Next year’s Harry Potter prequel movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has Oscar-winning star Eddie Redmayne top-lining a cast including up-and-coming Steve Jobs actress Katherine Waterston, popular draw Colin Farrell, comedic character actor Dan Fogel, and others.
But there’s a criticism of the movie’s casting that was made after the roles were filled: There is not an actor of color among the core cast of Fantastic Beasts (the leads of the Harry Potter franchise were also white).
EW spoke to executive producer David Heyman about this during our set visit to Leavesden Studios outside London last month. The producer has been involved with Potter franchise since the very first film and was keen to tackle the issue.
The criticism is ironic because Fantastic Beasts is actually a story about acceptance (an anti-bigotry message that also recurred in the Potter books and films). Without giving anything away, the members of the wizarding world are outcasts in 1926 New York and subject to discriminatory persecution.
“Like all of Jo Rowling’s works, [Fantastic Beasts] is populated with a variety of people and that will be the same in this series over the course of the films,” Heyman says. “There will be people of various types of ethnicities. In New York in the 1920s, there was a segregation between white and black, the neighborhoods were largely separate, and that is reflected in [the film]. But the wizarding world is a much more open and tolerant society where people of color and different ethnic backgrounds exist harmoniously together. There are people of color filling this world in an organic way.”
For more on the story of the film, here’s the recently revealed basic plot of Fantastic Beasts.
Previously, Rowling herself briefly weighed in on the diversity criticism via Twitter:
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) August 25, 2015
Want more Beasts? Fantastic Beasts is EW’s cover story this week, where we’re offering a behind-the-scenes look at the film and interviews with producers and cast. Check out the cover here, get your copy here, find out the American word for “Muggle” and see our cast photo gallery. For ongoing Fantastic Beasts scoop, follow @jameshibberd.