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‘Game of Thrones’ Season 4: George R.R. Martin Responds to Red Viper Casting Controversy

Game of Thrones Season 4 Red Viper Pedro Pascal George RR Martin
Jason Merritt, Getty Images / IMDb

Recently, HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones‘ surprised us by announcing one of season 4′s biggest castings well in advance of the Comic-Con 2013 panel, tapping Chilean actor Pedro Pascal as Prince Oberyn “The Red Viper” Martell. As has been the case with several castings prior, “Song of Ice and Fire” purists criticized an apparent racial shift in the character’s identity, one which series creator George R.R. Martin himself has reached out to defend.

Via his blog, Martin pointed in response to a fan question out that a number of character ethnicities have shifted in HBO’s adaptation of the “Song of Ice and Fire” books, occasionally to compensate for more ethnically diverse characters left out of the TV series for consolidation purposes. As far as HBO’s upcoming portrayal of the Martells of Dorne, thought to have “darker features” than the Chilean Pedro Pascal would suggest: Martin said:

I wasn’t present for Pedro Pascal’s audition, but I understand that he really killed it with his reading. And since his casting was announced, the producer of another TV show on which he appeared recently has written me to say how terrific Pascal is, and to congratulate us on the casting. So I suspect that he will turn out to be a wonderful Red Viper.

I do know that David and Dan and HBO do favor having a racially and ethnically diverse cast on the series. It is true that we’ve lost several black characters who appear in the novels (Chataya and Alayaya, Jalabhar Xho, Strong Belwas), but to balance that, characters like Salladhor Saan and Xaro Xhoan Daxos, both white in the books, have been played by black actors. Missandei as well, though in the books the Naathi are golden-skinned, not white.

As for the Dornishmen, well, though by and large I reject one to one analogies, I’ve always pictured the “salty Dornish” as being more Mediterranean than African in appearance; Greek, Spanish, Italian, Portugese, etc. Dark hair and eyes, olive skin. Pedro Pascal is Chilean. (Check out Amok’s version of the Red Viper, that’s how I saw him. Or Magali Villenueve’s beautiful and sexy portrait of Princess Arianne).

When and if the show introduces Prince Oberyn’s daughters, the Sand Snakes, I expect we will see the same diversity as in the books, ranging from Tyene (blond and blue-eyed) to Sarella (light brown skin, as her mother was a Summer Islander). And I expect that the crew of the CINNAMON WIND will all be cast with black actors… assuming, of course, that Sam’s voyage remains in the story.

It’s expected that a number of season 4 actors will be announced at the upcoming Comic-Con panel, wherein fans will once again have their own opinion of the characters fitting the image from the books. What say you? Does ‘Game of Thrones” choice of Pedro Pascal for the Red Viper seem different than you imagined? What characters are you looking most forward to seeing?

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