BBC America has released a photo of the cast of its upcoming fantasy series, ‘The Watch’, based on Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’ book series, and unfortunately, many are unhappy. During a time when many sci-fi and fantasy shows are presenting more diversity– and many different kinds of diversity– some feel that this new image indicates that ‘The Watch’ is actually taking a step backwards in that regard.
Lara Rossi depicts Lady Sybil Ramkin, who in the books, is an older/middle-aged woman, who is heavyset. She breeds swamp dragons, so her natural hair is singed off, and she wears wigs at nearly all times. Rossi is almost none of those things. She is young, beautiful, and slender. Her hair could be a wig, but if so, it’s a fairly natural-looking one.
Meanwhile, Jo Eaton-Kent portrays Constable Cheery Littlebottom, who in the books, is a dwarf, and sports a long beard, despite identifying as “she/her.” (All dwarves have beards, according to Pratchett, and gender is optional.)
Here is another look at Eaton-Kent in the role:
The basic sentiment from upset fans is that these roles could have gone to a middle-aged woman, and a little person, two groups who don’t normally have many roles to choose from. Rossi is a woman of color, and Eaton-Kent’s depiction perhaps fits more into the image of nonbinary. (That image, however, is pretty narrow… essentially it looks like she has long hair and wears frilly clothes. There are nonbinary people who boldly sport facial hair.) Even so, TV is loaded with young attractive people of all sorts. There aren’t as many opportunities for middle-aged women outside of playing a lead character’s mom, and almost no roles for little people not named “Peter Dinklage.”
Here are some reactions:
You were trying so hard to be forward that you went backwards. To wit, Lady Ramkin can be any colour. What she absolutely cannot be, however, is young, beautiful or slender. You robbed a middle-aged Black woman of a role. Cheery Littlebottom defies gender norms be being female.
— Ash (@ashermaj) August 10, 2020
I feel bad, I’m sure the cast is lovely, if this were “FANTASY FORCE: A NEW URBAN FANTASY SHOW” I’d be interested … but it’s not. Y’all made Sybil a skinny Action Girl because … I guess you didn’t think the canonical fat diplomat in the books was interesting? Shame on you.
— OrangeGoth 🍊🦇🎃 essek apologist (@ThatAuntZelda) August 7, 2020
Agreed. Also, Cheery should be closer to 4-feet tall. There are not a lot of good roles for little people, and they robbed someone of that. They definitely missed the mark with their casting.
— Tam Frager (@Tam5) August 12, 2020
Here is the uncropped photo via BBC America:
In BBC America’s newest original series, The Watch, an unlikely group of misfits, The City Watch, find the guts to save the world, surprising even themselves in the process,” BBC America’s official synopsis included with the photo reads. “The comedic yet thrilling series pits trolls, werewolves, wizards and other improbable heroes against an evil plot to resurrect a great dragon which would lead to the destruction of life as they know it.
The cast includes Sam Adewunmi as Carcer Dun, Anna Chancellor as Lord Vetinari, Marama Corlett as Corporal Angua, Richard Dormer as Sam Vimes, Jo Eaton-Kent as Constable Cheery, James Fleet as the Archchancellor of Unseen University, Adam Hugill as Constable Carrot, Hakeem Kae-Kazim as Captain John Keel, Ruth Madeley as Throat, Bianca Simone Mannie as Wonse, Ingrid Oliver as Doctor Cruces, and Lara Rossi as Lady Sybil Ramkin.
‘The Watch’ was created for television by Simon Allen, who wrote it with Joy Wilkinson, Catherine Tregenna, Amrou Al-Khadi, and Ed Hime. Craig Viveiros directed all eight episodes of Season 1. It is known that filming had begun in South Africa, but it isn’t clear whether it wrapped before the coronavirus pandemic broke out. Either way, it is expected to premiere in January 2021.
Are you a fan of the books? What do you think of the cast?