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Actor Sir Lenny Henry has shared some new insight on Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings TV show, which will feature a diverse multicultural cast and a “very strong female presence.” Speaking to the BBC, Henry said he plays a Harfoot, a type of hobbit described by Tolkien in his writing as having darker skin.

“I’m a Harfoot, because J.R.R. Tolkien–who was from Birmingham!…–suddenly there were Black hobbits. I’m a Black hobbit. It’s brilliant,” Henry said (via WeGotThisCovered). “And what’s notable about this… it’s a prequel to the age that we’ve seen in the films and the books. It’s about the early days of the Shire and of Tolkien’s environment. So we’re an indigenous population of Harfoots. We’re hobbits but we’re called Harfoots. And we’re multicultural. We’re a tribe. We’re not a race.”

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The Harfoots are also made up of a variety of other people from different backgrounds, Henry said. “So there are Black and Asian and Brown and even Maori-types within it. It’s a whole brand-new set of adventures that seeds some of the origins of different characters,” Henry explained.

The show will also have a “very strong female presence,” Henry said.

“There is a very strong female presence in this, there are going to be female heroes in this and they’re going to be little people as usual,” he said.

Actor Ludi Lin, who played Liu Kang recently in the Mortal Kombat movie, previously called out Amazon for a lack of diversity in its upcoming The Lord of the Rings TV show.

One of the commonly cited issues with Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings series from the early 2000s is its lack of diversity. Other major Hollywood franchises such as Harry Potter and Game of Thrones have been criticized for this as well.

Henry added that he believes the Amazon Lord of the Rings TV show is the “biggest television show” in history based on its budget and headcount. He said it’s been a life-changing experience working on the show for the past few years, and he expects it to continue for a decade to come.

“It’s going to take at least 10 years to tell the story because it’s based on the Silmarillion, which is almost like a cheat sheet of what happens next in this world for the Second and Third ages. The writers have a lot of fun in it, extrapolating it all out,” Henry said.

Amazon is reportedly spending $465 million for The Lord of the Rings season one, a figure that makes for a “sexy headline,” according to Amazon Studios boss Jennifer Salke.

“But that is really building the infrastructure of what will sustain the whole series,” she said. “As for how many people need to watch Lord of the Rings? A lot. (Laughs.) A giant, global audience needs to show up to it as appointment television, and we are pretty confident that that will happen.”

Amazon’s Lord of the Rings TV show is scheduled to premiere on September 2, 2022, which is the anniversary of Tolkien’s death.

The Lord of the Rings TV show description:

“Amazon Studios’ forthcoming series brings to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the fabled Second Age of Middle-earth’s history. This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains, to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone.”

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