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Dawn French issues plea ‘to young people’ after frustrating JK Rowling exchange

‘Vicar of Dibley’ star was reprimanded by younger podcast host for question about ‘Harry Potter’ author

Jacob Stolworthy
Saturday 20 April 2024 08:28 BST
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The Vicar of Dibley urges viewers to ‘praise the lord and the NHS’ as Dawn French reprises iconic role

Dawn French has issued a plea to young people after being left frustrated by a conversation about JK Rowling.

The sitcom star, best known for French and Saunders and for playing Geraldine in The Vicar of Dibley, said on a new podcast that she was recently belittled for questioning why one of the Harry Potter author’s comments about the trans community was considered unacceptable.

The comedy star’s discussion of the subject arrives days after Rowling said Harry Potter stars Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson “can save their apologies” for speaking out against her.

French, who “knows Jo a bit” and appeared in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), told Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place podcast that Rowling has “paid a huge price” for sharing her views, but said that a podcast host recently chided her when she asked to be “informed” why people were so outraged with one of the writer’s many controversial remarks.

According to French, the unnamed presenter told her: “You need to catch up – people can’t be constantly teaching you how to be because this is not OK, and you need to catch up.”

However, this irked the actor, who argued: “It’s very powerful to say [‘I don’t know’], especially when you don’t know. That’s better than pretending you do know. It’s certainly better than forming an opinion about something you don’t know.”

Addressing younger people with whom she might have similar conversations in the future, French continued: “And I’m just saying, please, especially you younger folk, please inform me and explain this to me so that I can understand it and not make this mistake again. But don’t tell me to catch up.”

French said that Rowling was “a good person” who had “made her mistakes”, and supported the idea of “robust debate that might change your mind”, calling it “the best thing in the world”.

But she added that this would be “impossible if what we’ve got to do is hunker back into our positions, defend them by spitting and being furious and then blaming and cancelling”.

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Decrying the idea of “cancel culture”, French said: “I genuinely think we’re being forced into corners where I can smell my own cowardice.

Dawn French said JK Rowling is ‘a good person’ who has ‘made mistakes’
Dawn French said JK Rowling is ‘a good person’ who has ‘made mistakes’ (Getty Images)

“I don’t like that – I’ve never been cowardly, I hope, but I’m starting to be that because I’m being circumspect about what I will support or not in case it causes trouble.”

She said that, “as women especially”, the “last thing we should do is shut up”.

Rowling, who first faced a backlash from several key cast members when she shared controversial remarks about the trans community in 2020, has seen her relationship with stars deteriorate amid increasingly toxic debate.

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