Where Do All The Harry Potter Franchise Stars Stand On J.K. Rowling?

The legacy of J.K. Rowling since finishing the "Harry Potter" books has grown complicated. The author has long been celebrated for hooking a generation of kids on reading and for her extensive philanthropic work, but since 2019, she's also become infamous for her outspoken opposition to transgender rights. Now every discussion of the "Harry Potter" franchise inevitably becomes a debate about whether or not it's possible to separate the art from the artist, with greater attention now being paid to problematic elements within the books themselves fans were previously more willing to overlook.

For many LGBTQ "Harry Potter" fans (or former fans), Rowling's vocal and influential transphobia has felt like a betrayal. Fortunately, many of the lead actors from the "Harry Potter" movies have been supportive of the transgender community, making it clear that they do not agree with Rowling's views. Other actors have been more firmly on Rowling's side in this controversy, seeing her as the victim of an online "witch hunt," while others have tried to take a neutral stance on the issue, trying to sympathize with both trans people and with Rowling.

Daniel Radcliffe

Daniel Radcliffe has been working with the LGBTQ youth suicide prevention hotline The Trevor Project since 2009 when he was still playing Harry Potter in the movie series. It was through The Trevor Project that he responded to Rowling's tweets on gender identity in June 2020.

"Transgender women are women," Radcliffe wrote. "Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo or I." The statement went on to link to The Trevor Project's guide to being an ally to trans and nonbinary youth, and to reaffirm the positive values people have taken from the "Harry Potter" series: "To all the people who now feel that their experience of the books has been tarnished or diminished, I am deeply sorry for the pain these comments have caused you. I really hope that you don't entirely lose what was valuable in these stories to you."

Two years later, Radcliffe elaborated on the importance of making this statement in an interview with IndieWire, saying, "I've met so many queer and trans kids and young people who had a huge amount of identification with Potter on that. And so seeing them hurt on that day I was like, I wanted them to know that not everybody in the franchise felt that way."

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Emma Watson

Emma Watson's post-Hermione career has been defined by her activism for women's rights as much as if not more than her on-screen performances and she includes trans women in her activism. Responding to Rowling's tweets and 3600-word manifesto in June 2020, Watson tweeted, "Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told they aren't who they say they are. I want my trans followers to know that I and so many other people around the world see you, respect you and love you for who you are."

LGBTQ and LGBTQ-inclusive organizations Watson has supported include Stonewall UK, All About Trans, Gendered Intelligence, Mama Cash, and Mermaids. That last group, which supports trans gender-diverse youth in the United Kingdom, was the subject of controversy when a trustee of the organization, Dr. Jacob Breslow, stepped down in 2022 after his past ties to an organization advocating for pedophiles were exposed. Rowling's response to the controversy, which called out "celebrities" for boosting Mermaids, was seen by sites such as The Daily Beast as a veiled swipe at Watson.

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Rupert Grint

Ron Weasley actor Rupert Grint has had the lowest public profile of the three main "Harry Potter" stars since the conclusion of the series, but despite his more private nature, he felt a responsibility to join Radcliffe and Watson in speaking out in support of transgender people in light of the Rowling controversy. In a statement shared by The Sunday Times in 2020, Grint said "I firmly stand with the trans community and echo the sentiments expressed by many of my peers. Trans women are women. Trans men are men. We should all be entitled to live with love and without judgment."

Expanding on this statement in an Esquire profile, Grint emphasized that, though he is grateful for the opportunities Rowling's books gave him, "I think also you can have huge respect for someone and still disagree with things like that." He said that this was not a subject he could be silent on: "Sometimes silence is even louder. I felt like I had to because I think it was important to ... Just out of kindness, and just respecting people. I think it's a valuable group that I think needs standing up for."

Eddie Redmayne

Eddie Redmayne, who played Newt Scamander in the "Harry Potter" prequel "Fantastic Beasts" series, also commented on the matter in June 2020, disagreeing with Rowling's views on transgender people. He told Variety, "I disagree with Jo's comments. Trans women are women, trans men are men and non-binary identities are valid. I would never want to speak on behalf of the community but I do know that my dear transgender friends and colleagues are tired of this constant questioning of their identities, which all too often results in violence and abuse. They simply want to live their lives peacefully, and it's time to let them do so."

Later that same year in an interview with The Daily Mail, Redmayne offered a personal defense of Rowling in the face of the "vitriol" she faces on social media, while still sticking by his previously stated beliefs and also acknowledging that trans people also face "hideous torrent of abuse" online.

Redmayne controversially played Lili Eibe, one of the first transgender women to medically transition, in the 2015 film, "The Danish Girl." His performance was nominated for an Oscar, but the practice of casting cisgender male actors as transgender women has been increasingly criticized, both due to taking away the already limited number of roles trans actresses are generally considered for and for (perhaps inadvertently) adding to the public misconception that trans women are just men in drag. Redmayne has gone on to say he regrets taking that role.

