So the casting news for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play in London was released on Sunday night. I gave myself a day to mull it over before putting words to screen about what I really think, especially the new Hermione who has caused a lot of discussion in the last 48 hours.
Jamie Parker, Noma Dumezweni and Paul Thornley will lead the cast as Harry, Hermione and Ron in Cursed Child.
And there you have it. Hermione is black. It’s something that has kind of shaken the whole of the HP fandom and even those outside the fandom, because, let’s not lie, we weren’t expecting this.
It definitely took me about a day to get used to these new representations of my favourite characters. Because when I first read the casting announcement it wasn’t Noma that I saw first, it was Paul as Ron and I physically recoiled. He doesn’t look anything like Rupert Grint! Ron has always been my favourite of the trio and Paul looks nothing like how I’ve imagined him, Rupert or no. I mean, I’m sure the hair can be fixed and dyed (because that is a defining feature of Ron, like Harry’s glasses and Hermione’s hair) and if you look at Paul, he actually has the long nose that J.K. Rowling describes Ron as having, and Rupert doesn’t.
I think what for me made me always believe that Hermione was white is that J.K. Rowling was always specific enough in her descriptions of black characters. Dean Thomas, Blaise Zabini and Kingsley Shacklebolt were always specified as black, so if Hermione wasn’t defined as such, she just wasn’t. But that’s not saying that she can’t be, because as J.K said in her tweets yesterday, she doesn’t specify either way.
I don’t think it’s acknowledging that Hermione can be black or that Paul has a long face, I think the real issue is accepting that these three are just not Dan, Rupert and Emma, and we have to deal with that. The Harry Potter films came out when I was 8, my whole childhood was Dan, Rupert and Emma, but fundamentally, they aren’t Harry, Ron and Hermione any more than Jamie, Noma and Paul are. Harry, Ron and Hermione are characters, fictional characters and they can be whoever we choose them to be. John Green says ‘books belong to their readers’ and we, as readers, have a right to imagine the characters in whichever way we want, whether that’s as white Emma or black Noma or even Asian, Jewish, etc. etc.
I think we also need to accept that although the narrative and the canon are all in the HP universe, ultimately Jamie, Noma and Paul belong to the book canon not the movie canon that Dan, Rupert and Emma belong to. I mean, we’re not trying to say here that 19 years later, after the end of DH Part 2, Hermione magically changed race. That’s ridiculous. It’s not an argument of continuity as such, it’s an argument of differentiation. Fantastic Beasts belongs to the movie canon universe, whilst Cursed Child is part of the book canon universe, and when you separate the two it becomes far easier to accept that Jamie, Noma and Paul are separate from Dan, Rupert and Emma.
And we can all argue that the movies weren’t exactly perfect anyway. I mean, my biggest gripe is and has always been how different Ginny is personality wise in the films from the books – what a destruction of one of my favourite book characters. So really, as long as Jamie, Noma and Paul nail the personality qualities that we love: Harry’s bravery, Hermione’s brilliantness and Ron’s humour and loyalty, and bring them to life in an authentic and honest way, does it actually matter what they look like?? (Having said all of this, I think Jamie is physically perfect for Harry, but still, not sure why.)
Honestly? I will miss Dan, Rupert and Emma – they were the Harry, Ron and Hermione I grew up with. But time moves on and ultimately it’s better to have some Harry Potter than no Harry Potter at all…
Congratulations to Jamie, Noma and Paul, and I can’t wait to see what the next chapter in Harry’s story is.
Just need to get tickets now.