JK Rowling is to feature in the Harry Potter 20th reunion special, but only in archive video clips.
The HBO Max special, Return To Hogwarts, sees former child stars Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson reunite for the 20th anniversary of the release of Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone.
Since the films were released, Rowling, the author of the boy wizard books, has become a controversial figure over her comments on gender identity.
Last year, she responded to an article headlined “creating a more equal post-Covid-19 world for people who menstruate”.
She tweeted: “‘People who menstruate.’ I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”
Rowling, who vehemently denies she is transphobic, defended her comments, saying: “If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction.”
The 56-year-old has said she was partly motivated to speak out about transgender issues because of her experience of domestic abuse and sexual assault.
Following the controversy, it was rumoured that she would be excluded from the much-anticipated Harry Potter reunion, however she did appear, but only through archived footage from a 2019 interview.
During the special, the stars praised her as an author, with Grint, who plays Ron Weasley, saying “it was such a intricately, perfectly designed universe”.
Similarly, Robbie Coltrane, who plays Rubeus Hagrid, said: “One of the many reasons I admire JK so much is millions now read books who would have never have lifted a book up in their lives and you suddenly realise the power of writing.”
Watson, who plays Hermione Granger, also reminisced about her father reading the books to her when she was eight years old.
However, the author has attracted criticism, including from stars Watson and Radcliffe, for her views on transgender rights.
In the past, Radcliffe, who rose to fame after playing the schoolboy wizard Harry Potter, wrote “transgender women are women” in a statement through LGBT suicide prevention charity the Trevor Project.
Similarly, Watson tweeted: “Trans people are who they say they are.”
The Harry Potter special features the stars reuniting on board the Hogwarts Express, embracing in the Great Hall around a Christmas tree, and Grint, Radcliffe and Watson reuniting in the Gryffindor common room.
Radcliffe also sat down with director of the first two films, Chris Columbus, in Professor Albert Dumbledore’s office and in the potions classroom with Gary Oldman, who plays Sirius Black.
Rowling does not appear with cast members and is only seen in archive clips throughout the programme.
The special also features appearances from Helena Bonham Carter, who is Bellatrix Lestrange, Ralph Fiennes, who plays Lord Voldemort, and Jason Isaacs, who was Lucius Malfoy.
During the show, a special tribute was paid to actors Richard Harris, who played the first Dumbledore, Richard Griffiths, who played Vernon Dursley, Helen McCrory, who played Narcissa Malfoy, and Alan Rickman, who played Severus Snape.
Watson, 31, said: “Its so amazing to be back but its so shocking that so many people that we both thought would be around for so much longer than they have been.”
Grint, 33, added: “They’re like family, we grieve in the same way. Too soon.”
In the episode, Radcliffe stated that Rickman was the only actor who was told what was going to happen in the films, whereas the rest of the cast found out “book by book”.
Radcliffe added: “It was just Rickman, that was it, he had the inside line. He very, very early said to Jo (Rowling) ‘I think I need to know what happens’.
“He never told anyone. They would literally say to him ‘why are you doing it like that’, and he would say ‘I’ll tell you later’.”
The highly anticipated retrospective special will be released on Sky and streaming service Now on January 1, 2022.