It has just been announced that actor Noma Dumezweni, who originated the role of Hermione Granger in the London production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, will next originate the role on Broadway when the production transfers in 2018. Here’s what you need to know about the woman who won an Olivier Award for her work as the brainy witch.
This article was originally published in December 2015.
The internet exploded with news about the casting of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child — the next installment of the generation-defining tale of the boy who lived. Unlike the previous seven stories, this one will debut on the stage in London's West End this coming summer. The Pottersphere erupted at the casting announcement of our Harry, Ron and Hermione. Veteran actor Noma Dumezweni — whose casting has received a majority of the attention — will play Hermione Granger Weasley. And, yes, she's black.
The choice marks an exciting time in theatre. Rowling herself expressed joy at seeing a black woman cast in the role, saying on Twitter that she "loves black Hermione." In the books, the race of the young witch was never specified — only that she had brown eyes and frizzy hair.
Canon: brown eyes, frizzy hair and very clever. White skin was never specified. Rowling loves black Hermione �� https://t.co/5fKX4InjTH
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) December 21, 2015
1. She is an Olivier-winning actor.
Dumezweni won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role in 2006 — for her portrayal of Ruth Younger in A Raisin in the Sun—where she even beat out Benedict Cumberbatch, as male and female actors appear in the same category. Clearly, she has some serious acting chops.
[Note: Now she has a second Olivier for her work in Harry Potter.]
2. She is a force of nature on the stage.
If her Olivier weren't proof enough, her recent rave reviews for her work in the West End's Linda speak volumes. "If they can bottle and mass-produce whatever it is that Noma Dumezweni has got then, please, I want to order a life-time's supply," writes The Telegraph; the Daily Mail cheered that the theatre is "lucky to have her." She played a 55-year-old marketing director who changes the way the cosmetics business views women — clearly a message worth delivering and delivering well. Her performance as the titular role garnered rave reviews since its opening November 25, 2015.
3. She is the ultimate team player.
Dumezweni was not originally cast as Linda, but rather, filled in at the very last minute when actress Kim Catrall had to drop out for medical reasons. Dumezweni took the stage in less than one week, meeting the company on a Friday and opening in her first preview the following Thursday evening. In the words of The Telegraph, she "deserves a medal for this rescue-mission of the year."
4. She is a single mom.
As we all know, Hermione Granger has been fiercely independent from the get-go, and that innate strength is a layer Dumezweni will be sure to bring to the role. What's more, Cursed Child picks up where the last Harry Potter book left off, with the trio waving goodbye to their children on Platform 9 3/4. Dumezweni will be able to tap into her maternal instincts for the part.
5. She knows what it's like to feel "outside."
Born in Swaziland (a tiny country in the south of Africa that borders Mozambique and South Africa), Dumezweni's parents fled the apartheid of South Africa. They then moved around from Swaziland to Botswana to Kenya and Uganda, then finally to Ipswich in England. Dumezweni was raised in Suffolk and attended a school, where she and her sister were two of the four students of color in a school of 1,500. No doubt her own experiences will be able to inform Hermione's emotional backstory of growing up at Hogwarts as a "mudblood."
6. She might look familiar.
Doctor Who fans might recognize Dumezweni as Captain Erisa Magambo. In addition to her television work, she's performed in Henry V with Jude Law and taken on roles in the Royal Shakespeare Company's Much Ado About Nothing and Anthony & Cleopatra. Dumezweni has managed to walk that precarious line of choosing worthwhile projects and paying her bills. "I get nice offers for things but I'm also good at saying no as well. You have to do that when you are in a creative field," said the actress in an interview with Words of Color. "Doing Henry V with Jude Law for the Michael Grandage Company was an experience that I had never had in the theatre. Michael’s Othello with Chiwetel [Ejiofor] was extraordinary so I thought — I want to work with you. I’m more interested in who is playing in the room. Who is the director? Who is the writer? It is about the discovery and how can we make it work. That is what excites me."
7. Her success has prophetic origins.
Just like Harry Potter, Dumezweni's renown seems to have been written in the stars. Her last name is a Xhosa word for "famous in the world." If she wasn't before, she certainly will be now.