Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

From Hogwarts to SW2; TELEVISION She's Famous for Being Harry Potter's First Kiss but Now She's Graduated to a Gritty New Drama. Jasmine Gardner Meets Katie Leung

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

From Hogwarts to SW2; TELEVISION She's Famous for Being Harry Potter's First Kiss but Now She's Graduated to a Gritty New Drama. Jasmine Gardner Meets Katie Leung

Article excerpt

Byline: Jasmine Gardner

THE streets of Brixton are a long way from Hogwarts. Yet 25-year-old Scottish actress Katie Leung has strayed away from her old days of kissing Harry Potter at the school gates (she played his love interest Cho Chang) and is now starring as an illegal immigrant in a new television drama, Run, set in south London.

The series, also starring Olivia Colman and Jaime Winstone, starts tonight on Channel 4 and there is definitely no magic in Leung's storyline. It is a gritty portrait of modern Britain, part of which involves Leung's character being raped. "It's difficult to watch, but I felt to give justice to the character it was needed and I was more than happy to do it," she says.

However: "It hasn't been a conscious decision to step away from Potter." Leung's last major role was on stage in a production of Wild Swans at the Young Vic last year. "I'm just lucky that projects I've had the chance to do have been away from it all and have been quite challenging roles."

Leung first got the role in Harry Potter at an open casting when she was 16 years old. She and her father travelled to London together "with no expectations at all" but the director Mike Newell clearly saw something in her. "He asked me where I had trained and I said I hadn't done any form of acting before. When I saw the surprise on his face, I thought, 'maybe'."

Leung grew up in Dundee, living with her father and raised mostly by her grandmother. Her parents, both of Chinese heritage, separated when she was three and her mother lives in Hong Kong. Each parent remarried. "I have a huge family," she says, with three younger brothers and a younger sister spanning the ages of four to 24.

Of course, the younger ones watch Harry Potter. "They still ask me, 'What is Hogwarts like?' They still think I actually went there."

The character of Cho Chang, however, was "hated, mostly" by Potter fans, she says. Jealousy over Leung kissing Daniel Radcliffe led some to post nasty messages online at the time. "There was some sort of website with a picture of my face and a counter for how many people didn't agree with my being cast. …

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