight-season run, it’s created many fans, but also many controversies. Some of those controversies had to do with violence against women, some with nudity, and some about the show’s lack of diversity, too.

Since Game of Thrones is basically a medieval fantasy show, it also has the same diversity issues that many other medieval movies have. That said, the show wasn’t completely lacking in diversity, and it did have a few people of color. Most critics and fans agree the show could have done better. Here’s a look at what one of those actors, Nathalie Emmanuel, had to say about that. 

What ‘Game of Thrones’ is about

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen on Game of Thrones
Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen on ‘Game of Thrones’ | Helen Sloan/HBO

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Like its title would imply, the show’s about people in the world of Westeros fighting with each other over who will sit on the throne. This basic premise is pretty much exactly what’s happened in every kingdom in the real world, and the creators of the show have said as much.

That said, unlike other medieval shows about kings and queens, Game of Thrones also has a bit of magic going on as there are dragons and ice zombies, too. So clearly, the show is based on the people and politics of the real world, but with some magic sprinkled in. 

‘Game of Thrones’ lacks diversity

Despite being clearly inspired by fantasy and magic though, the show’s take on diversity leaves much to be desired. For example, Westeros, which is actually the name of a continent, is similar to Europe, and as a result, most of the people from Westeros are white. Essos — the name of the continent that Emilia Clarke’s character, Daenerys Targaryen, starts her story in — is a different continent.

Essos is similar to Asia, and as a result, it’s full of different cultures and people of color. But since the show is focused on what’s happening in Westeros, most of the characters end up being white. Due to that fact, with few exceptions, the only times that the show has people of color are in Daenerys’ scenes.

The main exceptions have to do with the Dornish people, who live on the south side of Westeros and are very similar to Spanish and other Mediterranean cultures. As a result, people of color like Pedro Pascal and Jessica Henwick play major roles in those scenes. Other than them though, the only people of color who’ve had significant roles on-screen were from Essos. 

For season one, there was Jason Momoa, who played Khal Drogo. A few seasons later, Daenerys liberated a lot of slaves, and she befriended two of them in particular. The first was Missandei, who’s played by Emmanuel, and the other is Grey Worm, who’s played by Jacob Anderson. 

What Nathalie Emmanuel had to say about diversity on ‘Game of Thrones’

Like she told People, she and Anderson felt “really conscious of how much our being part of Game of Thrones mattered to people.” They felt that way because they were the only people of color who had major roles for much the show. Because of that fact, they also felt like they had to “represent every other person of color.”

On top of that, it also made them very protective of their roles, and it also made her think more deeply about race and representation on TV in general. She concluded that, if there’s going to be a show like Game of Thrones ever again, “representation has to be part of the conversation from the beginning.” 

There is a Game of Thrones prequel show that is in the works right now, so maybe HBO will learn from its mistakes.