Noma Dumezweni: “We All Aspire to be Hermione”


In a new interview Noma Dumezweni says that she is bursting with pleasure to play Hermione Granger and that we all aspire to be that character.

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Three months ago, Noma Dumezweni was a name only known the the Shakespearean nerds on London’s West End. This past December that all changed with the one-two punch of her stepping into the lead role in Penelope Skinner’s play Linda, which is on now at the Royal Court, followed two weeks later by the announcement that she had been cast as the adult version of Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Taking over the lead in Linda had been a last minute thing when the originally cast Kim Cattrall had to step out for medical reasons. (The role requires the performer to be on stage for almost the entire three hour running time.) But by opening night the reviews were unanimous on Dumezweni’s performance: she was a knock out, with some calling her “wonder woman.” She would need all the power of Linda Carter to handle the second one though. While some fans were completely over the moon at the casting, calling it “making race-bent Hermione canon,” others did not take too well to yet another reminder that in the 21st century, Caucasian is not necessarily the default anymore.

For Dumezweni, it was well timed too–up until then she had always considered herself a supporting player. In her own words to The Guardian, she says: “I’m a great company actor, a great supporting actor. I serve the piece.” Her performance in Linda, as well as the reactions to it, made her realize she wasn’t just meant for supporting roles. “I now realise I’m a great actor.”

The Guardian notes that “Harry Potter chat is on lockdown,” but that doesn’t mean that Dumezweni isn’t effuse about her chance to play the character. As a woman in her mid 40s, the novels came out when she was already adult, but that didn’t mean she didn’t enjoy them.  “I loved her when I read the books – and I’m an old reader, not one of the 13-year-olds who’s grown into their twenties. I didn’t grow up with these three from childhood, but I remember meeting them and going: ‘These guys are great.’ She’s great. She’s great, she’s great, she’s great.”

“She’s Hermione, isn’t she? She rocks. She’s the one who grounds them. She’s the one who says: ‘You can do better. You’ve got to own up to yourself.’ I’ve got to be careful how I say this, but we all aspire to be Hermione. She’s struggled, but she holds it all together.”

Although most actors have cheered on Dumezweni’s casting, including J.K. Rowling and the former Hermione Emma Watson, Dumezweni says she didn’t realize the emotional effect her casting was going to have on people–both for girls of color, for whom this validated a representation of themselves, and those who were wedded to a vision of a Caucasian bookworm. She calls her time with the part both “a privilege and a responsibility” as an actor, and as someone who loved the series.

“The point is that I, Noma Dumezweni, am busting with pleasure that I’m going to be playing her.”

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She is lucky in that. But the truly lucky ones will be those who get to go to the theater and see her perform the part live on stage. The rest of us will have to hope one day the movie version will come, and star her as well.