Game of Thrones has always had accusations of racism hurled at it, and the cast is unquestionably overwhelmingly white (though, given the source material, that's hardly a surprise). Many fans were hoping the introduction of Dornish characters starting with Oberyn Martell in Season 4 and presumably expanding to more characters in the future if the show continues to follow the books closely — would alleviate the problem, so the casting of Pedro Pascal as Oberyn left many up in arms. What does A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin have to say about the issue?

In the books, Oberyn is a "Salty" Dornishman, an ethnicity described as dark, generally with olive skin and black hair. Many fans were envisioning Oberyan as looking Middle Eastern or North African, so Chilean Pedro Pascal came as a disappointment. Some even went so far as to call the casting whitewashing. But were the Salty Dornish really intended to stand in for people from the Middle East or North Africa?

Not according to George Martin!

Martin recently defended the casting in his Livejournal, explaining that while he wasn't around for Pedro Pascal's audition, "I understand that he really killed it with his reading.

He added that showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss, as well as HBO, "do favor having a racially and ethnically diverse cast on the series," noting that while the show has  "lost several black characters who appear in the novel," it's attempted to balance that by having "characters like Salladhor Saan and Xaro Xhoan Daxos, both white in the books" be played by black actors.

Martin also explained that while he generally shies away from direct analogies to the real world, in his mind the Salty Dornish were always meant to be "more Mediterranean than African in appearance; Greek, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, etc. Dark hair and eyes, olive skin." He specifically mentioned this portrait of Dornish Princess Arianne Martell as capturing the look he was going for.

Martin also mentioned that he's totally open to readers having a different interpretation of the description, and emphasized that when it comes to casting, you're limited by what actors you have to choose from; picking the best person for the part is the most important thing.

Are you disappointed by the casting of Pedro Pascal, or do you have faith he'll be perfect in the role? Sound off in the comments below!

Get more Game of Thrones spoilers here.

Source: George Martin's Livejournal

Rebecca Martin is an editor at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow her on Twitter @BeccaDMartin.