So they’re doing a new Harry Potter play, and they’ve cast a black actress as Hermione. By itself, that’s nice to see, but not necessarily something that means anything off the stage, any more than a white actress playing her in the films necessarily meant anything. Maybe especially so because, what with it being a play, eventually it will be produced and performed in other places, with other actors in the roles.
But then again…the films were adaptations of what JK Rowling had put out in the world already. This is something of Rowling’s being put out in the world in play form, which means, unlike the movies, it’s the definitive version. Certainly every line said and every action taken on that stage, the things that will remain constant from production to production, will undisputedly be canon. Which also means, by the way, that if casting a black actress as Hermione becomes a tradition, then it’ll be hard to think she’s not canonically black, although even then I could see it being disputed-unless the direction to make it a tradition comes from Rowling herself.
Speaking of Rowling, her reaction to the fuss being made by the racists over this one is pretty interesting. One wonders if she’s even trying to make up for the whole business of the Fantastic Beasts casting, repeating now what plenty of fans have already said: the books don’t specify Hermione’s skin colour. While it would be kind of odd that the limited-third-person-Harry-POVed narration never took note of it, on the other hand it took until the fourth book for it to note Angelina Johnson’s being black, so that’s not entirely unprecedented. Even if Rowling didn’t even think of Hermione as black while she wrote the books, she can and has thrown in big details about characters after the fact(observe: Dumbledore coming out after DH had been released), and she can come up with them whenever she likes, so long as they don’t contradict what she’s done already.
But is this a case of that? She loves black Hermione, she tweets. Does that mean she likes that idea enough she’s going with it? Or just that she likes the possibility for something she’s leaving unspecified?
For the moment, I think it’s a waiting game to find out if Hermione’s race is going to be set in stone. There’s a chance Rowling may do it with a word, although I can’t help but think if she was going to in response to this she would’ve done so already. Otherwise, as I said earlier, the answer might just lie in what happens when it becomes time for new actors to take over.
But until then: we’ve spent all these years, most of us, presuming Hermione white until told otherwise. But perhaps now, under the circumstances, we should instead presume her black until told otherwise?