'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child' Stars Finally Have Cred With Their Kids

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Still Production 1 -Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of Manuel Harlan

The actors starring as Harry, Ron and Hermione in the blockbuster Broadway production are winning critical kudos, Hollywood fans and even a little respect from their offspring.

Getting cast in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a bit like receiving an owl-delivered acceptance letter from Hogwarts: All of a sudden, you're magical. That's what happened to Jamie Parker, Noma Dumezweni and Paul Thornley, who went from West End players to worldwide names overnight when they landed the roles of Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley in the blockbuster London production. "Normally you spend the play convincing people of the world and the characters," says Parker, 38. "On this one, you hit the ground running because they know and love it."

Now the trio are robing up at the Lyric Theatre, where the two-parter set a Broadway play box-office record in its first full week of previews at $2.1 million. It hasn't let up since, with top tickets going for nearly $300, and it's nominated for 10 Tony Awards, including noms for Dumezweni and Parker (who both won the Olivier for their performances in London) — the most of any new play this season.

Before Harry Potter, they were almost unknown stateside. Parker is the only one with a previous Broadway credit: the smash hit History Boys. Dumezweni stepped into the title role in Linda at the Royal Court when Kim Cattrall had to drop out for medical reasons, and Thornley works steadily in London, with small parts in the Les Miserables film and The Crown.

They were initially skeptical of joining such a massive undertaking, and Parker says audiences are “within their rights” to ask questions of the undeniably juggernaut venture. “It was the greatest risk I have taken, by saying yes to this,” says Dumezweni (who says she's "40bla" — that's Brit for 40-something).

The script and the creative team sold them. The story, conceived by author J.K. Rowling, director John Tiffany, and playwright Jack Thorne, picks up at the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and follows Harry, his friends and their kids as they navigate parenthood and a new generation of wizards.

With the worldwide recognition comes immense pressure, and fans have opinions about who the characters should be. “I haven’t got black hair and green eyes,” Parker says. Adds Thornley, 43, of Ron's signature red hair, "I need a bit of help to ginger up."

Parker says in order to ignore the fan feedback, he became someone for whom the world matters, calling himself a "huge geek" about Harry Potter. “If you paid attention to the seven books, then you come onstage and you're literally on the same page as everybody else,” he says. Dumezweni nods. "The best research we have are the books," she says. "It's all in there."

Each of the three actors has a child in the series' target zone. "If the babies who love the books like it, we're going to be fine," says Dumezweni. Adds Thornley, "Most of the time, being an actor for your children is really annoying. For once we've got a little currency. We're in Harry Potter."

They're gaining currency with Hollywood, too. Brooke Shields, Glenn Close, Darren Criss and Whoopi Goldberg attended opening night (Gold­berg in wizarding robes), and the films' Emma Watson and Rupert Grint saw the play on the West End.

While the production hasn't changed since London, one thing has been added on Broadway: entrance applause. When Parker walks downstage as Harry in the opening, the crowd goes wild. "It's not me, it's the character," he says, visibly uncomfortable as he acknowledges, "I'm growing to like it." Adds Thornley, in true Ron fashion, "He's our very own Bette Midler."

A version of this story first appeared in the May 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.