Is the new Harry Potter TV series a celebration of legacy or a cursed idea? It depends on who you ask.
The much-beloved story of the “Boy Who Lived” from controversial writer J.K. Rowling has been officially green-lit for television by the streaming service Max, formerly HBO Max.
Billed as a “faithful” retelling of Rowling’s original seven books, the live-action series will be released across the span of a decade, with a new cast of actors in the leading roles.
Warner Bros Discovery CEO David Zaslav announced the project on Wednesday, in tandem with a declaration that HBO Max would merge with Discovery+.
“The series will feature a new cast to lead a new generation of fandom, full of the fantastic detail, much-loved characters and dramatic locations that Harry Potter fans have loved for over 25 years,” reads a statement from Max.
The streaming platform promised the TV series would be produced with the “same epic craft, love and care this global franchise is known for.”
“Each season will be authentic to the original books and bring Harry Potter and these incredible adventures to new audiences around the world, while the original, classic and beloved films will remain at the core of the franchise and available to watch globally.”
Rowling is labelled an executive producer on the production. In a statement of her own, Rowling said, “Max’s commitment to preserving the integrity of my books is important to me, and I’m looking forward to being part of this new adaptation which will allow for a degree of depth and detail only afforded by a long form television series.”
Reaction to the announcement has been mixed, with many condemning Rowling’s involvement. In recent years, Rowling has come under fire for her outspoken views on transgender rights. (In 2020, Rowling described transgender hormone therapy as a “new kind of conversion therapy for young gay people.”)
J.K. Rowling responds to backlash triggered by transphobic tweets
Harry Potter movie actors Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint have previously spoken out against Rowling’s views.
Casey Bloys, chairman and CEO of HBO & Max Content, told The Hollywood Reporter that Rowling’s “insights will be helpful” in creating the TV series.
“We are in the Harry Potter business. The TV show is new and exciting, but we’ve been in the Harry Potter business for 20 years; this isn’t a new decision,” he said. “We’re comfortable being in the Potter business. J.K. is a very online conversation.… It’s very nuanced and complicated and not something we’re going to get into. Our priority is what’s onscreen. The Harry Potter story is incredibly affirmative and positive about love and acceptance, and that’s our priority, what’s on the screen.”
Regardless, the reaction from Harry Potter fans online has been less than stellar.
Entertainment podcaster Dave Gonzales said the series makes way for “ten years of press events dragging (Rowling’s) anti-trans agenda back into the news cycle.”
The Harry Potter franchise of books, movies, video games and more is estimated to be worth US$25 billion.
The first Harry Potter book was published in 1997. The seventh book that concluded the series was released in 2007. The eight films in the series’ movie franchise were released between 2001 and 2011.
In the years since, Warner Bros. has released a trilogy of Fantastic Beasts films starring Eddie Redmayne. The stage play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which launched with a new story from Rowling in 2016, has also been mounted across the globe.
This year, the video game Hogwarts Legacy earned more than US$850 million in global sales, despite calls to boycott the game over Rowling’s financial benefit.
The cast of actors and writers involved with the new Harry Potter series has yet to be released.
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