Harry Potter: Return to Hogwarts

J.K. Rowling Will Briefly Appear in Harry Potter Reunion Special Return to Hogwarts After All

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On January 1st, Harry Potter fans will be invited to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the iconic fantasy film series with the HBO Max reunion special Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return To Hogwarts. The special will see Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, and several more beloved actors reflecting and reminiscing about the eight-film franchise and their iconic characters.

But of course, the shadow Harry Potter author of J.K. Rowling looms large over the proceedings. Ever since Rowling publicly came out with her toxic and transphobic views, she has tarnished the legacy of one of the world’s most devoted fandoms. It also colors any and all future Harry Potter projects or projects related to the Wizarding world, like video games and the Fantastic Beasts film franchise.

Rowling’s transphobia puts fans at a crossroads: can we still enjoy the HP fandom without supporting (financially or otherwise) Rowling’s stance? Can we separate the art from the artist? Harry Potter-adjacent companies, fan groups, and quidditch leagues have struggled with the matter of not wanting to associate with Rowling’s bigotry while still appreciating the impact of Harry Potter in their universe. It’s a debate with no clear answers, and plenty of frustration. After all, while Rowling’s books were the genesis for the films, thousands of people made those films possible. And most of the films’ cast have spoken out against Rowling, making statements of support for the trans community.

Radcliffe issued his response alongside LGBTQ advocacy group The Trevor Project, saying “Transgender women are women. 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.” He added, “If you found anything in these stories that resonated with you and helped you at any time in your life—then that is between you and the book that you read, and it is sacred.”

Naturally, fans were wondering if Rowling would show up in the reunion special. And while she was rumored to be snubbed, it turns out that she will appear briefly during the special, via archived footage from 2019. But Rowling will not be seen in the reunion footage alongside the cast. She is name-checked, of course, for creating the series.

Bonnie Wright, who played Ginny Weasley in the films, says “So many people were falling in love with JK Rowling’s writing,” while Radcliffe says “I think it’s very easy to forget that at the time, people were talking about ‘the death of reading.’” Robbie Coltrane, who played Hagrid, added, “One of the many reasons I admire JK so much is that millions now read books who would never have lifted a book up in their lives, and you suddenly realise the power of writing.”

Rowling herself appears via archival footage to discuss the challenges of casting Harry Potter, saying “We couldn’t find Harry! … We just couldn’t find Harry, and it was getting kind of weird, and panicky.” She later describes casting Radcliffe as “very emotional.”

Rowling’s appearance seems to be fairly minor, as the special focuses on the making of the films and less on the books. And it’s significant that it was kept so minor, demonstrating just how toxic she is in the court of public opinion. If you want to support the cast and many creatives who made the Harry Potter movies possible, the reunion special remains mostly Rowling-free.

Also joining the core trio at the reunion are director Chris Columbus and actors Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Isaacs, Gary Oldman, Imelda Staunton, Tom Felton, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps, Mark Williams, Bonnie Wright, Alfred Enoch, Matthew Lewis, Evanna Lynch and Ian Hart.

Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return To Hogwarts premieres on HBO Max on New Year’s Day.

(via The Independent, image: HBO Max)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.