Harry Potter Play Casts Woman of Color, Hermione Schools Us All Once Again

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When I first heard Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was an official sequel which would show us the trio as adults, I didn’t really imagine what that would look like. Apparently it looks like a wonderful moment in diversity!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth installment of Potter and company except this time it’s on stage as a two-part play in London’s West End. Written by J.K. Rowling and Jack Thorne, it will focus on Harry and Ginny’s youngest son Albus but also feature the original trio.

Pottermore says Jamie Parker, Noma Dumezweni, and Paul Thornley will play Harry, Hermione, and Ron and that “Further casting for the Company will be revealed at a later date.”

Played by Emma Watson in the film adaptation, Hermione Granger’s race was never specified in the text, something author Rowling was quick to note as many “fans” started raising objections to a woman of color stepping into the role.

“Canon: brown eyes, frizzy hair and very clever. White skin was never specified. Rowling loves black Hermione,” she tweeted.

To be sure, Hermione’s ethnicity was never stated by Rowling, something my old coworker and pal Alanna Bennett delved into deeply earlier this year in a Buzzfeed post titled “What A ‘Racebent’ Hermione Granger Really Represents.”

As a biracial girl growing up in a very white city, I found myself especially attaching to the allegory of Harry Potter’s blood politics.

In middle school, when I was confronting that there were people out there who’d call me “n****r,” I thought back to Hermione being called “mudblood” and harassed by teacher and students alike.

I related to her deeply, but like with so much of what I watched and read, I couldn’t see myself in Hermione.

As you can imagine, Alanna is overjoyed at the news.

It must be said however, I’m sure this same casting would not have flown if Harry Potter and the Cursed Child were a film production rather than a stage production. They’re too busy whitewashing countless roles to consider diverse casting in a major production. (Star Wars: The Force Awakens remains one notable exception.)

But this is a great teaching moment. Hermione, an outcast to some in the wizarding world thanks to her Muggle upbringing and hated by others who consider her a “Mudblood” (a slur in the text meaning “dirty blood”), fought for equality. In her third year she decided not to expose Professor Lupin as a werewolf, knowing the bias against them in the community. In her fourth, she founded the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare, otherwise known as S.P.E.W. From the final book in the series:

Griphook: As the Dark Lord becomes ever more powerful, your race is set still more firmly above mine! Gringotts falls under wizarding rule, house-elves are slaughtered, and who amongst the wand-carriers protests?

Hermione: We do! We protest! And I’m hunted quite as much as any goblin or elf, Griphook! I’m a Mudblood!… Did you know that it was Harry who set Dobby free? Did you know that we’ve wanted elves to be freed for years? You can’t want You-Know-Who defeated more than we do, Griphook!

Rowling’s text isn’t perfect but it would be good at a time like this for many fans to remember her themes.

As for the play’s casting The Daily Mail wrote “Director [John] Tiffany said he had simply cast the best possible actors, noting that they ‘will be an incredible and estimable triumvirate’.”

(via Hypable)

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4 Responses to “Harry Potter Play Casts Woman of Color, Hermione Schools Us All Once Again”

  1. The Mad Eleventh says:

    I loved Emma Watson as Hermione, but now I wish she’d been cast as POC all those years ago. A missed opportunity to take on the social issues that were hinted at in a more direct way, and also to provide better representation. There are a lot of good female characters, but a real lack of POC in the movies.

  2. WheelchairNinja says:

    Director [John] Tiffany said he had simply cast the best possible actors.

    This.

    If BSG taught me one thing, it’s that you should never give planetary defense codes to hot blondes who are willing to frak you even though you’ve dated for months and still don’t know her name. But if it taught me a second thing, it’s that it doesn’t matter if a new actor is different than the original. BSG famously changed a character from a man to a woman (Starbuck), but it also changed characters from white to Hispanic (Adama), black man to southeast Asian woman (Boomer), and yes, black to white (Tigh). I don’t think anyone, no matter what their skin color, could have done a better job playing Tigh than Michale Hogan, and the same goes for all the characters who were different than the originals. What matters is that the actor is the best choice for the role, not what they look like.

  3. My default stance about backlash is “I am really surprised by all the backlash.” Which makes it seem as if my entire life is filled with continuous moments of flabbergastedness. Which is accurate.

    But I am still surprised by the backflash. Hermione’s black but Ron is still a ####.

  4. One of the things that I’m really tired of hearing is how diverse Harry Potter’s universe is. But the thing is, if you want to be considered diverse, you have to show diversity, and not just imply it.