J.K. Rowling is fed up of people asking her why a black actress was cast to play Hermione in the upcoming Harry Potter play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, E! Online reports.
— Vulture (@vulture) June 5, 2016
Black Hermione = the ONLY Hermione for me while I read pic.twitter.com/s4PAVn8yho
— Moonshine Mami (@nessatism) May 23, 2016
“I had a bunch of racists telling me that because Hermione ‘turned white’—that is, lost color from her face after a shock—that she must be a white woman, which I have a great deal of difficulty with,” Rowling said in an interview with UK newspaper the Observer on Sunday. “But I decided not to get too agitated about it and simply state quite firmly that Hermione can be a black woman with my absolute blessing and enthusiasm.”
According to the official plot description of the play, Harry Potter And The Cursed Child is set 19 years after the events of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the last book in the Harry Potter book series. In the play, Harry Potter is an “overworked employee at The Ministry of Magic” and a father of three. He’s learning that he can’t escape a past that refuses to stay buried and his youngest child Albus must learn to deal with a legacy that he never asked for. Actor Jamie Parker plays Harry, Paul Thornley will play Ron Weasley, Poppy Miller plays Ron’s sister, Ginny Weasley, and Alex Price will star as their childhood antagonist, Draco Malfoy.
Hermione will be played by Noma Dumezweni, Swaziland-born and an award-winning British star of the stage and screen.
“With my experience of social media, I thought that idiots were going to idiot,” Rowling said. “But what can you say? That’s the way the world is. Noma was chosen because she was the best actress for the job.”
According to the Guardian, Dumezweni was cast by play director John Tiffany, who collaborated with both Rowling and Jack Thorne, writer of This Is England and The Last Panthers. He said the racist reaction to Noma’s casting surprised him.
“I am not as Twitter-familiar as Jo and Jack, so I hadn’t encountered its dark side, which is just awful,” he said. “But what shocked me was the way people couldn’t visualize a non-white person as the hero of a story. It’s therefore brilliant that this has happened.”
This isn’t the first time that J.K. Rowling has come out and insisted that Hermione doesn’t necessarily have to be white. She made very similar statements when the cast of Harry Potter And The Cursed Child was announced in December.
Canon: brown eyes, frizzy hair and very clever. White skin was never specified. Rowling loves black Hermione???? https://t.co/5fKX4InjTH
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) December 21, 2015
The production will open at the Palace Theater in London’s West End at the end of July. Audiences started seeing preview performances last week, and theater goers were asked to arrive an hour before the start time and have their bags checked by security. According to the Guardian, this was motivated by Benedict Cumberbatch’s stint in Hamlet, when fans of the Dr Who actor ignored theater rules and filmed the star’s performance on stage.
The Harry Potter play creators have remained pretty silent about the key plot points of the production. In her interview with the Observer, Rowling said that she contributed ideas for the play but that most of the writing was handled by Jack Thorne. For Rowling, working on the play meant that she could revive the ideas she had left over after she finished the Harry Potter books.
“It was 17 years, and just because I’ve stopped on the page doesn’t mean my imagination stopped,” she said. “It’s like running a very long race. You can’t just stop dead at the finishing line. I had some material and some ideas and themes, and we three [she nods at Tiffany and Thorne] made a story.”
[Photos by Ben Pruchnie, Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images]