The 33-year-old Scottish actress, who was around 13 when she was cast as Harry's crush, said on the Chinese Chippy Girl podcast that the vitriol all started after the news of her casting was leaked to the press. "It had got to the papers and then someone secretly took a photo of me," she said. "I just broke down. I just started crying."
"I was like, Googling myself at one point and I was on this website, which was kind of dedicated to the Harry Potter fandom, and I remember reading all the comments. It was a lot of racist shit," she said.
She continued on to say that it wasn't just comments. She was singled out so much that fans created an entire website dedicated to hating her. "Somebody had actually created a website, a hate site — it was like, if you disagree with this casting, then click on this button and then it would just be like a count of how many people disagreed with the casting and you would just see a number," Leung said. "I know, it's awful. It's so awful."
The abuse became so overwhelming that she finally went to a publicist for guidance. However, instead of helping her, they gaslit her told her to lie about the bullying. "I remember them saying to me, 'Oh look, Katie, we haven't seen these websites that people are talking about. And if you get asked, then just say it's not true. Say it's not happening,' "she said.
"And I just nodded my head. I was like, 'Okay, Okay,' even though I had seen it myself with my own eyes," Leung continued. "I was like, 'Okay, yeah, I'll just say everything's great.'"
"Of course, I was grateful. I was really very fucking grateful that I was in the position I was in," she said of her role in the five Harry Potter films. "But then, yeah ... it wasn't great."
Now that we know what we know about the franchise's controversial author J.K. Rowling's problematic and transphobic beliefs, it's unfortunately not hard to believe that her work fostered an environment in which fans' comfort was favoured over the well-being and mental health of those who were charged with keeping up her fantasy. Some things can't be healed by the wave of a wand.