J.K. Rowling on reaction to new Hermione: ‘I thought that idiots were going to idiot’


Character portraits for the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child were released over the weekend and they are all lovely; take a look on Pottermore. As we reported in December of last year, Olivier-Award winning actor, Noma Dumezweni, was cast as Hermione in this production. After the announcement, people with nothing better to do complained to the Twitterverse about her casting. The issue was not her credentials but the fact that she is not white and that somehow flies in the face of the characterization of Hermione. At the time, J.K. Rowling gave the following statement in support of the casting choice:

JK wrote the story upon which Jack Thorne’s play is based. HPatCC takes place 19 years after the gang has graduated Hogwarts. Harry is married with three children and the youngest, Albus, is reluctant to carry on the family legacy. The story is a continuation from the books, not the movies so it really doesn’t matter who played the part in the movie, even if they did a wonderful job in that role. Now that the dust up on social media has died down, JK expressed her annoyance about the controversy and did so in classic JK fashion.

JK Rowling has revealed her frustration at online reaction by “a bunch of racists” to news that the role of Hermione will be played by a black actress in the eagerly awaited new play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

The production, which has broken records by selling 175,000 tickets in 24 hours, is tipped to be the theatrical event of the year. But the Harry Potter creator criticised those who have suggested that Hogwarts’ studious heroine could not be played by the Olivier-award-winning actress Noma Dumezweni.

“With my experience of social media, I thought that idiots were going to idiot,” she said in an interview with 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.”

While the vast majority of people responded positively to the casting decision, Rowling said: “I had a bunch of racists telling me that because Hermione ‘turned white’ – that is, lost colour from her face after a shock – that she must be a white woman, which I have a great deal of difficulty with. 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.”

Dumezweni was cast by the play’s director, John Tiffany – known for the productions Black Watch and the musical Once – who has collaborated with Rowling and the playwright Jack Thorne, writer of This Is England and The Last Panthers.

Tiffany said he was surprised by the opinions expressed online, but had stopped reading the comments. “I am not as Twitter-familiar as Jo and Jack, so I hadn’t encountered its dark side, which is just awful. But what shocked me was the way people couldn’t visualise a non-white person as the hero of a story. It’s therefore brilliant that this has happened.”

[From The Guardian]

I always cast books in my head and producers never go with my picks when they are made into movies. Shockingly, I am able to get over it and see the film without bias. I remain at a loss over the criticism of Noma; I would be thrilled to see someone of her caliber perform. Elphaba in Wicked needed to be green, it was a huge point in the story but Hermione’s skin color has no affect on her. I think I’ll save my outrage for the fact that I will never get tickets to this show and not the fact that Hermione is not alabaster or Ron not-ginger enough.



Photo credit: WENN and Fame/Flynet Photos and Getty Images

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53 Responses to “J.K. Rowling on reaction to new Hermione: ‘I thought that idiots were going to idiot’”

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  1. Pinky says:

    Whining about “color-blind” casting, then whining about people pointing out the lack of parts for minorities. Who’s really got the victim mentality?


  2. Lucy says:

    I love the new pictures!! Noma’s solo portrait has Hermione Granger written all over it, you have to be blind not to see it.

  3. Sixer says:

    Noma is a brilliant actor and will be brilliant.

    Still don’t think they should be making people go twice, though.

    • jesb says:

      What do you mean, making people go twice?

      • Sixer says:

        Play’s in two parts so you have to go two nights on the trot or to the matinee and again in the evening.

        Bit like the last three books – bloated with editors binned!

  4. Mike says:

    Hermione faced a lot of discrimination over being born to non-magical parents; it was an essential part of her character. I think it’s sadly hilarious that people whining about her being black don’t see the connection.

    • Lindsey says:

      That’s an awesome point that I didn’t see. She’s a ‘mudblood’ and overcame like crazy. Love it.

    • Miss M says:

      Great point!

    • Malificent says:

      That was my first thought too. There are a lot of parallels between the two sets of circumstances. Being of a venerable age, I first read the books as an adult, and it was clear that this was a theme that Rowling wanted her young readers to ponder.

    • Alex says:

      Awesome point

    • teacakes says:

      Exactly! It makes a lot of sense that a kid who might have faced discrimination in the Muggle world because of her appearance/heritage, and also faces it in the wizarding world for being Muggle-born, would be the passionate activist Hermione became.

    • Carol says:

      Interesting point. Makes the casting all the more poignant.

  5. The Eternal Side-Eye says:

    It’s interesting because when society leans white people like Charlotte Rampling and etc. are quick to say it simply means there were no talented black actresses worth nominating or perhaps they were ‘too’ black. That it should all be based on talent, skill and nothing else, just a funny coincidence 90% of the time that means white. Oh well.