Katherine Waterston

Katherine Waterston's character, Tina Goldstein, is one of the leads in the first two "Fantastic Beasts" movies — and yet in the third film, "Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore," she is nowhere to be seen except for a photograph and a brief scene at the end. The character's absence is explained in-film as the result of getting a promotion, but many viewers suspected the real behind-the-scenes reasoning was due to conflict between Waterston and Rowling.

Of all the actors in the "Fantastic Beasts" movies, Waterston has been perhaps the most outspoken against Rowling's transphobia. She initially responded to Rowling's June 2020 posts in her Instagram story, where she shared passages from a Guardian article on transphobia and highlighted passages such as, "Sorry, you can't be a feminist if you're not for everyone's human rights, notably other women's human rights" (via The Independent).

Given that Rowling has tried to coach her anti-trans views under the guise of feminism, it's likely this line of criticism hit hard. Waterston later told The Independent, "Because I was associated with 'Fantastic Beasts,' it felt important to communicate my position. One wondered if they might be grouped in with other people's views by association."

Tom Felton

When almost all the younger "Harry Potter" cast members were speaking out in favor of trans rights in June 2020, Tom Felton, who played Draco Malfoy in the films, was notably silent on the issue. He reportedly liked and subsequently unliked one of Rowling's controversial tweets, and when asked about the controversy by ET Canada in October 2020, he responded, "I didn't even know that was a thing."

Speaking with The Independent while promoting his 2022 memoir, "Beyond the Wand: The Magic and Mayhem of Growing Up a Wizard," Felton still said he didn't know enough about the specifics of the controversy to comment on it but did describe his personal beliefs as "pro-choice, pro-discussion, pro-human rights across the board, and pro-love," while also noting that Rowling's involvement in the filmmaking process for "Harry Potter" was fairly minimal (the author had a more significant role as a screenwriter for the "Fantastic Beasts" films).

Evanna Lynch

Evanna Lynch had a connection with Rowling even before she was cast as Luna Lovegood — writing letters to the author helped her through recovery from anorexia (per Variety). It's perhaps because of this background that her initial response to the controversy in June 2020 on her since-deleted Twitter account defended Rowling as "a generous and loving person" who believes she is "fighting for vulnerable people," while also disagreeing with Rowling on transgender issues and suggesting that Twitter was not the right place for this "very complex conversation."

In an interview with The Telegraph nearly three years later, Lynch said she was "very naive when I was dragged into that conversation." She reiterated the same points about Rowling's good intentions, but whereas her previous statement previously suggested trans "Harry Potter" fans should just block Rowling and move on, now she wants people to "give [Rowling] more grace and listen to her." She also compared "cancel culture" to The Troubles in Ireland, and defended how Rowling has "been amplifying the voices of de-transitioners" — though Insider fact-checked Rowling's comments on de-transitioners and found that she distorted the issue.

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Ralph Fiennes

It's almost poetic that Rowling's views on transgender issues have been criticized by the actor who played Harry Potter and defended by the actor who played Voldemort. Of all the living "Harry Potter" actors, Ralph Fiennes has taken the most opportunities to speak in favor of Rowling amidst this controversy, not even attempting to balance this with any words of support for transgender people the way other actors have.

In 2021, he told The Telegraph, "I can't understand the vitriol directed at [Rowling]. I can understand the heat of an argument, but I find this age of accusation and the need to condemn irrational. I find the level of hatred that people express about views that differ from theirs, and the violence of language towards others, disturbing."

A year later, he further attempted to defend her position to The New York Times, while seemingly missing what exactly it was that made people so upset with Rowling: "I can understand a viewpoint that might be angry at what she says about women. But it's not some obscene, über-right-wing fascist. It's just a woman saying, 'I'm a woman and I feel I'm a woman and I want to be able to say that I'm a woman.' And I understand where she's coming from. Even though I'm not a woman."

Helena Bonham Carter

In the "Harry Potter" movies, Helena Bonham Carter played Voldemort's right-hand woman, Bellatrix LeStrange. In real life, her views on Rowling are closest to those expressed by Fiennes. In a 2022 interview with The Times, she framed the criticism of Rowling as not only "cancel culture" but also a "witch hunt."

Describing the criticism of Rowling as "a load of bollocks," Carter specifically seems to believe that Rowling's opinions on trans people are justified by her experiences as a survivor of abuse: "She's allowed her opinion, particularly if she's suffered abuse. Everybody carries their own history of trauma and forms their opinions from that trauma and you have to respect where people come from and their pain. You don't all have to agree on everything — that would be insane and boring. She's not meaning it aggressively, she's just saying something out of her own experience."

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Katie Leung

Rowling's anti-trans activism has forced many fans to take a more critical eye at problematic elements that were already present in the "Harry Potter" books — notably their questionable approach to writing and specifically naming racial and ethnic minorities. One of the characters subject to popular criticism has been Cho Chang. In her June 2020 response to the Rowling controversy, actress Katie Leung alluded to the issues with the character she played in the feature films, while also refocusing attention towards helping Black trans people — those most heavily impacted by both rising transphobia and the systemic racism being protested worldwide by the Black Lives Matter movement.

