Andy Pryor, who worked as the casting director for the BBC’s latest Doctor Who special, defended his choice to use a mixed-race actor for Isaac Newton after significant backlash. He also accused critics of “villainizing minorities” and referred to them as “bigots.”
Newton’s story was featured in Wild Blue Yonder, the second of three planned Doctor Who holiday specials planned by the BBC. The casting decision of Nathaniel Curtis — a mixed-race actor with Indian heritage — to portray the famous English scientist has been widely panned on social media.
The Indian Actor who chose to play Isaac Newton has done a disservice to everybody but most of all Indians.
Imagine being an Indian and your child watching TV and assuming Isaac Newton was their ethnicity.
Teach REAL Indian history there's enough of it! Brownwashing is dumb. pic.twitter.com/Q4NMHAm9PS
— Tristan Tate (@TateTheTalisman) December 5, 2023
Following the special’s premiere, Pryor defended the casting decision in an interview with Digital Spy. “We had talked about trying to get Nathaniel in the show at some point and I think it’s a sort of rather cheeky, but fun interpretation of Isaac Newton. You know, it’s not a historical drama,” Pryor said with a laugh.
When asked about backlash over the decision to swap Newton’s heritage, Pryor accused critics of “villainizing minorities.”
“It’s sad that we’re in a time where people villainize minorities, This sort of chatter, I’m very good at kind of tuning it out. And I’m also very, very happy to block people on Twitter,” he said. “I don’t really have any time for bigotry at all.”
“It then becomes even more important to give people a voice and for people to be represented, especially for young people growing up who might be trans or from any minority,” Pryor continued. “If they can see themselves on screen, then that can be a huge lifeline for some people. That can make them feel part of the world, which indeed they are.”
He then referred to social media as a “dangerous place” where people can get “sucked into saying things that I don’t know that they truly believe.”
“It just becomes a game for them. Unfortunately, real life isn’t a game, and I think it’s important to stand up for people who are marginalized,” Pryor said, drawing praise from interviewer David Opie. “Thank you for such an eloquent response. It’s a frustrating, difficult topic to deal with,” Opie said of criticism aimed at the decision.