Harry Potter movie actress Katie Leung is claiming that she was instructed to deny racist attacks against her, by forces within the industry. Leung (who played Harry's friend/love interest Cho Chang in Harry Potter 4 - 8) recalled what happened after her casting in the Harry Potter franchise, during a recent interview. By her account, after seeing the dark tide of racist commentary from some Harry Potter fans, the more disturbing thing was the casual way she was told to publicly deny such things were happening. To be fair, Leung doesn't seem to clarify if that instruction came from studio publicists or her own team, but it is disturbing either way.
"I was Googling myself at one point, and I was on this website, which was kind of dedicated to the Harry Potter fandom," Katie Leung tells the Chinese Chippy Girl podcast. "I remember reading all the comments. And, yeah, it was a lot of racist sh*t.
I remember them saying to me, 'Oh, look Katie, we haven't seen these, these websites that people are talking about. And you know, if you get asked that, just say it's not true. Say it's not happening.'"
At the time of her casing in Harry Potter, Katie Leung was just 16, with no formal media training. Needless to say, that left the young girl in a very vulnerable position when it came to the question of speaking out or not:
"I just nodded my head," Leung recalls. "I was like, 'Okay, okay,' even though I had seen it myself with my own eyes. I was like, 'Okay, yeah, I'll just say everything's great... I was really f*cking grateful that I was in the position I was in. I keep saying, 'Oh I wish I'd maybe said something.' But you can't do that."
What Katie Leung is expressing is not uncommon within Hollywood - in fact, her story seems to be part of a growing chorus of accounts, particularly from minority actors, about how studios and/or PR teams do or do not protect them from racist attacks and harassment. At the time of writing this, Star Wars and Raya actress Kelly Marie Tran and Zack Snyder's Justice League star Ray Fisher are both making headlines for dropping similar accounts of their experiences as newcomers in the industry. We suspect more and more similar stories will start to come to light until things change.
The Harry Potter movies are streaming on HBO Max.