The 'A Song of Ice and Fire' Domain


The Pirate and the Reaver

Two more casting notes have come in today, and I think these are quite fun. First off, despite our own thinking that the Iron Islands casting had pretty much wrapped up, it appears that the old master-at-arms of Pyke, Dagmer Cleftjaw, has been cast according to Winter is Coming. British actor Ralph Ineson apparently has the role—quite a change from the character as described, at least age-wise, as Cleftjaw’s said to have a snow-white beard and seems to sound as if he’s in his late 50’s or early 60’s. I’m going to guess that the wound that gives Cleftjaw his name is not going to even be attempted by the show, as that’d be rather extreme make-up! Ineson is among the new cast members who can be found on Twitter.

And just now, EW has the scoop on the casting of Salladhor Saan, a Lyseni pirate king who hires his sails out to Stannis Baratheon, and is an old friend of Davos Seaworth. According to EW, British-born stage and actor Lucian Msamati—who I remember very fondly from HBO’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency as JLB Matekoni—has been cast in the role.

Given our previous casting exclusive regarding Pyat Pree (which also discusses the casting of Balon Greyjoy and Podrick Payne), I think there’s a topic I need to revisit…

As always, I trust that the show has hired the very best actors that auditioned for the part, schedule and the like allowing. But when Xaro Xhoan Daxos was cast with the (exceptional) actor Nonso Anozi, I did remark that I was hopeful that the production would not end up presenting some sort of ethnic mish-mash for the Qartheen people. What worked for the show’s version of the Dothraki (because, historically, the nomadic horsemen of the central Asian steppe formed alliances crossing multiple ethnicities, even if Martin’s Dothraki are explicitly indicated to be ethnically homogenous) would not, in our mind, work for the Qartheen.

If Xaro Xhoan Daxos is represented as a black man, I hoped that the “Milk Men” of Qarth (named such by the Dothraki because of the extreme paleness of the Qartheen, Xaro included) would all be cast with black actors, or that some very good reason be found for why Xaro would somehow be unique rather than falling back on this heterogeneous jumble of ethnicities that the Dothraki showed, when the Qartheen culture is completely focused on an insular society that looked down its nose at everyone else. The ruling class even name themselves the Pureborn.

Well, Pyat Pree’s casting with Ian Hanmore in the role seems to reveal that, no, the Qartheen are not going to be just black. And given the fact that Dubrovnik in Croatia has been described as the filming location for many city scenes “in the south”, it seems likely that Qartheen streets and palaces (if we glimpse them) will be filled with local, Croatian extras. So… what’s going on? I’m a bit leery, and I can only hope some reasonable explanation is presented or at least implied in the series so that Qarth can retain its peculiar cultural traits. Yes, I’m happy that excellent actors are in the role, as always—but I want the setting to show some internal consistency and, as far as possible, to be consistent with the books as well. A Qarth where the merchants are black, the warlocks are white, and the Pureborn are a mix of both or something such would be very strange and not in keeping with the decadent, inward-looking civilization presented in the novel.

And now, this latest casting. As I said, I remember Msamati very fondly in The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. But ... is Salladhor Saan really the role to practice color-blind casting with? The people of the Free City of Lys—where Saan was born—are repeatedly noted to be fair-haired and skinned. This isn’t just a throw away reference, as it may well play an important plot point in the future, given the fact that there are examples of Lyseni who clearly have strong Valyrian lineages. Indeed, one of the most beautiful daughters of House Targaryen—Shiera Seastar—had a Lyseni mother, probably one of high Valyrian lineage. Saan may not be so exalted… but then again, his flagship is actually named Valyrian. And there’s an ancestor of his who was widely known as “The Old Valyrian”. It rather suggests that Saan should look more like… well, like Dany than he does Nonso Anozi’s Xaro, no?

Or at least more like Conleth Hill’s Varys, who also hails from Lys. Or Roxanne McKee’s Doreah, also from Lys.

The simple solution for the sake of consistency? Drop any reference to his being Lyseni, I suppose. It doesn’t seem like it would matter very much with Saan’s role in the series. He could be a corsair king from the Basilisk Isles easily enough (such characters are in fact refernced in later novels) with no difficulty, and I’d be very happy if the show just made that sort of attempt to remain consistent with the setting. Will they do that, though? Hrm…

We’ll have to wait and see. I look forward to seeing Msamati as Salla, though—I’ve a feeling that he’ll be able to play Saan’s colorful, flamboyant (and very Vancian) personality very well indeed, if they choose to stick to writing him as he’s presented in the book. Fingers crosed!

You can see Msamati below in the “Making Of” for HBO’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency:

And here he can be glimpsed in the trailer for the Doctor Who episode, “The Vampires of Venice”:

Finally, here’s Ineson—who’s appeared in the Harry Potter films—discussing voice over work for a Potter video game: