With the news that black actress Noma Dumezweni will be portraying Hermione Granger in 2016’s Harry Potter play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the Internet, being the Internet, fanned the flames of controversy.
Some complained that Hermione was always white, pointing to the casting of Emma Watson as Hermione in the series’ eight film adaptations. Other readers argued that Hermione was always black in their imaginations. Rowling, of course, used her preferred form of magic, Twitter, to promote the casting news.
Rowling and Emma Watson, who already promotes diversity and gender equality through her role as a Women Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations, retweeted Matthew Lewis, who played Neville Longbottom in the films.
Jason Isaacs, who played Lucius Malfoy in the Potter films, Evanna Lynch, who played Luna Lovegood, Katie Leung, who played Cho Chang, and other actors also voiced their praise on social media, either sharing their own views or retweeting their excitement for the next chapter in the Potter story.
Rowling, for her part, continued to share jokes about the many ways readers have imagined the Potter characters over the years. She even pinned a Tweet of black Hermione drawings to the top of her account’s feed.
While the recent casting news has pushed Hermione’s race to the forefront once more, it’s a subject that had been debated well before Dumezweni’s casting news. As Rowling notes, the first description of Hermione in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is relatively vague: “She had a bossy sort of voice, lots of bushy brown hair and rather large front teeth.”
But official description aside, Rowling and the original Potter actors make a compelling point that Hermione, and the entire world of Harry Potter, is all about perception and imagination. That sentiment is captured in one fan-favorite quote from the final book, when Dumbledore appears in Harry’s mind to give him a series of messages.
“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry,” Dumbledore says. “But why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”