Here’s Why J.K. Rowling Wasn’t at the ‘Harry Potter’ Reunion & Where She Stands With the Cast Now

If you’ve watched the Harry Potter reunion, you may be wondering why J.K. Rowling wasn’t at the Harry Potter: Return to Hogwarts special and where she stands with the movie’s cast members now.

The Harry Potter series, written by J.K. Rowling, released its first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in June 1997. The series—which consists of seven books in total—follows a young wizard named Harry Potter and his friends, Hermoine Granger and Ron Weasley, as they attend the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, while defending the wizarding world from Lord Voldemort, a dark wizard who killed Harry’s parents and wants to rule both the magical and non-magical universe.

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After the Philosopher’s Stone (which was retitled as Sorcerer’s Stone in the United States), Rowling went on to publish six more Harry Potter books from 1997 to 2007: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

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The first Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, premiered in 2001 with child actors Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint playing the book series’ three main characters: Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley. Radcliffe, Watson and Grint went on to star as the lead trio for eight Harry Potter movies (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was split into two films) before the premiere of the last film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, in 2011.

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In November 2021, HBO Max announced that a reunion special titled Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts was in the works with Radcliffe, Watson and Grint, as well as dozens of other actors, directors and producers from the eight Harry Potter movies. The special told “an enchanting making-of story through all-new, in-depth interviews and cast conversations,” according to HBO Max, and see the original cast revisit Hogwarts, Diagon Alley and other iconic sets from the Harry Potter universe. “There’s magic in the air here with this incredible cast, as they all return home to the original sets of Hogwarts, where they began 20 years ago. The excitement is palpable as they prepare to take their fans on a very special and personal journey, through the making of these incredible films.”

While dozens of actors, directors and producers returned for Harry Potter: Return to Hogwarts, which premiered in January 2022, one notable name missing was the author who started it all: J.K. Rowling. So why wasn’t J.K. Rowling not in Harry Potter: Return to Hogwarts? Read on for a full breakdown of her problematic comments.

Why is J.K. Rowling not in Harry Potter: Return to Hogwarts?

Image: Courtesy of HBO Max.
Image: Courtesy of HBO Max.

Why is J.K. Rowling not in Harry Potter: Return to Hogwarts? Rowling didn’t film for HBO Max’s “Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts” special due to past comments she made about transgender people. In December 2019, Rowling came under fire when she reacted to the news at the time about Maya Forstater, a visiting fellow at the Centre for Global Development, whose contract was renewed after she tweeted that transgender women couldn’t change their biological sex. Forstater was also accused of using “offensive and exclusionary” language to oppose proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act in the United Kingdom to allow people to self-identify as the opposite sex. After her contract at the Centre for Global Development wasn’t renewed, Forstater challenged the termination in court but lost. The Guardian reported at the time that Judge James Tayler ruled that Forstater’s termination was valid since her “absolutist” beliefs about biological sex includes referring to a person “by the sex she considered appropriate even if it violates their dignity and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.”

After the ruling, Rowling tweeted her support of Forstater and slammed the Centre of Global Development for her termination. “Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill,” she wrote. The tweet was met with backlash from LGBTQ advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign, which responded in a tweet, “Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Non-binary people are non-binary. CC: JK Rowling.”

Rowling was also slammed by non-binary actor Sara Ramirez who tweeted in response, “Wholeheartedly disagree. I stand with intersectional feminist humans, who recognize that trans women are real women, and against bigots like yourself. Bigotry masquerading as feminism is anything but. Your internalized distortions are helping me to continue dismantling mine. Thanks!”

While Rowling didn’t appear in person for Harry Potter: Return to Hogwarts, the special did include an interview with her from 2019, where she recalled her struggle with casting Harry. “We just couldn’t find Harry, and it was getting kind of weird, and panicky,” she said in the archival footage. Rowling is also referenced by several cast members from the Harry Potter movies. “So many people were falling in love with J.K. Rowling’s writing,” said Bonnie Wright, who played Ginny Weasley. Daniel Radcliffe, who played Harry Potter, added, “I think it’s very easy to forget that at the time, people were talking about ‘the death of reading.'”

Robbie Coltrane, who played Hagrid, continued, “One of the many reasons I admire J.K. so much is that millions now read books who would never have lifted a book up in their lives, and you suddenly realize the power of writing.”

Seven months after her comments about Forstater, Rowling came under fire again when she responded to an opinion article by Devex with the headline, “Creating a more equal post-COVID-19 world for people who menstruate.” In response to the essay, Rowling tweeted, “‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?” After her tweet, Rowling faced backlash for failing to acknowledge people who menstruate who don’t identify as women. In response to the backlash, Rowling defended her stance on sex and denied claims that her comment was transphobic. “If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth,” she tweeted. “The idea that women like me, who’ve been empathetic to trans people for decades, feeling kinship because they’re vulnerable in the same way as women—i.e., to male violence—‘hate’ trans people because they think sex is real and has lived consequences—is a nonsense.”

