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‘I was statistically the most attacked cast member of the entire show’: ‘The Rings of Power’ star speaks out on the racist backlash

Sophia Nomvete reveals how she endured the racist backlash to her casting.

Sophia Nomvete as Disa in The Rings of Power
Image via Amazon Prime Video

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power arrived last year on a giant wave of hype, with Amazon putting an absurd amount of money into what it hoped would be its all-conquering answer to HBO’s Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon. It didn’t pan out quite as successfully as the company hoped in terms of critical reaction and viewership, though we’re hopeful that the second season will right the ship when it lands in 2024.

Sadly, the first season’s release also saw a truly unpleasant reaction from internet misogynists and racists. Morfydd Clark’s Galadriel was pilloried for being a “Mary Sue” and Ismael Cruz Córdova’s Arondir saw many unable to accept that Tolkien’s fantasy world could feature a Black elf. But it seems Sophia Nomvete, who played dwarf princess Disa got it worst of all.

Speaking at The Hollywood Reporter‘s annual Raising Our Voices luncheon she outlined the reaction to her casting:

“When the announcement came out and pictures went up about just our faces of who we were playing, I was statistically the most attacked cast member of the entire show. There were N-bombs, I had no place here. ‘You’re too fat, you’re too black. Why are you here?’ I had one that was actually very polite, who said, ‘I’m sure that you’re a wonderful actress and a really lovely person. I just, I don’t think you should be part of this, it’s not right. If you could potentially just send a letter to Amazon with your resignation, I’d be very grateful. I thought, ‘No, I’m not going to do that, I can’t.’ I can’t afford to resign for you, so sadly I’m here to stay.”

Nomvete also said she got one message so disturbing that it paralyzed her to the point that she couldn’t leave her bed. But her spirits were lifted when her husband sent her a picture of their daughter happily pointing for her face on a The Rings of Power billboard:

“I realized that for her, and for the future of our industry and the generation, it is a must that I stand in my power and my light and do as much as I can with this character.”

Despite the torrent of online hate, Nomvete appears to have taken a sanguine approach, vowing that she’s going to use this character as proof that diverse casting in fantasy movies is important:

“I went through the seven stages of grief by reading some of the comments, and then understood the assignment. I understood the assignment, and that was to help people understand and to embrace them and love them — you would never disregard a child if they were scared. They’re scared. They’re frightened because they haven’t seen us before. So in that moment and throughout this show, I’ve made it my mission to ease their fear, and to let them understand and to help educate them that it’s OK, that we can tell a story, that we can be here and the show will be better for it, that our industry and our world will be better for it.” 

We admire her optimism, though we suspect the more disgusting parts of the fandom are irrevocably addicted to gulping down YouTube videos in which balding and bearded middle-aged white men scream about The Lord of the Rings going woke from within bedrooms filled with action figures.

Here’s hoping The Rings of Power season 2 is an improvement on the first season, and fingers crossed we get a lot more of Nomvete’s Disa. We don’t have a release date yet for season 2, which is still filming in the UK and dealing with the impact of the writer’s strike, though it should land on Prime Video in September 2024.

David James
About the author

David James

London-based writer about everything and anything. Willing to crawl over rusty nails to write about Metal Gear Solid or Resident Evil.