In the second week of quarantine, I have come down with a sore throat, constant headache and aching joints. It could be a regular cold and it could be mild Corona- who knows. Sadly, I’m not fortunate enough to be able to run conclusive tests so I have done what I was ordered to do and self-isolated.
During those many -many, many- naps to regain some energy, I have started listening to Terry Pratchett’s books on audio. I honestly don’t know how many times I’ve read the Discworld books. My copy of Guards! Guards! looks… uh, well-thumbed? Wrecked is probably closer to the right adjective.
Which oddly enough is the exact word I used when I discovered what America has done to my beloved Watch. (More on that in a bit.)
I’m lying back listening to Nigel Planer read about the world I love so much and my head is playing the scenes in my head and I’m thinking who I would love to play these characters were they to come on screen.
Now we have been lucky with Terry Pratchett’s works so far. Good Omens was, frankly, amazing. Even the somewhat odd casting choices worked fantastically and I devoured the episodes so quickly my head was spinning.
We also got: Going Postal, which I really enjoyed; Hogfather, which was fun and the Colour of Magic, which was… well, we got it.
I was trying to think of the name of the guy who played Alonso in Doctor Who (Russell Tovey) as I thought he might make a good Carrot Ironfoundersson if he were taller. After googling a few names I came across an odd picture of a slim black woman labelled Lady Sybil Ramkin. This led me to the unpleasant realisation that America was doing a ‘punk rock’ version of The Watch.
No. Seriously. WTAF????
A punk rock version? Why is that needed? The whole Discworld is set in such a fantastically magical world where wizards and witches walk around with trolls and walking luggage. Where the main librarian is an orangutan and tiny blue Scottish men steal sheep.
How much more rock and roll do you need?
Then I saw the cast list and I’m more than a little peeved.
I realise that in fantasy and Sci-Fi there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of diversity in skin colour. Carrot, Vimes, Colon and Nobby (who don’t even feature here), Vetinari, Angua, Dibbler- all are written as white. Two-Flower was yellow, I believe, and the Nac Mac Feegle were blue but I don’t remember there being any POC in the Discworld.
That’s not to say there wasn’t some representation. The City Watch had a equal hiring policy, Dwarfs were non-binary up to a point and Golems were as gender-neutral as you could get. But the themes of most of the Discworld books were about being yourself and accepting who you were.
I’m all for adding diversity into the world but not at the expense of the character. What I mean is Lady Sybil is supposed to be a large woman of excellent breeding and bombastic attitude. I’m thinking Hattie Jaques of Carry On fame.
Lara Rossi is so thin a small wind could knock her over. If you wanted a POC to play her then what about Nicole Byers? Large, delightfully friendly and enthusiastic enough to Whinny if you love Dragons.
In making the world of Discworld diversity-friendly and ‘punk rock’ they’ve just removed all of the fat characters. Where is Sargeant Colon?
Gender-bending certain characters is also annoying. In the first book of the Watch (Guards! Guards!) admittedly there aren’t many women other than Lady Sybil. But in later books, there are more and more.
I’m not against Anna Chancellor being Lord/Lady Vetinari as I think she would do an amazing job. But why is Dr Cruces suddenly a woman? Why is CMOT Dibbler? If you are reimagining the world, why not just add more women in? There was a whole Guild of Seamstresses. What about Carrot’s friend Reet and Mrs Palm and her girls?
If this ‘reimagining’ is going over several novels, then you could introduce The Witches. What about Nanny Ogg? Granny Weatherwax? Tiffany Aching?
As far as I’m concerned this is BBC’s pandering all over again. Rather than make something original that truly encompasses diversity and representation, they take something that already exists and ruins it in the name of being ‘woke’.
So I have made my own cast list of who I think would work best in these roles.
The Ruler of Ankh-Morpork and a benevolent tyrant. Played beautifully in Going Postal by Charles Dance. I really think he was the best choice. But if you wanted to stir things up, Anna Chancellor is brilliant, or how about Michelle Gomez or Idris Elba? Calm yet despotic with an underlying menace, either would be perfect.
A rough cop. He’s weather-beaten and life weary. Rough around the edges, and the middle, with a heart of gold. Who better than the rough talking, hard-hitting Phillip Glenister. I firmly believed his role as Gene Hunt was just Sam Vimes in the seventies.
