During Warner Bros. Discovery’s big unveiling of the rebooted Max streamer, the big announcement the company saved for last was the official order of a “Harry Potter” TV show. And as with every new project in the franchise, the announcement immediately drew scrutiny due to franchise creator J.K. Rowling’s extensive history of transphobia.
During a Q&A session held on the Warner Bros. Burbank studio immediately after the conference, Max and HBO Content Head Casey Bloys declined to answer a question from a reporter regarding Rowling’s controversial reputation and how it might affect the show.
“No, I don’t think this is the forum,” Bloys said during the Q&A. “That’s a very online conversation, very nuanced and complicated and not something we’re going to get into.”
Rowling, who wrote all seven books in the “Harry Potter” franchise and is set to executive produce the upcoming TV show, began making her views towards the Trans community known in 2020, via a series of transphobic tweets and public statements. Her outspoken transphobia and donations to anti-Trans organizations has caused multiple actors from the “Harry Potter” film franchise, including the lead star Daniel Radcliffe, to criticize and distance themselves from her.
In his response during the Q&A, Bloys further defended WBD’s decision to continue working with Rowling by saying that the onscreen story is more important than offscreen controversy.
““Our priority is what’s on the screen,” Bloys said. “Obviously, the ‘Harry Potter’ story is incredibly affirmative and positive and about love and self-acceptance. That’s our priority — what’s on screen.”
Regarding Rowling’s involvement with the show, Bloys said that “She’s an executive producer on the show. Her insights are going to be helpful on that.”
News of a “Harry Potter” TV show, which is expected to adapt all seven books in the franchise, was first leaked earlier this month, before the official announcement. In a statement from a press release announcing the show, Rowling said that: “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.”
The “Harry Potter” franchise, or “Wizarding World” brand, is one of WBD’s most valuable properties; the eight film adaptations released between 2001 and 2011, grossed a total of $7.7 billion. On screen though, the franchise has struggled to expand past adapting Rowling’s original book series, with the “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” prequel series sputtering out with last year’s underperforming “The Secrets of Dumbledore.”
Rowling’s continued involvement in and profit from “Harry Potter” has caused pushback against new releases from the franchise, especially online; however, the outcry has yet to affect the financial performance of the brand. This February saw the release of the video game “Hogwarts Legacy,” which sold 12 million copies in spite of calls for a boycott in protest of Rowling.
The “Harry Potter” TV series will be produced for Max by Brontë Film and TV and Warner Bros. Television. Rowling will executive produce with Neil Blair and Ruth Kenley-Letts; David Heyman is also in talks to executive produce.
Tony Maglio contributed reporting.