Nina Young was the first actress to play the Grey Lady, but why was she replaced by Kelly Macdonald in the Harry Potter film franchise? In the weird and wonderful world of Harry Potter, each Hogwarts house has a resident ghost who acts as an advisor of sorts to students; Gryffindor has Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington (AKA Nearly Headless Nick), Slytherin has the Bloody Baron, while Hufflepuff’s house ghost is the Fat Friar and Ravenclaw’s is the Grey Lady.

The Grey Lady’s first appearance came in Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone in which she was played by British-Australian actress Nina Young. Initially, the Grey Lady didn’t play a very big role and was mostly seen in the background – floating around Hogwarts’ Great Hall during the start-of-term feast and chatting with fellow ghost Nearly Headless Nick. However, the Grey Lady came to play a more pivotal part in the franchise’s final installment Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2, which saw Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald of Trainspotting fame take over the role.


In Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 it’s revealed the Grey Lady is actually Helena Ravenclaw, the daughter of Hogwarts co-founder Rowena Ravenclaw. A short but significant scene saw Harry Potter confront Helena and coax her into telling him where Lord Voldemort had hidden her mother’s diadem, which The Dark Lord had turned into a Horcrux several years previously and concealed in Hogwarts’ Room of Requirement. Kelly Macdonald’s Harry Potter scene was brief but important, but why did she take over playing the Grey Lady/Helena Ravenclaw from Nina Young?

The powers that be behind the franchise haven’t given a specific reason as to why Kelly Macdonald replaced Nina Young as Helena. However, it’s likely the case that as Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 required more of the character than in previous films, the decision was made to recast with a more experienced actress like Macdonald in the part. Macdonald had also worked with Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 director David Yates on a few occasions previously (including the TV movie The Girl In The Café and political thriller series State Of Play) which may have helped her secure the part. The actress was mostly recently seen in Line Of Duty season 6.

Kelly Macdonald isn’t the only Harry Potter star that’s taken over a role originally played by a different actor. The best-known example is Michael Gambon took over playing Albus Dumbledore, after original performer Richard Harris sadly passed, but other characters have been played by multiple actors including Gryffindor house member Lavender Brown (played by Kathleen Cauley, Jennifer Smith and Jessie Cave) and goblin Griphook, who was originally played by Verne Troyer but later replaced by Warwick Davis.

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