This Is How People of Color Are Portrayed In Every Season Of Game Of Thrones

Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
There is a scene on Netflix’s Dear White People where Joelle describes Game of Thrones as “That shit with dragons set in the world where no one's Black except the slaves.” I was very curious about how accurate this description was, considering the show’s return on July 16. I didn’t doubt the accuracy of the statement — I’ve read all the books and seen every episode and I wouldn’t necessarily call George R. R. Martin woke — but I wanted to get into some specifics.
Obviously, there are a couple of well-known Black characters on the show. But what about the lesser known ones? And what about non-Black people of color on the show? Just how diverse is our favorite fantasy series?
Spoiler alert: On a show with over 150 major characters and thousands of other nameless, faceless actors, Game of Thrones is not very diverse at all. Because quantifying every single brown face on the show would be nearly impossible, given their affinity for war scenes and mass slavery storylines, I decided to do a season-by-season analysis of how people of color are represented (many times it’s by white actors) and the standout actors of color in each season.
Check it out for yourself.
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Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
Season 1

The Dothraki are clearly represented as a barbaric, uncivilized tribe of people in Essos, the continent to the west of Westeros. While they are not exclusively limited to people of color — Jason Momoa’s Khal Drogo is evidence of this — they certainly fit many of the tropes assigned to indigenous tribes in media. Many of the actors that portray the Dothraki are people of color. Jhiqui and Irri, handmaidens that are gifted to Daenerys, are both portrayed by women of color. Dar Salim plays Qotho and Elyes Gabel, who is half-Indian, plays Rakharo, both Dothraki riders.

For the entire first season of Game of Thrones, people of color are savages. Unfortunately, there is no pun intended.
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Photo: AF archive/Alamy Stock Photo.
Season 2

In season two, there are a few more people of color playing the Dothraki — including Steven Cole, a rather attractive Black man from the UK who plays bloodrider, Kovarro.

However, we also meet a couple of Black men in power. Sallador Saan, played by Lucian Msamati, is a Black pirate lord and Xaro Xhoan Daxos, played by Nonso Anozie, is a wealthy merchant in Qarth. Neither of them play significant roles, nor can they be trusted.

That's all we get for season two.
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Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
Season 3

Hello, Missandei! I have a huge crush on Nathalie Emmanuel, the woman of color who plays a former slave turned trusted advisor to Daenerys. Second in line for my heart is Jacob Anderson, the Black actor who plays Grey Worm, the fearless leader of the Unsullied army. Unfortunately, the Unsullied were also slaves prior to fighting willingly for the Mother of Dragons.

In case you haven’t caught on, the theme shifted from savages to slaves in season three, and most of the slaves are portrayed by Croatians. They are all relying on a white savior, Daenerys, in order to be free. *face palm*
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Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
Season 4

One of the best things to come out of season four is the introduction of the Martells and the beautiful land of Dorne. Oberyn, their prince (RIP) is played by Chilean actor Pedro Pascal. His lover, Ellaria, is brought to life by half-Indian actress Indira Varma. I'm pretty sure this makes them the most important people of color on the show.

How’s this for a plot twist? Joel Fry, who appears to be a man of color, and Emilio Doorgasingh, who is British-Indian, both play slave traders in Slaver’s Bay.
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Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
Season 5

So far, in addition to the leaders of Dorne, we have savage tribesmen, slaves, a few slavers, a criminal, and a capitalist to account for the people of color in Game of Thrones. In season 5, we meet the badass Sand Snakes of Dorne, who are supposed to represent an exotic "other." But they are all played by white women with dark hair, unfortunately.

However, this may still be the most diverse season of the show. There is Areo Hotah, the Martell guard who is played by Nigerian actor Deobia Oparei. Japanese Rila Fukushima plays a Red Priestess and Gary Pillai plays a merchant captain. And there is yet another Black slaver played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. Meena Rayann plays a Mereenese sex worker and Charles Jarman, a pit fighter.
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Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
Season 6

Last season saw the return of the Dothraki, bringing in a host of new actors of color like Chuku Modu, Joseph Naufahu, Staz Nair, Rubi Ali, Hannah John-Kamen, and Fola Evans-Akingbola, among others. So we are back to the savage stereotypes, but now that they are crossing the Narrow Sea with Khaleesi, the show runners may add some nuance.

Surprisingly, the annoying Robin Arryn, who is always trying to throw people from the moon door, is played by a Brazilian actor named Lino Facioli. In yet another plot twist, Japanese actress Kae Alexander took over as Leaf this season, one of the mythical Children of the Forest.

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