In an in-depth interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Barbadian-British actor Steve Toussaint said he was racially abused on social media after it was announced he was going to have a lead role in the upcoming Game of Thrones prequel, House of the Dragon.
The series, which is set 200 years before the events in Game of Thrones, will premiere on August 21. Toussaint plays Lord Corlys Velaryon, the wealthiest man in Westeros and the “most famed nautical adventurer” in the continent’s history.
But Toussaint, who is the first person of color to be cast as a lead actor in the series, said some fans took issue with that and racially abused him on social media.
“When I got the gig, I literally was like, ‘It’s just another role because I have Black friends who had small parts or recurring parts in [Thrones]’”, Toussaint said when he was asked if the aforementioned feat was meaningful to him.
“I didn’t realize it was a bigger deal until I was racially abused on social media when it was announced. Yeah, that shit happened.”
Toussaint, however, said he wasn’t too perturbed about the abuse.
“It got announced and somebody put up like an artist impression of The Sea Snake, which must come from one of the books. So someone put that up opposite my picture and [expressed dismay]. Then someone else referred to me by the N-word – that was in reply to a director I had worked with who wrote, ‘Steve Toussaint is great’ and they said, “No, Steve Toussaint is a … —,’” he recalled.
“There was also a Black American chap who is a big fan of the show who contacted me saying that he gets abuse because he championed me for the part. And on platforms like Reddit, which I’m not on, there are such discussions going on about it. I was like, ‘Oh wow,’ and then I thought, “Okay, this means a lot to some people, but I can’t allow that to bother me.’”
He also mentioned other actors who were racially abused after they landed similar roles.
“Someone I’ve known for a long time, he had it [when he was cast on a Marvel project]. A friend of mine who played Hermione in the stage version of Harry Potter, she got it. I’ve worked with [Star Wars: The Force Awakens actor] John Boyega, and he got it. If it bothers you so much, don’t watch,” he said.
“So I suppose in that sense, it’s a big deal. But we have a saying that today’s headlines are just tomorrow’s chip paper; people forget about it.”
The actor added that he did not make mention of the abuse when he spoke to the Black actors who featured in Game of Thrones. He said he was much more concerned about being in the public spotlight.
“I know Lucian Msamati who had a recurring role as a pirate [Salladhor Saan] and Nonso Anozie who played the rich guy in Qarth [Xaro Xhoan Daxos] who tried to kill Daenerys. But I didn’t discuss it with them,” Toussaint said. “The only thing I could have asked was about going out on the streets – which is quite frightening, to be honest.”