Ever since news first broke that the Olivier Award-winning Noma Dumezweni was cast as Hermione Granger in the two-part theatrical adaptation of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” many have criticized the decision by saying that Dumezweni is a black actress and Hermione wasn’t black in the books. J.K. Rowling has called them “idiots.”
“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,” Rowling said, adding, “Noma was chosen because she was the best actress for the job.”
It is indeed sad that an actor’s race has become such a contentious issue about a story that is a piece of fantasy. Rowling had initially taken to Twitter to put her seal of approval on Dumezweni’s casting as Hermione by stating that the race of the powerful muggle-born witch was never specified in the books. “Rowling loves black Hermione,” the author had tweeted.
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
However, many pointed out that there are instances in the “Harry Potter” books where Hermione’s skin color is mentioned. Kristian Wilson wrote an article for Bustle where she says that in the third book, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” Hermione’s face is described as “very brown,” having just returned from their summer holidays. And when she and Harry turn back time to try and save Buckbeak, her “white face was sticking out from behind a tree.” The writer mentions that “brown” and “white” are not really indicators of race. A white person may get deeply tanned, but they can never look “very brown.” Also, the “white face,” Wilson said, may just be a figurative description of a terrified face and not of complexion.
In a Reddit thread, a user pointed out to a sketch by Rowling where all the main characters were depicted white. Another pointed out that in the sixth book when Ron says he thinks someone may have used Confundus charm on Cormac McLaggen during Quidditch tryouts, Hermione’s face “turned a very deep shade of pink at these words.” A commenter replied, “Black people can blush but they don’t turn pink.”
Rowling clarified this. “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, adding that a black Hermione has her “absolute blessing.”
Even Emma Watson (Hermione in the films) expressed her excitement about Dumezweni’s casting on Twitter.
Can't wait to see Noma Dumezweni as Hermione on stage this year. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ #harrypotterandthecursedchild #2016
— Emma Watson (@EmmaWatson) January 2, 2016
We share Rowling’s concern about the damaging obsession with physical appearances and wish Noma Dumezweni all the best as Hermione.