Warner Bros. has doubled down in support of author J.K. Rowling after Harry Potter actor Tom Felton was told not to discuss her past transphobic remarks.
Felton, who played Draco Malfoy in the eight-part Potter movie series, was on hand to promote the opening of Professor Sprout’s greenhouse at Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, a walkthrough exhibition that simulates the environment of the Harry Potter books and films.
The year of the greenhouse’s debut coincides with the 25th anniversary of the 1997 publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first book in J.K. Rowling’s seven-part literary series.
During a press junket, Sky News entertainment reporter Claire Gregory asked Felton how he felt about Rowling taking a “backseat” when it comes to various promotional events related to the Harry Potter universe, but the actor remained silent. A third-party member of the crew off-camera cut in, saying: “Next question, please.”
According to Sky News, Felton has reportedly been told by a third-party PR firm not to discuss Rowling’s absence, due in part to comments the author has made in recent years opposing transgender rights — specifically the right of trans women to access public accommodations — and casting doubt on the availability of transition-related treatments for gender dysphoria, especially for young people assigned female at birth.
In 2019, Rowling publicly tweeted support of Maya Forstater, a former researcher and consultant for the Center for Global Development, who was reportedly fired for espousing so-called “gender-critical” views on social media, including referring to transgender women as men.
Rowling has also opined that sex is “real,” based on biological characteristics at birth and impossible to change, has tweeted concerns that the concept of sex is being “erased” and replaced by gender identity, and garnered criticism for writing a book with a “transvestite serial killer.”
The PR firm involved in the Felton press junket issued a statement to Sky News following the refusal to answer Gregory’s question, writing: “J.K. Rowling is not connected to Warner or Tom Felton, the team felt it was not relevant to the piece.”
The firm said it was attempting to “separate the artists from the art,” especially in light of Rowling’s highly criticized statements.
Gregory’s question was prompted by the obvious absence of Rowling at press events for the Harry Potter Cast Reunion Special on HBO Max and the omission of her name from other materials surrounding the Harry Potter spinoff series Fantastic Beasts.
Warner Bros. has since come out defending the author, explaining that the studio — which has a net worth of more than $10 billion — is “proud” to work with “one of the world’s most accomplished storytellers.”
“On Monday, a statement was issued by a third-party media agency that appeared contrary to this view,” Warner Bros. wrote. “The statement was wholly wrong, and Warner Bros. Studio Tour London regrets it happened as part of a media event that day.”‘
In addition to tweets that many have deemed transphobic, Rowling also penned an essay in June 2020 explaining her opposition to the “current trans activism” happening around her, arguing that this was a form of sexism, and that we are “living through the most misogynistic period I’ve experienced.”
Multiple LGBTQ organizations have attributed anti-trans rhetoric similar to Rowling’s choice of words to increased violence against the trans community.
The Fund for Global Rights has called out Rowling on her comments and explained why what she says has a negative impact on those who need support.
“Articles cite high-profile anti-trans figures like J.K. Rowling and obscure transphobic talking points as open-ended questions — a way of “problematizing” the matter,” Fund for Global Rights author Marianne Mollmann explained in a commentary. “At some point, we all have to look at the consequences of our words and actions, regardless of what we think we meant or how we intended them.”
Rowling continues to deny that she is transphobic.
“I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them,” she tweeted in 2020. “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.”