Whitewashing has become more of a hot-button issue in Hollywood in recent years, with internet communities ready to take on any studio who opts to cast white actors for roles of minority characters in adaptations and historical projects. Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage often agrees with and supports those efforts, although he's had to defend himself from a slight backlash against his lead role in HBO's upcoming TV movie My Dinner with Hervé. He'll portray Fantasy Island actor Hervé Villechaize, and those protesting have claimed the film is pulling a race-switch on the "Filipino" actor. Dinklage points out why this isn't the case at all.
There's this term 'whitewashing.' I completely understand that. But Hervé wasn't Filipino. Dwarfism manifests physically in many different ways. I have a very different type of dwarfism than Hervé had. I've met his brother and other members of his family. He was French, and of German and English descent. So it's strange these people are saying he's Filipino. They kind of don't have any information. I don't want to step on anybody's toes or sense of justice because I feel the exact same way when there's some weird racial profile. But these people think they're doing the right thing politically and morally and it's actually getting flipped because what they're doing is judging and assuming what he is ethnically based on his looks alone. He has a very unique face and people have to be very careful about this stuff. This [movie] isn't Breakfast at Tiffany's. Personally, I would never do that, and I haven't done that, because he wasn't. People are jumping to conclusions based on a man's appearance alone and that saddens me.
Peter Dinklage explained that those complaining that Hervé Villechaize is not played by an actor of Filipino descent may feel like they're doing the right thing, but they also may have been fed misinformation. Dinklage explained that the claim that Villechaize is of Filipino descent is bogus and that his roots are European. Dinklage dismissed Wikipedia allegations that stated otherwise and instead referenced Villechaize's family, who he said were of French, German, and Irish descent.
Peter Dinklage added to EW that dwarfism can manifest itself in many ways, which could mean the typical features of someone of those descents may have appeared differently in Hervé Villechaize. The actor also suggested that some may also just be mistaking his roots due to his roles in The Man With The Golden Gun or Fantasy Island, or just simply looking at his face and matching the features with that of a person from the Philippines. Dinklage warned this kind of profiling is essentially the type of behavior that whitewashing protestors are seeking to avoid, and obviously, can be a misleading way of determining someone's ethnicity.
Dinklage went on later to say Hervé Villechaize was universally known as a proud man, and if he had Filipino ancestry, he would've made it known. The actor said the years-in-the-making film My Dinner with Hervé explores the many mysteries and unknown facets of Villechaize's life, and takes place over the course of three days that came not long before he ended his life. Viewers will get a chance to explore more than just Villechaize's background and culture, and will see how a man with dwarfism overcame adversity and became a household name.
My Dinner with Hervé airs on HBO on Saturday, October 20, at 8:00 p.m. ET. It's just one of the many great shows coming to television in the coming months, so be sure to visit and bookmark our fall premiere guide to keep track of what's coming up.