    Here we have an actress chosen for her talent and because she wasn’t white suddenly everyone wants to debate the source material with the actual author who wrote it as if a great offense has occured. No comments about her being the best for the job from them, oh no.

    • Mira says:

      This! Also Noma Dumezweni is a GREAT actress! I want to see this so badly

    • teacakes says:

      I know, my first thoughts reading the words ‘Olivier award-winning actress’ were ‘YESSSSS, HP gets the best of British acting talent AGAIN!’, only to find people are being wankstains about the actress’ race. This fandom contains a lot of idiots, and I can only apologise as a fellow fan for them being racist idiots.

    • Aren says:

      Great way of putting it. Imagine if all films did the same, movies would be a reflection of society and not a playground for certain types.

  6. boredblond says:

    I had no idea ‘idiot’ was a verb..

  7. Cee says:

    Hermione was supposed to have brown and bushy hair, yet Emma Watson got progressively blonder in each movie, to the point her eyebrows were brown and her hair blonde. And no bushy hair either.

    So I can easily accept a black Hermione the same way I accepted Emma’s Hermione styling liberties for 7 films (Philosopher’s Stone was the one time she was styled correctly).

  8. Saks says:

    If the author doesn’t have any problems, and actually likes this casting, why is people complaining? This is pure racism.

  9. Mia4s says:

    Anyone who thinks a black person cannot “turn white” from shock has never gone skydiving with a black person. 😉
    That’s a true story. She was fine, but not in favour of a second jump.

  10. Josefina says:

    This reminds me of when Amandla Stendberg was cast in in The Hunger Games and people were complaining Rue couldn’t be black, because – and this were the exact words they used – Rue was supposed to be the epitome of innocence, and her death wouldn’t be as impactful if she were black. They didn’t imply that in their comments. They explicitly wrote that.

    • Alex says:

      Yep. And in that case they all missed point blank that Rue was black. And Amandla was about 12 at the time.

      But hey I’m not surprised (as a WOC myself) at the amount of hate in the world.

      • Bettyrose says:

        The Rue complaints were really strange (read: shamelessly racist) because she was black in the book, so they were objecting to a black character being part of the story, not that it was inconsistent.

        As for Hermione, who cares?? Her heritage, other than being muggle born, is not discussed in the books. Her defining features are her intelligence and type-a personality. The frizzy hair is a classic nerd girl stereotype, but it doesn’t really preclude any ethnicity.

        Racism is Racism. There’s no point in pretending these people are just committed fans.

      • K2 says:

        Yeah – they were basically admitting that they couldn’t compute this sweet, gentle, innocent child so tragically killed as being black – with the ‘dark brown skin’ she is described as having when first introduced – because it’s more moving to them if she’s white. And then they’re the same people who try to whine that Black Lives Matter is racist, and it should be All Lives Matter.

        Because what they really and honestly mean is that white ones do.

  11. Tiffany says:

    Yet it broke records on ticket sales. The more far exceed the few and those few can continue to stew in their hatred.

  12. Reece says:

    *puts on PotterHead hat, clears throat*

    Albus is the middle child.
    It’s James Sirius, Albus Severus and Lily Luna.<–Luna!!!

    I’m using idiots who idiot from now on.

  13. serena says:

    I agree with J.K Rowling, bunch of idiots. If that’s their argument, then even Emma Watson was a miscast (as well as the other characters) because she looks different in the book. So what?
    Anyway I wonder if they’ll ever make a movie out of this play, since it’s even getting a book -though it’s the same adapted screenplay.. then, I’ll worry about the cast, maybe.

  14. Olivew says:

    I always thought Emma Watson was a terrible actress in the Potter movies so, being a huge fan of the books, Im just excited a consolidated actress will be able to portray her now.
    I don’t understand at all what people are complaining about this, skin color does not change personality! And this is just another adaptation of the same history, shouldn’t be compared to the movies at all (which for me were a very poor adaptation)

  15. Lostara says:

    WARNING – unpopular opionion:

    Nothing against the actress (I don’t know her at all) but – to me Hermione has always been white and will always be white. It never occured to me, that she could be black. Sorry.

    And being a Harry Potter – nerd I saw lots of fan art and read lots of fan fiction and I never came across a black Hermione. To me, that means the die-hard fandom thinks of Hermione as white. But of course they don’t dare to say anything, because that would make them “racist”.

    Anyway, as a fan of the Malfoy- familiy I am more than pleased that Draco and Scorpius Malfoy look best of all of them.

    • teacakes says:

      welp, JKR made a prediction, and it looks like it came true!

