Noma Dumezweni on Playing Hermione and Meeting Emma Watson
O: You've performed on London stages for two decades. How did you wind up in Harry Potter land?
Noma Dumezweni: In 2015, I was asked to participate in a workshop to help improve a play, but the play itself was kept secret. On the first day, we learned what it was—and I thought, There's a stage version of Harry Potter? Why? But when I saw what had been created, I fell in love. And when I was cast as Hermione, my response was, "Shut the f--- up, are you serious?" I got to join the most benign cult in the world!
O: There was a lot of online noise when your role was announced for the original production in London. Some people referred to you as the "black Hermione."
ND: I find that phrase reductive. I'm a black woman and I'm an actress who plays a character named Hermione. J.K. Rowling wrote a story that empowers young girls—and not just white or brown or black or Asian girls. My privilege is that children can now see me and imagine themselves as the characters, too.
O: Have you been introduced to the original Hermione, Emma Watson?
ND: Yes. She came to watch the play one day—and when we met after the show, she burst into tears, then I burst into tears, and we just hugged.
O: Finally, is it levi-O-sa or levio-SA?
ND: You know what the answer is!