10:30 am EDT, November 4, 2015

Characters and celebrities we want in ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is coming, and before any official cast list is released, we wanted to take a crack at it.

The Boy Who Lived is back — we can still barely believe it. In case you live under a rock, London’s West End will be playing host to a new, official, canonical Harry Potter play next year, and everyone’s lost the plot over it. We were there for “it’s not a prequel,” we were there for ticket-buying hell, and we’ll be there next summer when the play opens at the Palace Theatre. Don’t expect us to shut up about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child for a long time.

We recently learned the official synopsis, which tells us a few specifics about what we can expect:

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

We know the play is going to take part after the Deathly Hallows epilogue and deal with Harry’s relationship with his younger son, Albus Severus. We don’t know if it will be set directly after “all was well” or if we’ll get a further time jump, but we can safely say that we’d be looking at a Harry in his mid to late thirties, if not older, and it sounds darker — in a more real-world way — than any of the Potter books.

Even though Cursed Child is a bumper-sized play with two parts and an as-yet-unannounced cast of over thirty actors, there probably won’t be time for a parade of nostalgia featuring every character we’ve ever loved, so we’ve narrowed down which of our favorite characters we most want to see featured in the official eighth installment of the Harry Potter series. Who we’re the most curious about, who’d truly add to the story that J. K. Rowling and Jack Thorne want to tell, and, naturally, who we’d want to play them.

Anyone who’s anyone in the British acting community got their start in theater, and many Hollywood-level British celebrities return to the West End stage on a regular basis. Given that this is the most hyped-up moment in theater right now (aside from Hamilton across the pond) it’s pretty much guaranteed to have some big names attached. Fantasy casting is a delicate art form that often gets blown into the realms of unrealistic, but we’ve had a long, hard, practical think about who might genuinely work well for these roles while also bringing a bit of star power to an already magical production.

Theater is a daily commitment for working actors, so it’d be very rare for this many celebrity-level stars to appear in a stage play at once, especially for a long-running production. However, it’s Harry Potter, so anything is possible, and any single one of these choices is utterly plausible as a casting on its own. We also haven’t tried to cast Albus Severus, because if the play does take place during his childhood, it’s quite likely that he’ll be played by a rotation of two or three boys, due to child labor laws.

Here are the eight characters we most want to see in the eighth Harry Potter story, and who we think should play them.

Harry Potter at 37+

Our choice: Ben Whishaw

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As Cursed Child truly is the eighth Potter story, it’s pretty darn obvious that Harry himself will be the play’s central character, and whoever gets cast as Harry in his newest incarnation needs to be able to carry the Wizarding World on his back and live up to the expectations of millions. Ultimately, we decided that who this part needs is Ben Whishaw. The thin-faced, theater-trained beautiful Brit looks exactly like our hero should look, and he’s played a host of roles that he could draw on to create a perfect world-weary Harry.

From the darkness of Perfume to the quietly introspective in Bright Star, even his understated snark as Q in the James Bond series has Harry written all over it. If that wasn’t enough, check this: in 2013 he starred in the new John Logan play Peter and Alice as Peter Llewelyn Davies, the boy who inspired J. M. Barrie, who struggled with the legacy of being known as “the real Peter Pan” throughout his adult life. Sound familiar? Whishaw has everything it takes to be our new Harry, and then some.

Hermione Granger at 38+

Our choice: Louise Brealey

Picture shows: Molly Hooper (LOUISE BREALEY)

Choosing a Hermione was tough — she’s a hugely important character with some contradictory personality traits that an actress needs to make believable. Hermione, to no one’s surprise, was instrumental in rebuilding Wizarding society for the better, and her oldest child, Rose, started Hogwarts along with Albus in 2017, so we hope she makes it into the play. We imagine a grown-up Hermione as austere yet warm, efficient but prone to occasional histrionics, as supportive of her family as possible while still being a workaholic.

Louise Brealey, best known to audiences as pathologist Molly Hooper in Sherlock, is a tried-and-tested stage actress (currently appearing in the National Theatre production of Husbands & Sons) who’s more than capable of embodying all of these qualities. Brealey, who’s very vocal on social media about mental health and feminism, and who’s worked as a playwright, producer and magazine editor along with acting, epitomizes the kind of passionate, multi-tasking woman that our Hermione became.

Ron Weasley at 37+

Our choice: Domhnall Gleeson

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People handle situations in very different ways, so we’re very curious to see how Ron is coping life after the Second Wizarding War. Jo’s mentioned an interesting career path for him: working with Harry as an Auror and then leaving the Ministry to work with George as a business partner, and given his behavior during past brushes with fame, we’re wondering if he might be the one who glorifies what they all went through — perhaps overcompensating for the trauma.

