Fans have been buzzing about The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power–the prequel series to Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy and its preceding trilogy, The Hobbit–ahead of its release.
And now that it's here, The Rings of Power, which is based on The Lord of the Rings novel and its appendices by author J. R. R. Tolkien, became the most viewed Prime Video premiere in history with 25 million viewers.
Although some hardcore fans of Tolkien and fans of Jackson's LOTR films gave mixed reviews, one point of contention was based on the diverse casting in the series.
The ensemble cast in The Rings of Power is in stark contrast to the mostly White casting in the LOTR and The Hobbit films, and not everyone was on board with Elves, Dwarves and Harfoots being portrayed by actors with different ethnic backgrounds.
The racist backlash was aimed at the two new characters created for the show, Silvan elf Arondir, played by Ismael Cruz Córdova, and Princess Disa the dwarf, portrayed by Sophia Nomvete, and it was based on an argument that the only way to properly adapt Tolkien's stories was to make the characters White–a claim that was strongly dismissed by the likes of Whoopie Goldberg and The Sandman author Neil Gaiman.
In response to the bigotry, the actors who portrayed hobbits from the LOTR films banded together to support the diversity represented in The Rings of Power.
Elijah Wood, who played Frodo Baggins in the LOTR trilogy–which includes The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002), and The Return of the King (2003)–was joined by his hobbit co-stars, Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd.
Monaghan and Boyd played the other members in the Fellowship, Meriadoc "Merry" Brandybuck and Peregrin "Pippin" Took, respectively.
In a photo posted by Wood, the trio wore matching T-shirts with the phrase, "You Are All Welcome Here," written in Elvish.
The graphic below was of a row of ears in various colored skin tones to represent the different races in Middle-earth.
The design was created by TikToker Don Marshall, a self-proclaimed "Obscure LotR Facts Guy," who has more than 597,000 followers.
You can buy the merchandise on his website, with 50% of the proceeds going to a TBD charity supporting people of color.
Fans were moved.
Sean Astin, who portrayed Fellowship member, Samwise Gamgee, also displayed his solidarity with the diverse casting of the new series by wearing a cap with the same graphic.
The cast of Rings of Power also shared a statement on their Twitter account with the hashtag #YouAreAllWelcomeHere.
They expressed that they:
"Stand together in absolute solidarity and against the relentless racism, threats, harassment, and abuse some of our castmates of color are being subjected to on a daily basis."
"We refuse to ignore it or tolerate it."Our world has never been all white, fantasy has never been all white, Middle-earth is not all white."
"BIPOC belong in Middle-earth and they are here to stay."
The Rings of Power covers the events taking place in the Second Age of Middle-earth, including the forging of the Rings of Power, and the rise of the Dark Lord Sauron.
Since the new series predates the events depicted in LOTR and The Hobbit by a thousand years, we won't be seeing Wood and his Fellowship crew reprising their roles.
So while it's not the crossover casual fans were somehow hoping for to bridge the gap between the movie trilogies and streaming series, it's pretty epic to see the legacy actors reunite and be involved with the franchise in this capacity with their powerful message.