Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has fired back at “racist” and “idiot” critics who took issue with the casting of a black actress to play Hermione Granger in her new stage play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
The Harry Potter play picks up years after the events of the book series, and follows an adult Potter as an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic while also attempting to raise three young sons. In December, it was announced that actors Jamie Parker and Paul Thornley would play Potter and Ron Weasley, respectively.
But it was the casting of Olivier Award-winning black actress Noma Dumezweni as grown-up bookworm Hermione Granger that caught most media outlets’ attention; in the films, Granger is played by white actress Emma Watson.
“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 told the Observer in a recent interview. “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.”
Rowling praised the casting choice in December, writing in a Twitter message that Hermione’s ethnicity was never mentioned in the book series.
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
“With my experience of social media, I thought that idiots were going to idiot,” Rowling told the Observer. “But what can you say? That’s the way the world is. Noma was chosen because she was the best actress for the job.”
Previews for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child began at London’s Palace Theatre this week. In a new video posted on the play’s YouTube page, Rowling — who supervised the production along with director John Tiffany and playwright Jack Thorne — begged fans not to spoil the story for those unable to snag a ticket.
The play — presented in two parts over two separate evenings — is expected to be one of the hottest tickets in theater this year. A record-breaking 175,000 tickets were sold in the first 24 hours of availability.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum