HBO boss dismisses JK Rowling trans row as a ‘very online conversation’

JK Rowling at a red carpet event.

HBO has confirmed a decade-long Harry Potter TV adaptation is in the works, but bosses have refused to address author JK Rowling’s history of controversial anti-trans comments.

Casey Bloys, the chairman and chief executive of HBO and HBO Max – now known as just Max – content, was present on Wednesday (12 April) for the official announcement that the long-rumoured series is becoming a reality.

The news has been met by outcry from the LGBTQ+ community and trans allies as Rowling continues to be called out for her remarks on trans lives. However, Bloys remained unbothered when asked if it would affect casting, saying: “I don’t think this is the forum. That’s a very online conversation, very nuanced and complicated and not something we’re going to get into.

“We’ve been in the Harry Potter business for 20 years, this isn’t a new decision. We’re comfortable being in the Potter business.”

The author will serve as an executive producer on the show, which aims to be a “faithful adaptation”, using her “helpful insights” with a new cast “to lead a new generation of fandom”.

There will be a season dedicated to each book, with a budget on the same scale of HBO’s other hit fantasy shows, Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon.

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Bloys deflected further by adding: “Our priority is what’s on the screen. Obviously, the Harry Potter story is incredibly affirmative and positive and about love and self-acceptance. That’s our priority, what’s on screen.”

The original main cast of the Warner Bros Harry Potter film series, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, have all come out as pro-trans, and some people have jokingly speculated that the new series is for Rowling to have a “golden trio” who fall in line.

JK Rowling became involved in the mainstream debate around the transgender community in 2019 after backing “gender critical” campaigner Maya Forstater, who claimed she was fired from her job because of her anti-trans views.

Since then, the author has doubled down on her stance that trans women are not women and trans men are not men, started up a trans-exclusionary women’s refuge, mocked trans-inclusive language and questioned the identity of trans women such as presenter India Willoughby.

A still from the original Harry Potter movies as HBO announces new TV adaptation. (Warner Bros/ All Star)
The Harry Potter TV series will feature a new cast, rather than the original “golden trio”. (Warner Bros/ All Star)

The new series comes just two months after the release of the Hogwarts Legacy video game which gamers tried to boycott because, not only did JK Rowling profit from it, but also they saw it as perpetuating anti-semitic tropes around goblins. The game also included a bizarrely named trans character, Sirona Ryan.

Meanwhile, the Harry Potter spin-off film series Fantastic Beasts has been dropped.

The search for the cast and crew for the new show has now begun, with Bloys saying: “We’ve been thinking about people, but we have not wanted to go out into the world saying, ‘Who do you have?’ But now that the news is out, we will start.”

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