Katie Leung, who was cast as Cho Chang in the Harry Potter films in 2005, has opened up about being the subject of racist online attacks by fans of the franchise. Leung, a Scottish actor of Chinese descent, explained on the Chinese Chippy Girl podcast that the abuse began after her casting was announced. She says she was advised by publicists to deny it (it’s unclear if these were Leung’s own representatives, or the films’, which were produced by Warner Bros.).
She recalls Googling herself at one point and coming to a website dedicated to the Harry Potter fandom. “I remember reading all the comments. And, yeah, it was a lot of racist shit,” she told the host. She described coming across another site wholly dedicated to protesting her casting.
Leung was a teen when she was cast as Harry Potter’s love interest in the films. Now 33, she said she didn’t receive media training before interviews and was shut down when she tried to speak to publicists about the issue:
“I remember [the publicists] 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, say it’s not true, say it’s not happening … And I just nodded my head. I was like, ‘Okay, okay,’ even though I had seen it myself with my own eyes. I was like, ‘Okay, yeah, I’ll just say everything’s great.’”
Leung, whose recent credits include Run, The Nest, and Locked Down, has spoken about the racist backlash that followed her casting before, and told the Herald in 2016 that she was “in denial of what was happening … I put it to the back of my mind. 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.”