Harry Potter star Katie Leung on 'casual racism' and never being offered non-Chinese roles

'It is just ignorance. It is something that needs to be addressed'

Jack Shepherd
Wednesday 17 February 2016 12:08 GMT
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Katie Leung in Harry Potter
Katie Leung in Harry Potter (Warner Bros.)

Katie Leung is no stranger to racism; after she shared an on-screen kiss with Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, jealous fans created a site called “I Hate Katie” and filled it with racist messages directed at the young star.

Years later, the actor still encounters “casual racism” on regular basis. Speaking to The Telegraph, she discussed how taxi drivers will still say to her “Wow, you speak very good English,” despite having grown up in Dundee and attended private school in Lanarkshire.

“It really irks me,” she told the paper. “It is just ignorance. It is something that needs to be addressed.”

Her solution? Get more English-speaking actors on screens around the world for starters: “You say diversity, but it is not ‘diversity’ – it is [about] a more truthful representation on our screens, so people see a Chinese person speaking English and won’t come to the assumption that people of colour don’t speak English.”

She goes on to explain how not enough Asian women are taking up acting as a profession because they fear being typecast in Chinese-centric roles.

In a separate interview with BBC Newsbeat, the 28-year-old said that she has yet to be cast in a role not specific to her being Chinese.

"It would be really nice to play something closer to home,” she said. "[But] just because they have been race specific doesn't mean that I'm playing this one-dimensional character.

"The challenge is being able to rid these stereotypes, so I'm not playing the submissive female who's a victim, but somebody who is determined and fearless.

"[So] they can see a Chinese girl on the screen who has her own mind and is able to make decisions for herself and she's independent.”

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Wendy Kweh (Minhee) and Katie Leung (Junhee) - Tristram Kenton
Wendy Kweh (Minhee) and Katie Leung (Junhee) - Tristram Kenton (Tristram Kenton)

Leung also highlighted that the ongoing diversity debate is “really positive”, saying "I need to be more vocal because it's my duty - not for myself but for everyone else out there, for any other east Asian who does want to make it in the arts.

"If they're not represented on our screens or stages then how are they supposed to look up to anyone, or be inspired and feel like they can do what they want to do?

"It's important for east Asians to know they don't have to be a lawyer or a doctor and they should just do whatever they want to do.”

Leung is currently starring in One Child, which start 17 February at 9 pm on BBC Two.

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