She began her Twitter thread by writing "So, you want my thoughts on Cho Chang? Okay, here goes...," before linking to a series of fundraisers, petitions, and charities centered around offering support to Black trans people, ending the thread with the hashtag #AsiansForBlackLives.

Bonnie Wright

In the "Harry Potter" films, Bonnie Wright played Ginny Weasley, the younger sister of Ron and the eventual romantic partner of Harry. Wright's Twitter post in June 2020 emphasized support for trans "Harry Potter" fans, saying, "If Harry Potter was a source of love and belonging for you, that love is infinite and there to take without judgment or question. Transwomen are Women. I see and love you, Bonnie x"

Speaking with The Times two years later, Wright chose not to elaborate any further on the subject, saying,  "I made that comment then and I still stand with that same feeling, but it's got to the point where I prefer not to comment more." As of this writing, Wright is still listed as an ambassador for Lumos, Rowling's charitable organization aimed at eliminating child institutionalization, so it's possible that continuing that important work has made it more challenging to address disagreements with the writer in public.

Miriam Margolyes

Rowling has previously tried to argue that her anti-trans activism is in defense of lesbians. Miriam Margolyes, the openly lesbian actress who played Professor Sprout in the "Harry Potter" movies, would disagree that she needs such defending. Speaking to The Times in July 2020, she said "[Rowling] has a rather conservative view of transgender people. I don't think I do." She elaborated: " It's a matter of personal happiness for people and I think that's what you should concentrate on. If you seriously want to become a woman you should be allowed to. You can't be fascist about it. I think it's confusing."

Despite this disagreement, Margolyes later told the Radio Times (via The Independent) in 2022 that she thought that anger at Rowling was "misplaced," and offered to mediate a conversation between Rowling and Emma Watson. Later that year on BBC 4 (via Metro), she also defended the late Hagrid actor, Robbie Coltrane, for voicing his support of Rowling, saying "It's a difficult area, and as a gay woman, I don't know what to say about it. I just want everybody to do what they want," again concluding the issue is something that should be talked through.

Jason Isaacs

It's been a general trend that the younger "Harry Potter" actors have been more willing to discuss disagreements with Rowling than the older ones have. Speaking with The Telegraph in 2022, Lucius Malfoy actor Jason Isaacs joined the list of older stars reluctant to discuss the issue when asked about it, saying, "I don't want to get drawn into the trans issues, talking about them, because it's such an extraordinary minefield." He emphasized the good that Rowling's charity Lumos has done and said he "was not going to be jumping to stab her in the front — or back — without a conversation with her, which I've not managed to have yet."

It's unclear whether Isaacs ever had that conversation with Rowling, but he has made clear in other contexts that he's willing to defend trans people from hatred and harassment. When trans comedian Jordan Gray did a naked comedy routine on a late-night show where nudity and sexual content are routine, she faced significant transphobic outrage. Isaacs found the bit funny and was met with anger on Twitter in response. He then offered a detailed message comparing the transphobia Gray faced with his own experiences with antisemitism, and that while there are subjects worth debating in regards to trans issues, being insulting is not acceptable.

Harry Melling

Unlike many of the other younger "Harry Potter" actors, Harry Melling was not immediately asked for a statement on Rowling's transphobia, perhaps because symbolic support from "Dudley Dursley" — a character who's both unlikable and increasingly sidelined in the movies — was thought to mean less than such support from "Harry" or "Hermione" or even "Ginny." But Melling is not his character, and his acting career since "Harry Potter" has only been growing. He was eventually asked about the subject by The Independent while doing press for "The Pale Blue Eye," a 2022 Netflix murder mystery movie in which he played Edgar Allen Poe.

Melling's response echoes that of many of his co-stars in supporting the trans community: "I can only speak for myself, and what I feel, to me, is very simple, which is that transgender women are women and transgender men are men. Every single person has the right to choose who they are and to identify themselves as what's true to themselves. I don't want to join the debate of pointing fingers and saying, 'That's right, that's wrong,' because I don't think I'm the correct spokesperson for that. But I do believe that everybody has the right to choose."

David Tennant

It's easy to forget that David Tennant was in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," given his character, Barty Crouch Jr., spends almost the entire movie magically disguised as Mad-Eye Moody (played by Brendan Gleeson). But yes, the man best known for playing the tenth Doctor in "Doctor Who" has been one of the more outspoken trans allies among the actors who played the adult characters in the "Harry Potter" films.

Though Tennant hasn't commented on Rowling's stance directly, a Tumblr post from user elsinore-and-inverness shows that Tennant autographed their photo of Crouch with "trans rights" messages, a clear statement of disagreement with the creator. Tennant has also been seen wearing a non-binary pride pin on many TV talk shows in 2023. Of course, his famous Time Lord character could also be considered "non-binary" in a genderfluid sense. Tennant is returning to the role of the Doctor for three specials following Jodie Whittaker's run as the character's first on-screen female incarnation.