She continued, “I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them. I’d march with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans. At the same time, my life has been shaped by being female. I do not believe it’s hateful to say so.”

Days after her tweets, Rowling published an essay on her website with the headline: “Anonymous Letter From a Terrified Lesbian.” She tweeted the post with the caption, “TERF Wars.” TERF is an acronym that stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist. In the essay, Rowling defended her support of Forstater and further slammed claims that her comments were transphobic. “This isn’t an easy piece to write, for reasons that will shortly become clear, but I know it’s time to explain myself on an issue surrounded by toxicity. I write this without any desire to add to that toxicity,” she wrote. “For people who don’t know: last December I tweeted my support for Maya Forstater, a tax specialist who’d lost her job for what were deemed ‘transphobic’ tweets. She took her case to an employment tribunal, asking the judge to rule on whether a philosophical belief that sex is determined by biology is protected in law. Judge Tayler ruled that it wasn’t.” In the post, Rowling also explained that she became interested in trans issues while researching a character she’s writing. She also outlined “five reasons for being worried about the new trans activism.”

Rowling’s essay and tweets were also met with immediate backlash from fans, activist groups and actors from the Harry Potter movies. In a statement with the Trevor Project, Daniel Radcliffe, who played Harry Potter in the Harry Potter movies and was the first star to respond to Rowling’s controversy, criticized the author for her comments about the transgender community.

“I realize that certain press outlets will probably want to paint this as in-fighting between J.K. Rowling and myself,” he said in the statement. “But that is really not what this is about, nor is it what’s important right now. While Jo is unquestionably responsible for the course my life has taken, as someone who has been honored to work with and continues to contribute to The Trevor Project for the last decade, and just as a human being, I feel compelled to say something at this moment. Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo or I. According to The Trevor Project, 78% of transgender and nonbinary youth reported being the subject of discrimination due to their gender identity. It’s clear that we need to do more to support transgender and nonbinary people, not invalidate their identities, and not cause further harm.”

He continued, “To all the people who now feel that their experience of the books has been tarnished or diminished. I am deeply sorry for the pain these comments have caused you. I really hope that you don’t entirely lose what was valuable in these stories to you…. And in my opinion, nobody can touch that. It means to you what it means to you and I hope that these comments will not taint that too much.”

Emma Watson, who played Hermione Granger, also tweeted her support of the transgender community after Rowling’s controversy. “Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told they aren’t who they say they are. I want my trans followers to know that I and so many other people around the world see you, respect you, and love you for who you are,” she wrote. “I donate to @Mermaids_Gender and @mamacash. If you can, perhaps you’ll feel inclined to do the same. Happy #PRIDE2020 Sending love x.”

Rupert Grint, who played Ron Weasley, also confirmed his stance on Rowling’s controversy with a statement to the Sunday Times. “I firmly stand with the trans community and echo the sentiments expressed by many of my peers. Trans women are women. Trans men are men,” his statement read. “We should all be entitled to live with love and without judgment.”

Bonnie Wright, who played Ginny Weasley, followed her on-screen brother with a statement on Twitter about Rowling’s comments. “If Harry Potter was a source of love and belonging for you, that love is infinite and there to take without judgment or question. Transwomen are Women. I see and love you, Bonnie x,” she wrote.

Eddie Redmayne, who stars in The Fantastic Beasts movies (a spinoff of Harry Potter written by Rowling) and played a transgender woman in 2015’s The Danish Girl, also criticized Rowling for her comments in a statement to Variety. “Respect for transgender people remains a cultural imperative, and over the years I have been trying to constantly educate myself. This is an ongoing process,” he said. “As someone who has worked with both J.K. Rowling and members of the trans community, I wanted to make it absolutely clear where I stand. I disagree with Jo’s comments. Trans women are women, trans men are men, and nonbinary identities are valid. I would never want to speak on behalf of the community but I do know that my dear transgender friends and colleagues are tired of this constant questioning of their identities, which all too often results in violence and abuse. They simply want to live their lives peacefully, and it’s time to let them do so.”

Harry Potter: Return to Hogwarts is available to stream on HBO Max. Here’s how to watch it for free.

Watch ‘Harry Potter: Return to Hogwarts’ $9.99+

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"The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook"
"The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook"

The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook by Dinah Bucholz

Buy: ‘The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook’ by Dinah Bucholz $9.99

For more about Harry Potter, check out The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook by Dinah Bucholz. The New York Times bestseller features more than 150 recipes from the Harry Potter universe, from cauldron cakes to knickerbocker glories, for fans to re-create at home, regardless of if they’re wizard, witch or muggle. Other spell-binding recipes include Hagrid’s rock cakes, treacle tarts (Harry’s favorite dessert), Molly’s meat pies (Mrs. Weasley’s classic dish) and Kreacher’s French onion soup pumpkin pasties, a staple on the Hogwarts Express cart. The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook is a must-have for any Harry Potter fan who wants to know what it’s really like to eat in Hogwarts’ dining hall. For more Harry Potter collectible items, check out our Harry Potter gift guide here.

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