      Idiots are going to idiot, indeed.

      • Lostara says:

        Thank you. Thank you very much. You just proved my point.

        Did I say ANYTHING against POC? No, I didn’t. And, believe it or not, I don’t care about peoples skin colour, ethnicity, sexuality etc. pp.

        I just said that MY Hermione is white. But as I previously stated, that opinion makes one immediately a racist. Sad, very sad.

      • K2 says:

        Here’s the thing: I’m white, and I can often not notice or think about race in various contexts, too. Because our race is the one society regards as the default. It’s the same way men assume the world is male. They are genuinely hurt at times by any suggestion that they might be sexist, they just employ the best people for the job, and they all happen to be other men. They just tell women not to get drunk to avoid rape because they care, not because they assume responsibility for rape prevention should be a female preoccupation. And so on.

        Most racism isn’t people being deliberate arseholes. It’s people reflecting the culture they live in. I’m sexist sometimes. I’m racist sometimes. I’m proud of neither and I try not to be, but I am a product of my society. And for a white person to say, well, I don’t notice or think about race… that’s like a rich person saying money doesn’t matter. It’s because we are surrounded by white people at head of government, law, media, journalism. We see our own skin colour reflected back at us everywhere – and just as it’s important women are better represented, so too is it vital people of colour are.

        There’s a joke that a black woman wakes up and sees a black woman in the mirror. A white woman wakes up and sees a woman. And a white man wakes up, and sees a human being.

        Not noticing race is a luxury afforded to white people. Not recognising it as a luxury is, I’m afraid, an ingrained form of subtle yet definite racism. There’s a study called ‘Why white parents don’t talk about race’ that essentially says they don’t discuss these things with their kids because they don’t need to. Their kids are affected by race, of course, but it’s all to their advantage. Black parents don’t get a choice. They have to have those conversations. And so it is the responsibility of white parents to have them, too, because kids naturally categorise into same and different, and trust what they regard as same, so unless you actively talk to them about this stuff they will continue to believe that not noticing it makes them a multicultural paragon.

        I talked to my white son about this stuff from when he was tiny. And God, am I glad I did, because as it happens, he is autistic. Very high functioning and very smart, and very aware that he is surrounded by bigotry about what his autism means. And having raised him to understand that racism and sexism and ableism are the province of idiots, he has to an extent been inoculated against taking the shit aimed his way personally. As women have to learn, and people of colour have to.

        For us as white people, saying we don’t notice colour is rubbing other people’s faces in our own ability to do so. It’s not a privilege afforded to others. And I think race is like gender: if I want men to recognise that sexism is very wrong, and question their own involvement in a sexist world so we can change it, how can I not do the same about race?

    • Cee says:

      Are you white? Because I always imagine imaginary characters similar to my own ethnicity. But that doesn’t mean all of them SHOULD be white.

      JK Rowling created Hermione Granger and she referrenced her own canon so I don’t really care most of the HP fandom have always drawn her white. Jo has said it’s OK, Hermione can be black, but no, people still find fault with that.

      Also: fanfiction is a way for the fandom to take liberties with canon, and have FUN, showcasing amazing creativity and talent. The HP fanon has written thousands upon thousands of words regarding Harry and Draco being in love. Is that canon? Oh, wait, Hermione ends up with Draco. Is that canon? The Sherlock fandom is determined to make Johnlock happen. Just because it happens in fandom doesn’t mean it is canon or that there are no other possibilites.

    • Bettyrose says:

      Lostara, are you always unable to accept different adaptations of a work? Do you only picture Batman as Adam West or Michael Keaton or whichever generation you’re from? Was the female Starbuck in the new Battlestar Galactica upsetting for you? If the first Hermione had been cast with a black actress, would that have been a problem or is it just the change that bothers you?

  16. Aren says:

    I just came here to say that it’s perfect to see so many young people excited and taking photos of a female writer.

  17. Krishan says:

    People are complaining about Hermione being black but had no difficulty believing in magic in the first place. I guess those spells with the “cool” words are easier to accept than a person’s skin color not being what you fantasized Hermione to have.

    And Daniel Radcliffe has blue eyes. Harry Potter has green. A major, major part of the story of the entire series. Did anyone complain that Daniel’s eyes are actually blue and not the green that were Lily Potter’s? Of course not. Because Daniel is white so it was easier to imagine him as the great Harry Potter. Slap on some glasses on him and that was it.

    Some people are ridiculous. What does it matter that the actress is black? She’s talented and she’s good, that should be enough. Would Hermione be ruined for some because she’s not white? Then the problem is with those people, not JK or the actress or the casting directors.

