Harry Potter star Katie Leung says she was instructed by publicists to deny the existence of hate websites about her after she was cast as Cho Chang in the hit franchise.
The 33-year-old Scottish-born actress, who is of Chinese descent, made her comments on the Chinese Chippy Girl podcast on Monday, March 8.
Katie made her debut as Cho, Harry Potter's love interest, in the fourth movie in the hit franchise, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which was released in 2005. After her casting was leaked by the U.K. tabloids a year prior, hate posts about the then-16-year-old actress were published on Harry Potter fan sites and an entire website condemning her casting was even created.
"I was like, Googling myself at one point and I was on this website which was dedicated to kind of Harry Potter fandom and I remember reading all the comments. It was a lot of racist s--t," Leung said on the podcast. "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 and you would just see a number...I know, it's awful. It's so awful."
She continued, "I remember speaking to the publicists...I didn't get any kind of interview, 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'...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."
Leung did not specify if the publicists worked for her or for Warner Bros. Pictures, which produced the Harry Potter films. The studio had no immediate comment when contacted by E! News.
"Of course, I was grateful. I was really very f--king grateful that I was in the position I was in," she continued in the podcast interview. "I keep saying, like, oh I wish I'd maybe said something. But you can't do that."
This is not the first time Leung has spoken to the press about the hate she received online for being cast as Cho. "Looking back I can't remember much about that part of it because I was so in denial of what was happening," she told the Scottish newspaper The Herald in 2016. "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."
"I was being judged purely on my looks because she [Cho Chang] is supposed to be a very beautiful girl," she continued. "This all happened before the films even came out. 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.'
She added, "I look back and I'm pretty impressed with how I did handle it."