Domhnall Gleeson is a little younger than the other actors we’ve chosen for the Trio, but he’s got a timeless face (which looks older with a beard) and his youthful demeanor may bring across the playfulness that we predict Ron holds onto, in contrast to the outward stresses of his wife and his best friend. Gleeson has actually already played a Weasley — he was grossly underused in the movies as Bill, the brother who’s said to be the most similar to Ron in appearance, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to put him in this role.

Ginny Weasley at 36+

Our choice: Rose Leslie

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a chance to redeem Ginny Weasley in the public eye. This never should have been necessary, because she’s one of the best characters in the books, but the movie version of Ginny didn’t go over well with a lot of people. We won’t blame Bonnie Wright herself, but the change in Ginny’s tone and actions exacerbated her haters and disappointed her fans. As Harry’s wife and Albus’s mother, she’s sure to appear in the play, so let’s hope we get the Ginny we deserve.

The woman to bring her to life is obviously Rose Leslie. Look at her! When she’s chasing her dreams as Gwen on Downton Abbey or telling Jon Snow he knows nothing, her kind, open face and her sharp, driven, no-nonsense attitude is exactly how we pictured Ginny in the books. She’d be the ultimate professional-Quidditch-playing Cool Mom.

Teddy Lupin at 19+

Our choice: Olly Alexander

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Before we got the official synopsis, a hugely popular guess as to who the title’s “cursed child” could be was Teddy Lupin. This war orphan, created by Jo specifically as a parallel to Harry’s childhood situation, is now a young adult and he’s the new generation character we’re desperate to know the most about. How has Harry been involved in his life? What’s it been like for him growing up? What’s his relationship with the Potter children?

Olly Alexander is currently better known as the lead singer of bestselling British band Years & Years, but he’s also a professional actor, having starred in movies, TV and plays. His most recent theatre credit was actually also Peter and Alice, in which he played the fantastical Peter Pan shadow-self to Ben Whishaw’s Peter Llewellyn Davies. He’s got the cute and quirky look we want for Teddy, and if we got a Whishaw/Alexander reunion, their existing rapport could help to portray the unique relationship that Harry and his godson must have.

George Weasley at 40+

Our choice: Damian Lewis

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Poor, poor George Weasley. He lost his ear, he lost his twin. Did he lose his will to go on? According to post-book-seven canon, he’s doing alright — he’s got kids, and Ron helped him turn Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes into a huge success. But whichever way you look at it, his is one of the saddest stories in the whole Harry Potter universe. Could there be room in Cursed Child to explore his lifelong grief, and what he made of Ron trying to fill the Fred void?

Ginger Homeland star Damian Lewis is no stranger to the British stage. He’s slightly older than George would be, but not enough to count in the theater — it’s well within his wheelhouse. Plus, we imagine that George’s depression could have aged him prematurely, which works even better. We think an angsty George side-plot is just what this play needs.

Kingsley Shacklebolt at 55+

Our choice: Lenny Henry

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With all of his father’s closest friends now dead, Kingsley Shacklebolt would be an amazing character for Harry — and Teddy, actually — to have bonded with. The books always gave us the vibe that he was a Hogwarts contemporary of the Marauders, and his friendship with Sirius and Remus was evident. As the new Minister for Magic in a post-Voldemort world, it seems almost impossible that he wouldn’t have become a massive presence in Harry’s life during their work uncorrupting the Ministry together.

The movies portrayed Kingsley as more traditionally accented and dressed as being from the West Indies, but we always pictured him as the epitome of the uber-cool modern Londoner — remember, he was slick enough to moonlight on the staff of the Muggle Prime Minister. The newly knighted Lenny Henry is closer to how we imagined him. He’s also of Jamaican descent, a beloved British icon who’s a master of stage performance, from stand-up to Shakespeare.

Minerva McGonagall at 85+

Our choice: Maggie Smith

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According to Jo, McGonagall finished up at Hogwarts sometime shortly before the Deathly Hallows epilogue, so she wouldn’t be a part of Al’s school life, but as one of Dumbledore’s few “old guard” remaining, we imagine that the newly retired Headmistress became a friend and adviser to some of her former Gryffindor charges throughout their adult lives. She always had a soft spot for her tiny Quidditch protege Harry and perennial teacher’s pet Hermione, and now she’s free to drop in for tea.

Translating the same role from screen to stage and vice-versa is something Maggie Smith has had plenty of experience in throughout her immense career, most recently in the film adaptation of Alan Bennett’s The Lady in the Van. Maggie as McGonagall is the one piece of Harry Potter movie casting that no fans take umbrage with, so why even bother finding someone else? Don’t mess with perfection.

Who do you hope to see cast in ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’?

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