Furiosa star Tom Burke ‘feels fine’ about playing ‘polarising’ JK Rowling’s detective character

a portrait image of Tom Burke and JK Rowling

Actor Tom Burke has become the latest star to be asked his opinion about JK Rowling’s transgender comments.

In a recent interview, the Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga and The Souvenir actor was asked how he felt about being linked to JK Rowling, who the Independent called “one of the most polarising figures of the day.”

Burke has starred as Cormoran Blue Strike in crime drama Strike, the BBC adaptation of Rowling’s novels, since 2017.

In the interview, the actor expressed his thoughts on the Harry Potter author’s views on transgender people, which have led Rowling to become an increasingly divisive and controversial public figure.

Speaking to the Independent, Burke said: “I’ve thought about these things a lot, and I feel fine doing that particular job [starring in Strike], and my integrity sits fine with it. I know it’s a complex issue.”

The actor also noted that he requested media training for the BBC on handling questions about Rowling. 

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“I’ll preface all this by saying, what I want for that situation is for it to mend,” he added.

“I want those disparate groups to find resolution. I don’t want to say anything in the wrong context, or at the wrong time, which is going to make the situation worse, because it’s not nice, right? There’s so much antipathy going on.

“I hate this term ‘culture war’. Maybe it’s naive of me to say that, but I don’t want to be part of it. I want to bring people together.”

What has JK Rowling said about transgender people?

Harry Potter author JK Rowling in front of trans Pride flag colours
JK Rowling previously stated that she would prefer ‘two years’ in jail over using a trans person’s correct pronouns. (Getty)

Rowling’s views on transgender issues first entered the public consciousness in 2019 when she came out in support of “gender critical” campaigner Maya Forstater.

Then, in 2020, she posted on X (Twitter) saying: “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 went on to write a “TERF wars” essay and published novels that include alleged anti-trans talking points.

In 2022, JK Rowling launched a rape and sexual assault crisis centre in Edinburgh which explicitly excludes trans women as service users or employees.

Rowling has also been cited in a 2021 international LGBTQ+ rights review that warned the UK is facing “significant damage” because of transphobic hate speech.

Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson

Harry Potter actors Rupert Grint, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson superimposed next to author JK Rowling
Many of the stars of the Harry Potter films have addressed the controversy around JK Rowling. (Getty)

As well as commenting on Rowling, Burke was asked for his thoughts on the fact that Harry Potter stars Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson have both spoken out about the author’s views.

“It’s not for me to second-guess anyone’s integrity on speaking out. My integrity is to not. My integrity is to step away. I’m aware that might mean people think I’m on the fence; it’s just what sits well with me right now,” Burke answered.

“I’m not saying I’ll never speak out; it’s not that I don’t feel part of it. It’s just that I want to say something that’s helpful to resolution.”

Radcliffe and Watson, as well as the wider franchise’s cast, have been more outspoken about their feelings surrounding Rowling’s controversial statements. 

Radcliffe publicly defended trans people after Rowling’s essay. In 2020, the actor wrote a blog for LGBTQ+ charity The Trevor Project. “Transgender women are women,” he clearly stated.

“Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional healthcare associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo [Rowling] or I.”

Similarly, Watson has vocally supported trans people. In 2020, she said she wanted her transgender followers to know that she “and so many other people around the world see you, respect you and love you for who you are.

“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.”

As she presented the award for outstanding British film at the 2022 BAFTA Awards, Watson remarked: “I’m here for all the witches,” assumed to be a reference to Rowling’s comments.

Who is Tom Burke?

Tom Burke is seen arriving at the 78th Venice International Film Festival on September 05, 2021 in Venice, Italy. (Getty)

Burke has worked across TV, film and theatre, and is best known for Strike, The Musketeers, True Things and Mank – about 1930s alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz.

The 42-year-old is the son of actors Anna Calder-Marshall (Wuthering Heights) and David Burke (Doctor Watson in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes).

Burke has straddled arthouse and mainstream cinema with his work, appearing extensively on the stage as well as starring in widely broadcast TV. 

Tom Burke’s Praetorian Jack

Tom Burke as Praetorian Jack (Warner Bros. pictures)

In Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, Burke plays the role of Praetorian Jack. 

George Miller’s Fury Road sequel is an action-adventure epic that sees Furiosa (Anya Taylor-Joy) journeying across the desert to get revenge against Dementus (Chris Hemsworth) after he murdered he mother.

Along her journey, Furiosa develops a moving bond with Praetorian Jack, who helps her survive in the Wasteland.

GQ brands Burke’s Jack as “the only good man in Furiosa.

“The connection between [Furiosa and Jack] is the heart of the movie, the one spot of light in a world that’s otherwise bereft of hope”

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