J.K. Rowling has fallen victim to a hoax by a prankster duo who tricked the Harry Potter author into believing she was having a Zoom call with the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky.
In the video below, first discovered online early Tuesday by The Rowling Library, Rowling was fooled by Russian comedy outfit Vovan and Lexus, who are infamous for prank-calling celebrities. Their past victims include Elton John, Prince Harry, Billie Eilish, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and George W. Bush.
The author’s spokesperson called the hoax “distasteful” and noted, “J.K. Rowling was approached to talk about her extensive charitable work in Ukraine, supporting children and families who have been affected by the current conflict in the region. The video, which has been edited, is a distorted representation of the conversation.”
During the 12-minute, increasingly awkward video, the pranksters remark that Harry Potter’s lightning bolt forehead scar looks like a “Z,” which the Russian military has put on its tanks during its invasion of Ukraine and has become a symbol of support for the war among Russians. Rowling was asked if she would change the symbol to a Ukrainian trident. “I will look into that,” she assured. “It might be good for me to do something with that myself on social media because I think that will get into the newspapers.”
The duo pressed Rowling on whether Dumbledore was really gay and asked who he slept with, noting it was “hopefully not with a transgender.”
The duo told Rowling they were writing “Avada Kedavra” — the killing curse in the Harry Potter franchise — on missiles.
The Zelensky impersonator was apparently audio-only during the call (so he didn’t need to have any Polyjuice Potion to pull off the ruse). But at one point, they turned on their webcam to introduce “The Order of the Ukrainian Phoenix” — a trio wearing T-shirts that read “Only Putin” in Russian. “We read Harry Potter to the soldiers in the battalion. … Just don’t read them passages about half-breeds [as] they are nationalists and do not like such people,” the pranksters said.
The pranksters said, “I want to clarify where you are sending the money that Lumos has collected. … We want to buy a lot of weapons and missiles with your money to destroy Russian troops, I hope you are all for that.” Rowling replied, “We’ll look after the kids, but I really want Ukraine to have all of the arms it needs.”
Beyond the specifics of the pranks themselves, Vovan and Lexus have been criticized in the past for often targeting high-profile people who are critical of Russian foreign policy, leaving some to suspect they’re state actors.
Rowling’s most recent work was co-writing and producing Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, which recently started streaming on HBO Max.