J.K. Rowling has made no bones about her distaste for the president-elect, Donald J. Trump.
Back in December, the renowned Harry Potter novelist tweeted that Voldemort, the nightmarish villain of the Potterverse, was “nowhere near as bad” as Trump. Then, in the early hours Wednesday morning, as it became shockingly apparent that the former reality star would be the president-elect of the United States, Rowling delivered a series of hopeful messages to the disappointed and disenfranchised:
The bestselling author was a bit more reticent on Thursday afternoon in New York. Appearing at a press conference for her excellent new film, the Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Rowling acknowledged that things felt “bleak” at the moment in light of recent events but that she didn’t “want to say anything more specifically about yesterday right now” because “today might be a day to concentrate on some good things—and putting some good things out into the world, hopefully.”
Fantastic Beasts, which was directed by David Yates from a Rowling screenplay (her first!), is a Potter prequel that centers on Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a wizard and self-described magizoologist who’s been banished from Hogwarts under mysterious circumstance. He arrives in 1926 New York amid precarious circumstances, with wizards living in secret and fearing persecution, and a fanatical faction of No-Majs (or Muggles/humans) out to expose them. Scamander comes equipped with a suitcase full of magical creatures—animals that are outlawed by the wizarding community for fear of exposing their existence to the masses.
Rowling conceded that though Fantastic Beasts was conceived a few years ago, the social climate of the film, where wizards are oppressed and intimidated by the myopic masses, does bear some striking similarities to the current one, where leaders like Nigel Farage in the United Kingdom and Donald Trump in the United States have come to the fore on waves of fear-stoked populism.
“If you have read the Potter books, you’ll know that this period in history was threatened to become very dystopian, so you’re looking at the rise of a very dark force,” said Rowling. “But as I say, I conceived of this story a few years ago, and it was partly informed by what I see as a rise of populism around the world. But I can’t say anything specifically about [Trump’s election] yesterday because, as I say, I’ve been planning this story a long time.”
Asked if she plans to bring Fantastic Beasts to the West End or Broadway, Rowling said, “There are no plans to put Fantastic Beasts on stage,” though she did add that “Cursed Child, we do very much hope it will come to Broadway, but I have no dates to tell you yet.”
One of the more interesting questions posed to Rowling involved the sexuality of Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts and mentor to Harry Potter. Rowling has acknowledged in that past that Dumbledore is gay and that he will be appearing in the Fantastic Beasts sequel (the first installment is part of a five-movie franchise). Asked if Dumbledore will be portrayed as “openly gay” in the sequel and whether she’ll explore his romantic relationship with Grindelwald, Rowling offered a playful smile and, her voice rising a few octaves, replied, “Well…” before adding: “I’m very comfortable with the question. I can’t tell you everything I would like to say, because this is obviously a five-part story and there’s lots to unpack in that relationship. I will say that you will see Dumbledore as a younger man, and quite a troubled man, because he wasn’t always the sage. He was always very clever, but we’ll see him at what I think is the formative period of his life.”Then, the kicker: “As far as his sexuality is concerned: Watch this space, I would say.”
Fantastic Beasts opens Nov. 18, at a time when many Americans—and people around the world—need a bit of escapist fare. And Rowling, much as she does on Twitter, on Thursday relayed a message to her legions of adoring fans out there: I hear you, and I am here for you.
“It is an enormous honor to have anyone—one individual—say to you, ‘Your work has been a place of refuge,’ or ‘It has been my escape,’ or ‘It helped me make sense of something,’” she said, later adding of the film, “I think we’ve done the very best job we can, and I have certainly told a story I really wanted to tell, and I can’t think of a better reason to tell a story.”