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What's it like to play a magical 'Harry Potter' character? Katie Leung spoke up about working on the films and the hateful racial prejudice from the fandom.

Did ‘Harry Potter’ lose its magic? Katie Leung reflects on the films

The Harry Potter phenomenon hit hard as the beloved book series and blockbuster movie franchise dominated the 2000s. Harry’s story captivated both kids & adults who couldn’t get enough of the fantastical wizarding world and compelling adventures. 

Even after Harry’s saga was completed, the frenzy stays alive among devoted fans. Who doesn’t know their Hogwarts house or what patronus they have? Yet, over the years, the Harry Potter franchise has faced scrutiny as new problems are unearthed – particularly with J.K. Rowling’s outward transphobia. 

A new controversy to arise stems from Katie Leung, the actress who portrayed Cho Chang from the Harry Potter film series. This new perspective elucidates a little bit about what acting in the series was like. Here’s what Katie Leung had to say about her experience working on the films and the overwhelming racial prejudice she faced.

Online hatred

Katie Leung had the opportunity to open up about the racist attacks targeting her on an episode of the Chinese Chippy Girl podcast. After she was cast in her role as Harry’s love interest Cho Chang in Goblet of Fire, Leung became a spectacle for online aggressors

“I was, like, googling myself at one point, and I was on this website, which was kind of dedicated to the kind of Harry Potter fandom,” Leung explained. “I remember reading all the comments. And yeah, it was a lot of racist shit.” This racist backlash was plentiful for Leung due to her appearance & heritage as a Chinese-Scottish woman. 

According to Leung, she even encountered a “hate site” which singled her out. She recounted the website saying, “if you disagree with this casting, then click on this button and then it would just be like a count of how many people disagreed with the casting and you would just see a number”.

Ignore & deny 

Yet when Leung alerted her publicists to such malevolence, their response was wholly disheartening. What did publicists tell her to do about it? Deny it was happening and avoid taking it to the press. “I remember them saying ‘Oh Katie, we haven’t seen these websites that people are talking about. If you get asked, just say it’s not true. Say it’s not happening.’”

“And I just nodded my head,” Leung continued. “Even though I had seen it myself with my own eyes. I was like ok I’ll just say everything’s great. And of course I was grateful. I was very fucking grateful that I was in the position I was in. But that wasn’t great, actually.”

Pressure to move on

While Leung enthused that she was “really fucking grateful” to have such a signatue role in the film series, the position also came with its hardships. “I keep saying, like, ‘Oh I wish I’d maybe said something.’ But you can’t do that,” she expressed.

According to Entertainment Weekly, Leung has spoken out about the hurtful racism directed at her before. “Looking back I can’t remember much about that part of it because I was so in denial of what was happening,” she confessed. 

“I put it to the back of my mind,” she went on. “I don’t know if that is the best way to deal with it, but that is naturally what I did in order to move on and be a good actor.”

Negative comments linger longer

While getting that Hogwarts acceptance letter would seem to be wonderful as an aspiring actor, the tie to a massive & unkind fanbase is a serious drawback. As a person of color, Leung was forced to endure the ugliness in full power. 

“There were so many lovely people,” Leung said. “I got a lot of fan mail as well. It was one of those things where you kind of forget all the positive things people say to you and you just really focus on the negative.”

That negative sentiment is all too common and seemingly impossible to shake, especially for actors who are thrust into the spotlight. Conversations about this hatred & racism in popular fandoms is continuing to arise as subjects like Leung continue to come forward. 

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