Years Before J.K. Rowling Controversy, Harry Potter’s Cho Chang Was Allegedly Asked To Deny Racist Backlash

Harry Potter has been entertaining folks for decades, and the property is showing no signs of slowing down. It all started with J.K. Rowling's beloved novels, which were eventually made into a blockbuster film franchise. And while there are currently controversies surrounding both Rowling and Johnny Depp, we're learning more about what it was like working on the original franchise. Actress Katie Leung played Harry's love interest Cho Chang for five movies, and she recently revealed the racist backlash she faced. What's more, she was reportedly told to deny said backlash when doing press.

Katie Leung made her movie debut in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and she's continued to work on both the small and silver screens since her time in the Wizarding World. There's recently been conversation about racism within popular fandoms like Star Wars, and it turns out that Leung was the subject of race-based hate shortly after being cast as Cho Chang. The 33-year-old actress recently opened up about this, saying:

There were so many lovely people. I got a lot of fan mail as well. It was one of those things where you kind of forget all the positive things people say to you and you just really focus on the negative. I was googling myself at one point. And I was on this website which was kind of dedicated to the Harry Potter fandom. And I remember reading all the comments, and it was a lot of racist shit.

How awful. Katie Leung was in her early teens when being cast as Cho Chang in the Harry Potter franchise. But before she was able to even get on set, there were already hate websites about her casting. And regarding impending time as Cho, much of that hate was race-based.

Katie Leung's comments come from her recent appearance on the podcast Chinese Chippy Girl. Eventually the conversation turned to her tenure as a Ravenclaw in Harry Potter. She also revealed that her casting was actually leaked, and that she had a major problem with the paparazzi as a young girl. And Leung witnessed plenty of hateful comments related to her appearance and heritage as a Chinese-Scottish woman.

Later in that same podcast appearance, Katie Leung went on to allege that publicists involved in the Harry Potter franchise told her to keep quiet and deny that said racist backlash was happening. As she later revealed,

I remember speaking to the publicists. So I didn't get any kind of interview/media training before I was doing these interviews. And I remember them saying ‘Oh Katie, we haven’t seen these websites that people are talking about. If you get asked, just say it’s not true. Say it’s not happening.’ And I just nodded my head. Even though I had seen it myself with my own eyes. I was like ok I’ll just say everything’s great. And of course I was grateful. I was very fucking grateful that I was in the position I was in. But that wasn’t great, actually.

While getting a role in the Harry Potter franchise was a dream for countless kids, there was definitely a downside to getting a letter from Hogwarts. Ron Weasley actor Rupert Grint has been open about the suffocating nature of such a long-running job. And unfortunately for Katie Leung, she was seemingly forced to endure some racist hate while playing and promoting her role as Cho Chang.

These comments show what it's really like growing up with a global spotlight as a person of color. Star Wars actors John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran have also been transparent about race-based hate that they faced upon being cast in the galaxy far, far away. Because while fan passion is what makes these franchises so successful, that passion also has a dark side.

The Harry Potter franchise will continue with Fantastic Beasts 3 on July 15th, 2022. In the meantime, check out our 2021 release list to plan your next movie experience.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated with degrees theater and literature from Ramapo College of New Jersey. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid. He's particularly proud of covering horror franchises like Scream and Halloween, as well as movie musicals like West Side Story. Favorite interviews include Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more.