Author J.K. Rowling is pushing back against criticism of the decision to cast, Noma Dumezweni, a black actress as an adult Hermione Granger in an upcoming theatrical production that continues the “Harry Potter” saga.
“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” the eighth official tale in the Potter canon, is set 19 years after the last novel, and it looks at the challenges the now fully grown wizard encounters as a father and also looks at his relationship with Hermione and their longtime friend and companion Ron Weasley.
Rowling never specified the race or ethnicity of Hermione in the seven best-selling original “Potter” books, but that hasn’t prevented a fierce debate over the decision to cast Dumezweni. Rowling took to social media to stand up for the choice. “Canon: brown eyes, frizzy hair and very clever. White skin was never specified. Rowling loves black Hermione,” she tweeted Monday.
She has also retweeted fan-made images of a Hermione of color:
Actress Emma Watson, who became famous for playing Hermoine on the big screen, has not commented directly on the controversy, but she did retweet a message from actor Matthew Lewis, who played Neville Longbottom in the “Potter” films on the casting debate, which said in part: “I really don’t care. Good luck to her.”
In the past six years alone, the casting of actors of color in roles that were initially conceived or perceived as white, led to racially insensitive backlashes against “Thor,” the latest “Fantastic Four” reboot and the first installment of “The Hunger Games.” John Boyega, one of the breakout stars of the new blockbuster “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” also had to contend with racially barbed criticism over the fact that previous “Star Wars” films did not establish the presence of black stormtroopers.
Meanwhile, Rowling has shown a willingness to speak up on issues of race and identity. When Rowling revealed that the character of Dumbledore from her “Harry Potter” novels was gay, it provoked an uproar. When a fan tweeted that they “can’t see him in that way,” she responded: “Maybe because gay people just look like… people?” She rushed to the defense of black tennis star Serena Williams when she was the victim of egregious body-shaming in July. She campaigned in support of the ultimately successful effort to see same-sex marriage legalized in Ireland in May. And she recently compared GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump to her villainous character Voldemort, after he called for a temporary ban on Muslims emigrating into the U.S.
“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” which Rowling co-wrote with Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, will debut at the Palace Theatre London in July 2016.