Interview with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child star Noma Dumezweni
Two-time Olivier Award winner Noma Dumezweni has become a Broadway star faster than you could wave a magic wand and cry "Riddikulus!"... and that's all thanks to a spellbinding, Tony-nominated performance as Hermione Granger-Weasley in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two at Broadway's Lyric Theatre!
At The 74th Annual Theatre World Awards, I caught up with perhaps the most genuine and likeable actor on the Great White Way right now to celebrate her "Outstanding Broadway debut" and for the British star, things simply couldn't have turned out any better. I have long been an admirer of Noma's work on the other side of the pond, especially seeing her step into the title role of Linda at London's Royal Court Theatre last minute, replacing Kim Cattrall who departed just days before press night due to illness. She was mesmerizing in her first Olivier Award-winning performance in A Raisin in the Sun in 2006 and her acceptance speech for her second Olivier Award (for her current role, during the London world premiere) in 2017 was profoundly moving, speaking earnestly about her past as a refugee child, born in Swaziland and finally landing in the UK in 1977, in the face of the current refugee 'crisis' on British shores. Her achievements are a credit to her talents, but also to the notion of hope for refugees everywhere.
What a classy lady. What a class act...
Awards season has been treating you quite well, hasn’t it, Noma?
D’you know, I’m quite loving it now! It’s been ridiculous, hasn’t it! How are you?
Oh, you know me - every day’s a blessing! How are you doing?
I’m nicely tired. I had a bit of a cold this past weekend but I got through the shows. I’m here and it’s a nice, hot day. I’m fine, Tom.
And you’re about to receive your Theatre World Award for “Outstanding Broadway debut”… Could it have gone any more outstandingly?
Oh my God! I think I said to you at Opening Night that I can’t believe I’m here! And all these accolades are like f***in’ cherries on the cake – excuse my language – like beautiful cherries on the cake! I’m just enjoying myself and the weather has turned, so that helps. This is a good place to be!
So, let’s talk about Ms. Hermione Granger-Weasley! What would you say are the main differences between the Hermione that the ‘Potterheads’ all know and love from the books and the Hermione that we see now, nineteen years older, in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on stage?
Well, Hermione in the books – we’re all watching a child growing up with her friends through her teenage years and when the last book ends, there’s an epilogue and they are all parents. Then we jump cut to nineteen years later and see Hermione, married to Ron, with a family and it’s about a new generation. In terms of the ‘golden trio’ of Harry, Ron and Hermione, we’re all parents in this Wizarding World around us. For me, the play is about the new generation, but also about families and how families connect at different places and how friendships connect. Hopefully, there’s not that much difference in Hermione now and then, other than the fact that we’ve all grown older, which is inevitable.
Do you remember when they announced you would be playing Hermione at the world premiere in London and there were a few idiots out there complaining about your skin color and that you look nothing like Emma Watson, who played Hermione in the movies, and all that nonsense? Was there any sort of similar reaction in New York for the Broadway transfer?
Well, yes, you’d hear it via Twitter and via FaceBook or wherever. Well, I’m not on FaceBook, thank God! But I was very lucky because I kept myself away from it. There were two moments when I read something on Twitter and I was like: “Oh… OK… That’s intense!” and then I said to myself: “I don’t need to engage in that because I’m very lucky and I’ve got the job and I have great people to work with.” That would’ve really hurt if I felt I couldn’t do it well. As a friend said to me when we finished the show [in London] last year, my daughter was away and my friend Jocelyn came over and we were having wine in the garden in summer and she said: “But Noma, you do realise, right? You could’ve been awful!” That’s the story! Do you know what I mean? As an actor, you just go: “Please can I do my job?” You can diss me on everything, but ultimately, it’s got to come down to the work.
Well, I, for one, am grateful for the work you put in, that you were cast in the first place and didn’t turn it down.
And last question – how long do we have you here for now? Have we got you for good?
I’m keeping all my options open, but I’m here as Hermione until March 2019. That’s the date of the next changeover. I don’t know if I’m going to stay in New York or not. The world is there for me, but I’ve also got a growing daughter, who I want to enjoy.
Well, it’s been so lovely chatting to you, Noma. And congratulations too for your Tony nomination!
You know what – all of those women in my category – I’m going to be applauding each and every one of them! They’re all phenomenal! I feel as if I’ve already won, just being in their company as an actor. Knowing their work, I can’t believe I’m in their company, so I’m really happy!
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Tickets are available now!