The 33-year-old Scotland native made her Hogwarts debut as Cho Chang, Harry Potter’s love interest, in 2005’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. During a recent interview on the “Chinese Chippy Girl” podcast, Leung admitted that cruel comments started popping up online even before she’d begun filming the movie.
“Because I’m 16, I’m a teenager [at the time], I care what people think as it is … never mind what the whole world thinks,” the One Child star recalled on Monday, March 8. “Especially, as well, because of the way that [Cho’s] described in the books. She’s popular, she’s pretty. And you’re trying to do that at school anyway … so there was a lot of pressure there.”
Leung remembered stumbling upon a fan website dedicated to the wizarding world of Harry Potter after it was announced that she was cast in the Goblet of Fire. “I remember reading all the comments. It was a lot of racist s–t,” she said. “And then 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. … It’s so awful.”
The movie adaptation of J.K. Rowling‘s fourth novel was Leung’s first major Hollywood role, and at the time, she wasn’t totally sure who to go to for help after seeing the vitriol online. Eventually, she turned to a group of publicists that she was working with.
“I didn’t get any kind of interview [or] media training before I was doing these interviews and 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,'” the Wild Swans actress confessed. “And I just nodded my head. I was like, ‘OK, OK.’ Even though I had seen it myself with my own eyes. I was like, ‘OK, yeah. I’ll just say everything’s great.'”
While Leung was “very f–king grateful” to be given the opportunity to join the Harry Potter cast and represent the Asian community on screen, it was hard to express her excitement when there was so much hate sent her way.
“I keep saying, ‘Oh, I wish I’d maybe said something,'” she added. “But you can’t really do that.”
The Locked Down actress previously told The Herald in 2016 that she felt like she was “in denial” about what was really happening, hoping that fans would change their minds about her once they saw her performance.
“I put it to the back of my mind. I don’t know if that is the best way to deal with it, but that is naturally what I did in order to move on and be a good actor,” she told the Scottish newspaper at the time. “I put it to the back of my mind. I don’t know if that is the best way to deal with it. … I thought, ‘Well, I can’t do anything about the way I look, so I’m going to need to do the best acting to make up for it.'”