The Ravenclaw Cho Chang had a difficult time in the Wizarding World. While at Hogwarts, Cho dated Cedric Diggory (who ultimately perished during the Triwizard Tournament) and her blossoming relationship with Harry Potter was also prematurely cut short after her best friend betrayed them.
However, it seems that the actress that played Harry Potter’s first love interest had an even harder time in real life. At the age of 16, Katie Leung beat out over 3,000 other girls for the part of Cho Chang, but her excitement was marred by jealous, toxic and racist fans who started attacking her after she was announced to have landed the role. The now 33-year-old recently spoke about the experience on the podcast, ‘Chinese Chippy Girl’, and said that it was an “awful” time.
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It all started when the media put up her picture and reported that the Scottish actress of Chinese descent would be playing the role in 2005’s ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.’ Before shooting even began, websites dedicated to the Harry Potter films were flooded with racist comments about her.
“I was, like, googling myself at one point, and I was on this website, which was kind of dedicated to the kind of Harry Potter fandom. I remember reading all the comments. And, yeah, it was a lot of racist s***.”
There was even one particular website that was created just to hate on her titled, “I Hate Katie”.
“Somebody had actually created a website, a hate site — it was like, if you disagree with this casting, then click on this button and then it would just be like a count of how many people disagreed with the casting and you would just see a number,”
Taking into account her age, Leung wasn’t yet ready to deal with such a barrage of unnecessary hate. What’s worse was the fact that when she reached out for help, she was instead told to pretend that none of the blatant racism was happening.
“I remember them saying to me, ‘Oh, look Katie, we haven’t seen these, these websites that people are talking about and you know, if you get asked that just say it’s not true, say it’s not happening.'”
As a result, Leung felt like she had no choice but to nod her head and say “everything’s great” if asked about her ‘Harry Potter’ casting during interviews.
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However, this isn’t the first time she’s addressed the online attacks, having talked about it back in 2016 in an interview with The Herald. At the time, Leung said she put herself in a state of denial while working on the films as she hoped her portrayal of the character would put the naysayers to rest.
“I don’t know if that is the best way to deal with it, but that is naturally what I did in order to move on and be a good actor. […] I thought, ‘Well, I can’t do anything about the way I look, so I’m going to need to do the best acting to make up for it.'”
Nevertheless, the actual experience of filming left Leung feeling “very f****** grateful” to have been able to portray Cho, but she does now live with the thought, “Oh I wish I’d maybe said something.”
*Cover image credits: @_katieleung_ as photographed by @etiennephotography Warner Bros. Pictures