African Actress To Play Hermione In ‘Harry Potter And The Cursed Child’ Stage Adaptation

Swaziland-born actress Noma Dumezweni has been cast in the role of Hermione in a new London stage reimagining of Harry Potter, titled Harry Potter and The Cursed Child. The casting was first reported by The Daily Mail on Sunday, and the play’s official Twitter account retweeted the Daily Mail’s announcement.

The Palace theatre production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child also announced it has cast the other two main roles, with Jamie Parker as an adult Harry Potter, and Paul Thornley as Ron Weasley. The play, written by Jack Thorne, will open in July, 2016, and is based on a story Thorne wrote with the play’s director, John Tiffany, as well as acclaimed Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.

According to the play’s website, the two-part play (to be watched the same day as a matinee then evening show or over two consecutive nights) is set 19 years after the seven-part book series ended, and finds Potter as “an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children,” and his son, Albus Severus, struggling “with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted.”

“While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.”

Albus’s casting has not yet been announced.

Dumezweni was born in Swaziland to South African parents and moved to England as a child. She won the Olivier award for best performance in a supporting role for her work in 2005’s A Raisin In The Sun. She recently replaced Kim Cattrall in Penny Skinner’s play Linda. Her slew of theater credits also include: Antony and Cleopatra, Much Ado About Nothing, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

In the films, Hermione was played by white actress Emma Watson, so many fans of the Harry Potter books are expressing their feelings about a black woman playing the literary world’s most overachieving witch, but the Harry Potter series never mentions her skin color, and as one Harry Potter fan notes on Twitter, “the books never talk about her skin, but DID say she had poofy, curly, brown hair. I always imagined her black.”

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is London’s most anticipated theater event of 2016, and as The Huffington Post notes, “Dumezweni’s Hermione will challenge audiences that still expect white as the default race.”

“Fans often seem to believe that if a character is changed from white to black, they will no longer be able to identify with that superhero,” Aaron Kashtan, who teaches a course on transmedia storytelling at Georgia Tech, told The Atlantic last year. “This default assumption of whiteness is no longer acceptable,” he said.

Writer Alanna Bennett (who is biracial) also pointed out in a piece on Buzzfeed that Rowling never actually specified Hermione’s race.

“In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Hermione is introduced with a description of her bushy brown hair and her large teeth. There’s nothing to indicate she didn’t look just like me, yet I always pictured a white face under that bushy head. I always pictured her not-me,” Bennett wrote, adding, “As I grew up I stopped comparing myself as much to Hollywood actors and tried to train myself out of seeing white as the default for fictional characters. And, somewhat miraculously, so did the internet.”

The first installment of the play is scheduled to begin previews on June 7, with the official opening day, where both parts will be performed, set for July 30 at the West End’s Palace Theatre. Tickets for the first round of performances of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child are already sold out.

As Broadway.com notes, the seven-volume Harry Potter series has sold more than 450 million copies and been translated into 77 languages. The books were adapted into eight movies starring Daniel Radcliffe in the title role and Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley.

[Images via Twitter]