Hermione Granger—brightest witch of her age, Gryffindor's MVP, and every book worm's favorite character of all time—is black. At least, in the play she is. The Guardian reports that English actress Noma Dumezweni has landed the role of Hermione in the upcoming Harry Potter stage production, Harry Potter and The Cursed Child. And while J.K. Rowling has publicly supported the idea of a non-white Hermione through Twitter, she's a little late to the party.
The idea of a non-white Hermione isn't new to a lot of us fans. We've been imagining Hermione as a woman of color for ages. As astute readers will notice, Hermione's race is never specified. Physically, Hermione is described as having bushy hair and buck teeth—and Harry even describes her as being "brown" at one point (although he could be referring to a tanned white person). While the move to support casting a black Hermione in a major production is commendable, why not make it apparent in the text that Hermione is, or even could possibly be, a WOC? Rowling received similar criticism for her "Dumbledore is gay" reveal, with many fans feeling that, by never overtly stating (or even hinting at, some would argue) Dumbledore's sexuality, she was, in fact, contributing to the erasure of LGBTQ characters in mainstream media.
The question of timing is one that has been echoing around in my head ever since the news of a black Hermione broke. While I'm pleased as punch for a black actress to land such a juicy role in one of my favorite franchises of all time, I needed Hermione to be a POC when I was a young kid in love with characters who looked nothing like me, and I'm willing to bet a lot of other young POC fans could have used some positive representation too.
Imagine if a non-white actress had been cast in the role of Hermione from the very beginning. Can you imagine the impact such a move could have had on young audiences? For the main female character in such a huge franchise to not only be brave and strong and smart, but a POC too? That would have been a move truly worthy of the kudos everyone is expecting me to throw Rowling's way because of this casting choice. In truth, it's all just starting to feel like it's too little, too late.