Rather than casting the original actors themselves, or attempting to find performers with a similar ‘look’, the production team have branched out for the three leads.
Harry Potter will be played by Jamie Parker, of History Boys fame.
Paul Thornley, who was in the 2012 film adaption of Les Miserables, will play Ron Weasley.
And Hermione Granger will be played by Noma Dumezweni.
Dumezweni is a multi-Olivier Award winning actress who was born in Swaziland. Her casting is causing some what of a stir, due to the glaring departure from the Hermione we’ve come to know, Emma Watson.
And what a wonderful departure it is.
Hermione’s character, with her muggle-born lineage, is repeatedly marginalised by the wider wizarding community. She is labelled a ‘mudblood’, and looked down upon by her peers and teachers alike, all because of her biology.
Hermione is called a ‘filthy little mudblood’:
Alanna Bennet wrote eloquently for Buzzfeed about how despite the connection she felt to the intelligent, ‘bossy’, frizzy-haired witch, as a woman of colour, she never felt she could be her.
“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,” writes Bennett.
Despite the fact that Hermione’s appearance is primarily described in relation to her ‘frizzy’ hair and her teeth, Bennett always saw her as white, an image further cemented by the films:
“I’d dress up in Hogwarts uniforms for Halloween but avoid going overtly as Hermione because I knew I could never get my hair like Emma Watson’s. I could never get it white-girl bushy — and don’t even get me started on white-girl movie-sleek-pretending-to-be-frizzy. My hair was a whole different kind of frizzy. I loved her so much, but it took me a long time to accept that I could never be her.”
Due to the allegory of race surrounding Hermione’s characterisation, she is often the subject of an Tumblr trend known as ‘race-bending’. Fan’s produce re-imaginings of of their favourite films, where the actors reflect a higher degree of racial diversity.
Also of note, is that Hermione’s race is never explicitly mentioned in the books. Her skin is referred to only once, in The Prisoner of Azkaban:
“They were there, both of them, sitting outside Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor — Ron looking incredibly freckly, Hermione very brown, both waving frantically at him.”
By casting Dumezweni as Hermione Granger, writer Jack Thorne, creator J.K Rowling and director John Tiffany are allowing for a much greater cross-section of fans to see themselves reflected in their favourite character.
And it’s clear those fans are excited.
Harry, Ron and Hermione have been cast for the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child stage show *HEAVY BREATHING* pic.twitter.com/mNMBJrLEQM
— PerksOfBeingAFanboy. (@LiamKelsall) December 21, 2015