    • Isa says:

      Daniel’s eye color in the movies has always bothered me. Same for young Lily’s eye color which was dark brown.

      But, like you said, it was an important aspect of the storyline, unlike hermione’s skin color. Even with the minor annoyance I managed to enjoy the movies.

    • K2 says:

      Apparently they cast him with the intention of using green contacts, but when it came down to it, they were so uncomfortable Daniel Radcliffe couldn’t wear them. So they asked JK Rowling how important it was, and she said it wasn’t, as long as his mother had the same colour he did.

  18. Jessica says:

    Will they would do one of those live cinema events of this play?

  19. vilebody says:

    I don’t like that Rowling was like “Hermione totally *could* have been black because I didn’t technically *specify* hehe.” Like, come on.

    I think a much more powerful statement would have been Rowling to say that what was important about Hermione was her spirit and her mind, not her skin tone, and that a talented black actress who nailed her auditions channeled the character much better than an Emma Watson look-alike who didn’t know that it was levi-O-sa not levi-o-SA.

    In other words, it’s not so much that her race is ambiguous, it’s that her race isn’t important to the character.

    • Bettyrose says:

      This is a really good point. I said something similar but less eloquent above.

    • Pepper says:

      Yeah, I’m thrilled with the casting but I find JK’s statements a bit disingenuous. For starters there is a passage that mentions Hermione’s ‘white face’. It’s nothing of note, it doesn’t play into the characterization, it certainly doesn’t mean the role should only be played by a white actress, but it does mean JK had a picture of a white girl in her head while writing it. She probably didn’t even think about it at the time, but it’s a bit weird to come out later and say she was always meant to be racially ambiguous. It’s totally fine to say that she thought of her as white but that anyone can play her, she doesn’t need to pretend the notion was always there.

      Also, JK does specify support and minor characters race/ethnicity throughout the book, and it’s almost never relevant. Which is fine, but if you do that people are naturally going to assume the rest of the characters are the non-minority race. If I’m reading a book set in an African country, and it tells me 5 characters are white and one is Chinese and then doesn’t mention any other characters races, I’m going to assume everyone else is black unless it’s strongly implied otherwise. When authors don’t want that, they don’t specify when it’s not important to the story.

      • vilebody says:

        Yeah, there are so many instances where J.K. implies that she is white, like when she looks like a “panda” when she gets a black eye. It’s just very condescending to suggest the image of white Hermione was a product of our racial biases instead of what Rowling had written. Part of me thinks that she’s lashing out because of her criticism for the whole Native American magic thing and critique for lack of diversity in Fantastic Beasts.

        Anyway, just to reiterate, I think it would have been more powerful to make it a statement on color-blind casting. Was she what Rowling had technically envisioned? No. But the actress’s talent brought out what truly defined Hermione–her braininess and her good heart–and that was what matters.

  20. Ana says:

    I don’t think people care about Hermione being black. They care about the lack of continuity. It doesn’t matter what JK says know, she wrote Hermione as a white girl. In the books, the few characters that aren’t white are described as such (like Angelina Johnson and Lee Jordan), not to mention she personally chose the actors that would be playing the characters in the movie, why choose a white actress then?. Some hardcore fans like the canon as close as posible to the books, and I think it’s very disrespectful for an author to call her readers idiots and racists.

    That being said, if JK cares so much about diversity she should have included some parts for non white actors in the Fantastic Beasts movie, that she wrote. But no, they are all white. She’s an arrogant and a hypocrite, and I just can’t agree with her on this.

    • Ange says:

      Well maybe some hardcore fans need to realise that the continuity is in the characterisation rather than the skin colour. They should probably also realise that if the author is ok with changing things up maybe they need to work on it too. Honestly, she has the right of it to think it’s idiocy to get so worked up about this.

  21. CharlotteCharlotte says:

    Racists going to racist. Ignorants going to ignorant.

    Those complaining that she can’t be Hermione because of her skin colour, you sound just like Death Eaters complaining Hermione can’t be a wizard because of her muggle heritage.
    This play isn’t based on the movies; it follows the books. There’s no continuity issue with this casting at all.

  22. Arwen says:

    I have read so many statements along the lines of “How dare Hermione not be portrayed as a white! That’s not realistic like the books!”

    Um did everyone using that line of logic forget that this is a series about wizards? If you are looking for realism, I don’t think this is where you will find it. (Although I do say this as a proud nerd who believes the books and movies were exceptional.)

  23. Lady Mimosa says:

    Jk is full of herself just like she changed her name to sound like a man. There are certain things that are easy to sell. In the early 2000 time period it was easier to sell all white cast, and she went along with it. Just like Harry is a boy ,it was easier to have the main character as male. It easier to write through your own perspective.