Emma Watson, who’s best known for her role as the “brightest witch of her age” Hermione Granger in the popular Harry Potter films, recently shared her excitement about the casting of Swaziland-born actress Noma Dumezweni in the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play. Dumezweni will portray Granger in the talked-about stage play.
Can't wait to see Noma Dumezweni as Hermione on stage this year. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ #harrypotterandthecursedchild #2016— Emma Watson (@EmWatson) January 2, 2016
Watson is a known advocate of diversity and gender quality especially after being named the Women Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child follows the life of the Chosen One who now works for the Ministry of Magic as the head of the Auror division, where Ron also works. Hermione is a lawyer in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. J.K. Rowling penned the play with Jack Thorne and John Tiffany. The play will have two parts that pick up 19 years after the events that transpired in Deathly Hallows.
Jamie Parker will give life to the adult Harry Potter while Paul Thornley will play Ron Weasley’s role. Parker is known for his role as Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls. Thornley, on the other hand, recently starred as Dodge in the film London Road.
While the casting of the two actors was easily accepted by Harry Potter fans, Dumezweni faced backlash. Even though Dumezweni is an Olivier Award-winning actress, some still thought that an African version of Hermione would be inappropriate. Some said that they were offended by the news as it ruined their imagination of the iconic trio.
Rowling was quick to defend the choice of the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child team. The author said on Twitter that race was never specified when Hermione was described. The only descriptions mentioned were “brown eyes, frizzy hair, and very clever.”
Producer Sonia Friedman told Daily Mail that they “were all involved with the key casting decisions.” Tiffany also noted that Parker, Thornley, and Dumezweni “will be an incredible and estimable triumvirate.”
Apart from Watson and Rowling, several cast members of the previous Harry Potter films also expressed their views about the new Hermione Granger. Jason Isaacs, who played Lucius Malfoy, joked that the casting was a “disaster” as it would alienate the racist Potterheads.
Oh no, Jo, it's a PR disaster - you've alienated all the racists. Hopefully there's an audience left somewhere x https://t.co/XeZEE44xLM— Jason Isaacs (@jasonsfolly) December 21, 2015
Evanna Lynch, or Luna Lovegood in the films, said that physical appearance wouldn’t matter.
Tbh new Hermione is black, Harry looks like Ron, when I was cast ppl complained about my HAIR & it is people's❤️ NOT their looks that matter— Evanna Lynch (@Evy_Lynch) December 21, 2015
Even Harry’s pal Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) chimed in by wishing Dumezweni good luck.
And Neville Longbottom was blonde. I really don't care. Good luck to her. https://t.co/0JNjK3Pe0V— Matthew Lewis (@Mattdavelewis) December 21, 2015
Prior to the casting announcement, a Quora thread already sparked a debate about Hermione’s race. For Monika Kothari, the website’s Most Viewed Writer in Race and Ethnicity, Rowling did not explicitly say that Hermione was white. Furthermore, she believes that it’s strange for Harry Potter to not have major characters belonging to racial minorities considering the story has “distinctions between pure-blood, half-blood, and muggle-born witches and wizards that are basically racial.”
“At the very least, I hope it’s understandable why it might be meaningful to some fans to imagine her as nonwhite. A story about racial hatred and oppression, in which zero major characters are actual racial minorities, would be a bit strange, would it not?”
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will open in July at the Palace Theatre in London. Special preview performances are set to begin at the end of May. The two-part play must be seen in order on the same day or viewers can opt to watch the play on two consecutive evenings.
Although Friedman claimed that the show wouldn’t be a high-tech production, special effects experts and illusionists were hired to provide a bit of magic to the play.
[Photo by Kevin Kolczynski/Universal Orlando via Getty Images]