I wish I wasn’t writing this story. Or at least wish I was writing a different version of it, but alas what should have been a story about how a British stage actress of South African heritage has just landed a massive role in one of the most beloved franchises of all time, is instead tinged by “controversy” when there should have been none.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is to be the story Harry’s youngest son Albus, but yesterday the producers of the much anticipated stage play sequel to JK Rowling’s much beloved book/film series, revealed the three actors who will be playing the grown up versions of our favourite magical trio Harry, Hermione and Ron. Respectively, they are Jamie Parker (Valkyrie, Lawless) as Harry, Noma Dumezweni (Doctor Who) as Hermione, and Paul Thornley (Les Miserables, The Brothers Grimsby) as Ron.
They are all well respected actors, with Dumezwni being an Olivier Award winning actress, but it would seem that there’s a problem. At least if you were to ask a certain portion of the internet, who have kicked up quite the ruckus about this in the last day or two: The 45-year old Dumezweni, born in Swaziland to two South African parents, is black. And clearly Hermione Granger is supposed to be white, right?
Well, yes, she was white in the movies, famously portrayed by Emma Watson, but this isn’t the movies. This is essentially a sequel to the stories told in the books (which already differ from the movies in a number of ways). And even so, it should be a complete non-issue as Hermione’s skin colour has zero bearing on her character. In fact, as JK Rowling took to Twitter to point out, she’s never actually indicated that Hermione was in fact white.
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
There is in fact a bunch of essays to be found littered all over the internet, written by fans and scholars alike way before this stink was kicked up, which argue that Hermione is supposed to be black, a character trait that would in fact play into her being shunned as a “mudblood” minority in the magical world. So this actually makes a lot more narrative sense than casting Emma Watson in the movie.
Matthew Lewis, who played Harry’s lovable pal Neville Longbottom in the movies, also came out in support of Rowling’s endorsement of the casting of Dumezweni, pointing out that he also didn’t look like his literary counterpart.
And Neville Longbottom was blonde. I really don't care. Good luck to her. https://t.co/0JNjK3Pe0V
— Matthew Lewis (@Mattdavelewis) December 21, 2015
And speaking of hair colour, I would like to point out at this time that Paul Thornley is most definitely not ginger, the ultimate defining trait of the Weasley clan. And while there have been those that have taken umbrage to it, the outcry has been nowhere near as severe. Make of that what you will.
Director John Tiffany, who along with Rowling and Jack Thorne penned Cursed Child, also issued a statement (via Daily Mail) that he had just cast the three best actors for the role, saying that they “will be an incredible and estimable triumvirate”.
Rowling meanwhile, has turned this entire affair into one big joke (via Mashable), retweeting fans from all over the world who are all having fun imagining the various characters as different nationalities.
Hi @jk_rowling Black Hermione is cool but could we talk about "Hamid" Potter ?Because i truly think Harry is Moroccan and Real name is Hamid
— Sebastien-Abdelhamid (@SAbdelhamid) December 21, 2015
— Karthik T (@KarthikTmuthu) December 22, 2015
— Snehadeep Kayet (@SnehadeepKayet) December 22, 2015
I *love* Rohan Sharma! https://t.co/FilD0PdVnC
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) December 22, 2015
— ferfeita (@jamespottwr) December 22, 2015
— Max (@bulls_max) December 22, 2015
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which is being considered as the official 8th story in the series, will receive its world premiere in London’s West End at the Palace Theatre in June 2016. It will be presented as one play presented in two parts, with both parts intended to be seen in order on the same day (matinee and evening), or on two consecutive evenings. Yes, the even stage plays are now following Hollywood’s lead with the two-part adaptations.
Here’s the official synopsis:
“It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children. 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.”
Last Updated: December 23, 2015