‘Harry Potter’ prequel has its predictable romantic lead

Fantastic actors of color and where to find them.

Mar 1, 2020, 1:29 am*

Internet Culture

Aja Romano 

Aja Romano

It’s time for another round of anticlimactic casting in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them—this time for Newt Scamander’s love interest.

Just days after the reveal that Eddie Redmayne will play the hero of J.K. Rowling‘s upcoming Harry Potter prequel, Warner Brothers has announced that actress Katherine Waterston will be joining him. 

Waterston recently made a splash in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice. She joins the cast of the planned film trilogy based on the magical Harry Potter bestiary by the same name, as Newt Scamander’s future wife Porpentina.

We don’t know a lot about Porpentina—Tina for short—except that her and Newt’s grandson famously married Luna Lovegood according to Rowling’s account of what happens after the books ended. 

She’s been rumored to be “grounded” in comparison to her “bombshell” younger sister Queenie, who also has a bevvy of thin, abnormally attracted white models vying to play her.

Since rumors surfaced that at least seven different actresses, all white, were reading for the parts of the two female siblings, we’ve been a lot less enthused about the film. 

There’s also a third known character, Jacob, who’s trying to best Newt in his quest to track down the fantastic beasts of New York City. Judging from the rumored casting hunt, Jacob seems to be a middle-aged, Jewish Dudley Dursley prototype.

It’s hard not to feel let down by this casting. After all, Rowling is one of the very few creators in the world who can pretty much call her own shots without studio interference when it comes to casting decisions. The film’s setting, in the melting pot of 1920s New York City, was the perfect excuse to select a fully diverse cast that would allow us to explore the dynamism of the city along with the diversity of the Wizarding World. And while Jacob is a name with ethnic implications, none of the other lead characters have been anything but blank slates.

Only now we know those slates will be filled with white chalk, just like every other bland unoriginal Hollywood blockbuster starring only white lead actors.

We feel you, Squid. Many fans have been deeply invested in the idea of Newt or Porpentina being cast with non-white actors since the day the film was announced. The hive mind of Tumblr has spent the last two years steadily producing an endless stream of “dream castposts in which Misfits‘ Nathan Stewart-Jarrett has his star turn as Newt. 

Just as having a powerful gay wizard like Dumbledore was a huge win for diversity in literature, so could having one or both of the next stars of Harry Potter be a huge win for diverse casting in Hollywood, especially when sanctioned by Rowling herself.

We’re sure Redmayne and Waterston will be great in the roles, and they’ll undoubtedly be very cute together, and we’ll enjoy them. But we’ll still be mourning the wonderful look at the diversity and complexity of the Wizarding World we could have had, instead of what we’re getting instead: The most multicultural city in the world taking a backseat to the story of a young white hero and his pretty white love interest.

Photo via aphrodite-in-nyc/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: Jun 15, 2015, 9:23 pm