ASIAN VOICES
11/09/2018 04:59 pm ET

Korean 'Fantastic Beasts' Actress Breaks Silence Over Her Controversial Character

Many felt that the casting of an Asian actress as Nagini, a serpent character and loyal servant to Voldemort, was problematic.
Actress Claudia Kim has been cast as Nagini in the upcoming “Fantastic Beasts” movie.
GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT via Getty Images
Actress Claudia Kim has been cast as Nagini in the upcoming “Fantastic Beasts” movie.

The Korean actress playing Nagini in the upcoming “Fantastic Beasts” movie responded to the backlash regarding her casting, calling the controversy “unexpected.” 

Several Asian and Asian-American social media users said it was problematic to cast actress Claudia Kim as Nagini, who carries a blood curse that dooms her to transform into a serpent creature and eventually becomes a trusted servant of Voldemort. They pointed out that Asian actresses have traditionally been relegated to playing either hypersexualized and subservient characters, or deceitful, sly dragon ladies. 

But Kim said she found her casting “meaningful.” 

“When I found out that I’m playing Nagini, I thought it was meaningful because it’s an important character in the Harry Potter series,” she said late last month during an interview at a theater in Seoul, according to Allkpop. “Harry Potter is a franchise film with many Caucasian actors, so I thought many Korean viewers would be happy.”

“Nagini should be played by an Asian,” she added. “Scriptwriter J.K. Rowling probably searched for an Asian actress because she researched the origin of Nagini.” 

Rowling defended Kim’s casting in September, saying that Naga, the mythical creature Nagini is based on, has its origins in Indonesia. But the author failed to acknowledge that Kim is of Korean descent. What’s more, Naga’s roots can actually be traced back to Hindu and Buddhist mythology. In Hinduism, the female “naginis” are said to be breathtaking serpent princesses; in Buddhism, nagas are considered demigods that possess magical powers and wealth. 

Although she was surprised by the controversy, Kim said she’s open to hearing the criticism. 

“I don’t perceive such controversy solely in a negative way,” she said. “I believe changes can be made by giving attention to an Asian’s promotions [like this] and through the people that look into such issues.”

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