Harry Potter actress Katie Leung has opened up about racist attacks she endured while being part of the massively popular film franchise.
During a recent appearance on the Chinese Chippy Girl podcast, the Scottish-born actress said some fans expressed vitriol over her casting as Cho Chang, a love interest to Daniel Radcliffe’s titular wizard who first appeared in 2005’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Leung also said she was instructed by publicists to deny experiencing any racism in connection with her role.
“I was, like, googling myself at one point, and I was on this website, which was kind of dedicated to the kind of Harry Potter fandom,” Leung recalled. “I remember reading all the comments. And yeah, it was a lot of racist s—.” She added that she found a “hate site” dedicated to disparaging her, which counted how many commenters disagreed with her casting.
Leung, who was 16 when she joined the Harry Potter cast, said she didn’t get media training to prepare for interviews and spoke to publicists about the racism she faced.
“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,'” Leung said. “And I just nodded my head. 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.'”
The performer, now 33, didn’t specify whether the instruction came from personal publicists or studio representatives. A Warner Bros. Pictures rep declined to comment on the matter to EW.
Leung said on the podcast that she felt “grateful” to be involved in the Harry Potter franchise. “I was really very f—ing grateful that I was in the position I was in,” she said. “I keep saying, like, ‘Oh I wish I’d maybe said something.’ But you can’t do that.”
The actress previously spoke about dealing with nasty and often racist comments in a 2016 interview with Scotland’s The Herald.
“Looking back I can’t remember much about that part of it because I was so in denial of what was happening,” she said. “I put it to the back of my mind. I don’t know if that is the best way to deal with it, but that is naturally what I did in order to move on and be a good actor.”
In addition to appearing in four Harry Potter movies, Leung has acted in the films The Foreigner, starring Jackie Chan, and Locked Down, with Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor. She has also appeared on miniseries including Run and The Nest, and worked in theater.