Corporal Carrot Ironfoundersson
Adopted by dwarfs, Carrot is 6″6, ginger and bulging with muscles. Good-natured, kind and hopelessly naive. Tom Hopper could pull this off wonderfully.
Lady Sybil Ramkin
She is a large, almost Viking-esque woman of impeccable breeding. She breeds swamp dragons in her spare time, is boisterous and brash but kind-hearted and is definitely not shy. You need someone big enough to carry a dragon on her shoulder.
Hattie Jaques has, sadly, passed on, but Ruth Jones would do a good job. Miranda Hart has the Plummy good-naturedness down and the right sort of height. If you wanted a darker actress what about Queen Latifah, Neomi Nganga or Nicole Byers (without the America Accent).
Sargent Angua Von Uberwald
Angua is blonde, attractive and a werewolf. Although originally hired as an affirmative action plan, Angua’s surprising strength and tough attitude soon made her one of the most feared officers on the Watch. She needs to be strong and physically beautiful. There is a plethora of blonde actresses in the world so any with fierce good looks could do. I’ve never seen Vikings but this picture stood out to me. Angua is stoic and her death glare brings you to your knees. I think Katheryn Winnick could definitely do Angua proud.
He is described as untidy, smelly, about the same height as a dwarf, and was disqualified from the human race for shoving. Think Baldrick from Blackadder but thinner and grimier. This could have been Tony Robinson’s play, back in the day, but I think he’s a bit too old now. While Andy Serkis is a firm favourite, I think he is far too American whereas Mackenzie Crook would really pull off the ‘less than human’ gait of Nobby Nobbs.
He is described on several occasions as “one of nature’s sergeants”. He is overweight and prefers to avoid trouble and exertion. Always seeming to be huffing and puffing, he is once described as someone who could have been a butcher if being red-faced and always sweating were part of the job. I think either Nick Frost or Mark Addy. I couldn’t think of any overweight POC who would suit. Are there any overweight black men in Hollywood?
Cut-Me-Own- Throat Dibbler
A street vendor and epic salesman, CMOT Dibbler is most famous for selling meat by-products to unsuspecting souls. He is described in the books as resembling a rodent, and wears a long ‘poacher’s’ coat covered in pockets. A grifter I thing Robert Carlyle has the right looks and attitude. But if you wanted to gender switch, what about Tallulah Riley. Her look is unusual enough to pull it off although she is a bit young. Or Julie Walters. She blew us away in Dinnerladies as the vile Petula Clark. Or how about Noel Fielding as an outside choice?
Sigh. But I’m just a lowly librarian who can’t make the world do as I wish. (yet). So I’ll just have to dream of my perfect cast.
Let me know in the comments if you agree or if you have other thoughts.
I LOVE your picks! I wouldn’t change a thing!
Thank you! I wish they’d called on me before they chose their picks!
This!!! This is amazing, well written and I love you for it!! How do we get the world to read it? We just need some real discworld, we don’t need gritty reboots before the original has even been made!
Push and forward! I sincerely miss the Discworld- especially the Night Watch and just wish they’d do a decent job. The Discworld is gritty enough without heading to an alternate universe!
I was a
L in until you said you’d never seen Vikings! Whaaaaa??
I know! I’m so sorry, i need to watch Vikings but I have so much catching up to do with reading I never get around to it.
Watching Call the Midwife, I thought Miranda Hart would make a perfect Sybil! And that was before I read this article.
I think Miranda Hart would be perfect as Sybil, jocular and well aware of her size but happy nonetheless.
Omg I seriously wish you did the casting because your picks are spot on!
Thank you! I wish they had asked fans of the books rather than tried to be all hip and edgy. We know who would fit best in our imaginations.
I know this post is a bit old but I stumbled on it and wanted to comment. What really REALLY annoys me about this is how it is framed as being progressive or woke and it isn’t even that! As you said they cut every fat character and they made everyone completely beautiful too. I know there aren’t many truly plain looking actors out there but I never pictured any discworld denizen as a hollywood hunk or hunkette. They should be flawed and human in their appearances, just like their personalities! So clearly a callous cash-in dreamed up by some executives.